Dear Miss Emily:

My son is 12, and he is starting to hang out with some bad kids at
school. He is always angry with me these days, and doesn't listen anymore. I
am a single mom and I feel out of control. Should I get even tougher
with him or what? Thanks for any help you can provide. I am at the end of
my rope.

Out of Control

--------------Miss Emily's advice------------

Dear Out of Control:

This period is a difficult time for all concerned.  A twelve year-old, at the beginning of puberty, paints an awkward picture.  He is fussy and demanding no doubt and, I’m sure, you would do anything to put him back into footie pajamas. Although I don’t know what these “bad kids” are doing, to be on the safe side, you must provide a more appealing alternative at home. Single parenting is hard, because you can’t be in two places at once.  But when you are together, listen.  Listening is probably the most important thing you can do for a child.  Do not reprimand or find fault when your son is trying to give you information that he wants you to know, but fears your response.  It’s often said that a parent should not be a friend to his/her child.  However, part of what makes  friends so special, is that they do not judge.  Be open-minded and give reasonable advice and support. If he doesn’t pick up his room, offer to do it together. Be spontaneous – go out for ice cream at an odd hour.  Most of all, be kind.  And let Alec Baldwin’s outburst at his eleven year-old daughter be a lesson to us all.   Finally, know where he is at all times.  Have him check-in with you, and let him know the consequences if he does not.  A great book to help guide you through this rough patch is: Positive Discipline for Single Parents: Nurturing, Cooperation, Respect and Joy In Your Single Parent Family, by Jane Nelson (