My son is completely disorganised. He is just 13 and the issue is getting worse as now he cannot get ready for school in time. He also has a poor attitude.

Parents of teenagers know that 13 can be such a tricky age. Not only do they have a whole host of hormones coursing through their veins leading to everything from unpredictable mood swings, to interrupted sleep and physical changes. It is both a time of awakening and a time of loss. Loss of childhood innocence and the realisation that the world is going to demand they become independent adults and take responsibility for themselves in a few years, can be overwhelming for young minds to deal with. The disorganisation that is becoming such a source of confrontation is the product of your son’s young mind trying to juggle all of these new feelings and experiences and not doing a very good job by the sounds of it!

The challenge involved in stepping up to the increasing demands school is putting on him is causing him to buckle under pressure and his poor attitude is a response. What he needs from you is direction and to allow him to fail if needs be.

Now, that sounds as if it runs contrary to every parenting instinct, but let me assure you, parents who allow their children to experience the consequences of their own actions are doing them a great service.

I always say failure is one of our greatest teachers and allowing failure to occur in a loving and supportive environment will teach your child that every action has a reaction, whether positive or negative. This life lesson will be invaluable when it comes to him taking personal responsibility. It’s not an easy thing to do for any parent, but I feel it’s one of the most powerful and lasting ways to learn.

So, how do you go about the process? Well, you need a degree of clarity. You and your husband both need to formulate a clear plan about the expectations you have for your son in terms of how he goes about his daily life. What does he need to do, tell you and organise each week to function effectively? Fully acquaint yourself with his timetable and any extracurricular activities he is involved him. Plot them for him on your own weekly timetable and share it with him. Make sure it is not too onerous or you will be setting him up to fail. Tell him clearly what you expect him to do (this includes any chores in the house) and then once you have delivered the message loud and clear, take a step back.

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It’s easy at this point for parents to step in too soon to prevent the child from messing up and experiencing the consequences of their actions, but it’s paramount you let him experience what happens when he forgets books, sports kits and is late. Though the process may be a painful one and you might be on the receiving end of some of his poor attitude, he will eventually get the message. If you’re ever unsure, ask yourself what the alternative is — you organise everything for him and he never learns to take responsibility for himself; no parent truly wants that. Your role is to be firm, but fair and above all to be supportive, rewarding progress when you see it.

Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and hypnotherapist. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer 
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