On the outside, your teenager appears lazy and unfocused at school, with poor grades and possibly even behavioral problems occurring. It’s hard to know exactly what’s happening inside your teen’s mind, but figuring out the crux of the problem is important. A teen who is having trouble focusing in school may suffer a variety of consequences.
Before resolving problems with unfocused behavior and perceived laziness, explore some of the possible reasons for these issues. Behavioral problems might occur due to emotional trauma, such as bullying; family problems, such as divorce; personal issues, such as an eating disorder or relationship problems, or an emotional or psychological disorder, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, that is disrupting your teen’s school performance, according to psychologist James Alexander, writing for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
If the unfocused behavior of your teenager reaches the point where classroom activity and school work suffer and behavioral problems occur, school officials should intervene to help the student. Teachers understand techniques for working with students who have difficulty concentrating and staying on task. The behavior management process will likely focus on avoiding and deescalating problems with prescribed consequences built in that will occur if the teen breaks rules. School officials may also recommend professional evaluation, according to physician Stanley I. Greenspan, writing for the Scholastic website.
Working closely with school officials as a team will be important when your adolescent struggles, because you usually know your teenager best and you can have a powerful impact on behavior, asserts clinical psychologist Michael G. Connor. With observation of your teenager’s lifestyle and behavior, you might notice issues that could exacerbate the unfocused behavior. Sleep deprivation, overextended scheduling, poor diet and hearing or vision difficulties can contribute to behavioral problems in school, advises clinical psychologist Kimberly Sirl, with the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. If you discern possible reasons for behavior problems traceable to these origins, work to eliminate these situations from your teenager’s life.
As you strive to help your teenager overcome behavioral issues, professionals might recommend behavioral therapy. The most effective treatment plans involve family-based therapy, states Alexander. Therapy that incorporates the teen, his family and school personnel enables treatment to encompass all relevant areas of the youth’s life to facilitate change. As a parent, you can also benefit from these therapy plans because you will receive help and support in parenting your teen.
A teenager who experiences behavioral issues without receiving intervention that resolves the problems may have continuing problems throughout adulthood, according to a study published by assistant professor Ian Colman with the School of Public Health, University of Alberta. Common issues include depression, anxiety, relationship problems and financial struggles, often due to a lack of continuing education.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: Adolescent Behavior Problems
- California Association of School Psychologists: Managing the Cycle of Escalating Behavior
- Scholastic: Working with Children Who Show Attention Problems
- Crisis Counseling: Never Give Up
- St. Louis Children’s Hospital: Why Your Child's Behavior May Not Mean ADHD
- British Medical Journal: Outcomes of Conduct Problems in Adolescence: 40 Year Follow-Up of National Cohort
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images