If you're the parent of middle schoolers, you know how quickly their personalities begin to develop and change. Growing up takes a lot of work! In the process, our young children transform into budding young adults. They can experience complete reversals in their likes and dislikes, friendships, and even food preferences! If you're like me, you want to keep up with that kid by protecting the communication lines, parenting through the growing pains, and preserving the boundaries of discipline and respect. This can be accomplished by active, attentive parenting. In 2010, resolve to be a better student of your child.
LISTEN. When it comes to communication, listening might be the most difficult part. As a parent, I can be guilty of listening half-heartedly, simply because I am too focused on what I plan to say next. Do you know what I mean? Say your child comes to you with a problem. While you pat yourself on the back for waiting and listening patiently as he gives you all the details, you really don't hear the heart of what he says because you are too busy planning your own response. Resolve to listen with your undivided attention when your child is talking.
And in addition, with growing middle schoolers, you need to be ready to listen when it is not convenient! Quite often, they choose to open up just when you are ready to shut down for the evening!
TAKE NOTES. What do you do when you want to remember something? I write it down! When you notice something important about your child, write it down! When she mentions something she might like to do or somewhere she would like to go, jot it down somewhere! When she mentions a problem with an acquaintance, resolve to keep that person's name in mind, and ask her about it later to see what has happened. What if she mentions that a friend's mom is not well? Write it down so you can check back on it later.
As I get older, I have noticed that I have to be told something several times before I truly remember it. (Is that just me?) However, I have also noticed that if one of my kids tells me something, he expects me to remember that he said it. If I don't remember it, truthfully, that means it wasn't very important to me, right? So take notes and resolve to make what is important to your child important to you, as well.
MAJOR ON ENCOURAGEMENT. When I was in college and I started pursuing my major, English (not surprised, are you?), it took up the bulk of my time. When not in class, I was reading, writing papers, and working on research projects. English was my major and my day was filled with it!
What if we decided to major on encouragement in our parenting? What if we chose to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative" when it comes to our speech and random conversations? For our middle schoolers, the world can be a very discouraging place. Our homes should be their safe place where we build them up and choose to edify them with loving words that let them know how precious they are to us and, most of all, to the Lord. Resolve to fill your days with encouraging words for your child.
Minor on Criticism. As wonderful as it is to encourage one another and build each other up, it is sad, sorry, and even dangerous to be critical of those we love. I'll never forget a conversation I had with a parent once who boasted that he had never told his soccer champ daughter that she had done well in a game. He only told her what she needed to do better. I was dismayed, to say the least. So I asked him, "Why don't you ever tell her how great she does?" And he replied that if he did, she would stop trying. Stop trying what? I wanted to ask. Stop trying to please him? Because that's what she equated with her dad's acceptance--the constant "here's what you should have done" after every game. In her mind, he had never truly accepted her, because he had never said, Good job! Well done! or I'm proud of you! Resolve to limit criticism and only pull it out when it can be done in a positive, teachable moment.
Be Consistent. The only way to make an A in the class is to be consistent. You can't take time off from doing your best! As middle schoolers grow, you are still expected to be there to handle the tough issue of discipline. At this and every age, disrespect continues to be unacceptable. Defying the house rules will reap the same consequences it always has. Just because they are changing doesn't mean you are!
You do, however, need to step up your game. As they acquire new privileges, you acquire new ways of getting your point across (think taking up cell phones and turning off Facebook). What works best when it comes to getting their attention? If you've taken the time to study your child, you'll know what works and you'll know how to reach their hearts.
For more information on parenting middle schoolers, check out my book, "Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose" HERE.