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Help! I sent my son to junior high and he turned into a jerk!

One day you send your little angel boy to the first day of seventh grade, and a semester later you pick up a cranky, three-headed dragon! What happened? Who is this terrible monster and what did he do with your darling baby boy?

Junior high boy with attitude

Hello, testosterone

Your son went from treating you like something akin to idol worship to scowling at you as if you’re the anti-Christ. What happened? And more importantly, how do you get your son back?

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to testosterone. You’ll make its acquaintance typically around the age of 11 or 12 and at first testosterone will just visit once in a while. Your son will lose his temper with a sibling over something small, or he’ll take his aggression out on something in his room — typically a basketball or a laundry basket. Then you’ll pick him up from junior high one day and it will occur to you that your darling is a full-blown jerk.

You have to transform too

While your son goes from being the cute little kid on The Christmas Story to the Incredible Hulk, you have to do some transforming too. I hope you’re sitting down with a box of tissues for this. Your baby isn’t your baby anymore. And your darling isn’t your darling anymore. Testosterone is coursing through your son’s veins and he just wants to go hunting with his bare hands and rub up against every female within a 10-mile radius. If you keep treating him like the little doll that used to play with Legos on your living room floor for hours, you’re asking for trouble.

One more thing

As long as we’re breaking bad news, be warned that your son will check out mentally for about 18 months during this time in his life. You will ask him to do something simple like remember to turn off the light in his room, and he’ll space out. It’s not an open act of defiance, and he’s not ignoring you. He 100 percent does not remember you asking him to do that. It’s called “spacing out” for a reason. Your son is going to be out to lunch and do really stupid, annoying things for a solid year, maybe a bit more.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Don’t let your son use this transition into adulthood as an excuse to be rude and don’t let him off the hook for things that are important to you. Just set your expectations appropriately and prepare to be inordinately patient.

The good news is that this period doesn’t last forever (for most — a few men never seem to evolve out of the “jerk” phase). If navigated properly, 12 to 18 months into this phase you’ll see your son re-emerge. He won’t return to idolizing you, but he’ll turn a corner when it comes to remembering things and his mood swings will lessen, if not disappear. A young man you can be proud of will emerge… that is, if you don’t strangle him during his junior high years.

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When Mom and Dad disagree on discipline

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