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Dear Dr. Sylvia
I'm having a hard time with my twelve-year-old son. School has been in session for about two months, and he has five F's right now. He will not do school work or homework. He has already been suspended from school for three days because he took a bullet to school. He lies all the time. He hits his sisters a lot. I am a single parent, and I don't know what to do with him.
It sounds as if you're having a serious problem, and you could use more help than I can give you here. If you weren't firm enough with your son many years ago, it could be that he won't accept limits when you try to set them now. Bringing the bullet to school may well be the beginning of the display of his anger, and his need for too much power.
I strongly urge you to see a psychologist who will work not only with your son but also with you and the school around his problems. That should be done soon. Ask the school for a recommendation. An evaluation by the school or a private psychologist may help you to identify if your son has some academic problems that you're not aware of.
It's also very important to find some of your son's positive strengths and interests. Band, intramural sports, or Scouts are all positive activities that will provide appropriate peer groups and some male mentors for your son.
Be sure to protect your daughters from their brother's violence. You may wish to let him know that future girlfriends will not appreciate an angry young man unless they're already accustomed to abuse, and hopefully, he won't want to select girls who elicit abuse.
It is more complex to raise a son as a single mother, and you need a lot of support and encouragement. Please realize that despite the special challenge, there are some wonderful young men who have been raised by single mothers.
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