DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has started hanging out with a group of boys who are constantly getting into trouble. He is in the ninth grade at a new school, and I know he has had to figure out how to fit in, but what he is doing is not good for him. They have gotten in trouble for smoking marijuana on school property and drinking at a party with a bunch of other kids.
I know that teenagers try things, but I need my son to understand that his choices matter. How can I get him to take his actions seriously without coming across as a shrill mother who is overly protective? -- Helping My Boy
DEAR HELPING MY BOY: Pick a time to talk to your son when neither of you is distracted by other activities. You want to be calm, even-tempered and not accusatory. Talk to your son about life and the future. Let him know that you are disappointed that he has been making choices that compromise his reputation and that could put him in an adversarial relationship with law. Remind him that even though he is young, his actions matter, and what he does today will not necessarily be forgotten tomorrow.
Ask him if he has started to think about what he wants to do with his life. Explore his interests. In what subjects does he excel in school? What attracts his attention? Do your best to get him to think about what he wants to do with his life; encourage him to focus on those areas. The best way to get him to pivot from his current behavior is to help him explore something else that he may enjoy more.