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  • Writer's pictureErin Engelke

The five things parents of middle-schoolers should be doing now

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

Just because your middle schooler acts crazy doesn't mean you have to act the same.

I’m raising two middle schoolers. Two hormonal, highly emotional, body-changing humans.

One minute they’re sweet and kind and swell my heart with pride. But then the next minute they’re flying off the handle, crying uncontrollably or snapping because they were asked to put their clothes away.

WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING, I ask. Am I the one going crazy or are they?!

It’s enough to make everyone’s heads spin. But you can survive and they will too!

I’ve recently been on a mission to make sure I’m doing this whole parenting thing ~mostly~ right and empower other parents, regardless of how old their kiddos are, to create a home environment that allows their families to thrive and feel safe. and just finished reading Planet Middle School by Dr. Kevin Lehman. It was so affirming and practical and eye-opening. I learned that I’m doing a whole lot of things right but that I could also stand to do some things a bit differently.

Here’s the top 5 things to do NOW to survive parenting your middle-schooler too:

1. Remain calm.

This is way easier said than done, especially in those moments of time when your child’s emotions are running high and they’re spewing things you can’t wrap your head around. BUT, yelling or raising your voice is never the answer. Don’t react! Respond calmly instead. Affirm you hear what they’re saying but don’t match their over reactive behaviors.

2. Determine what kind of parent you are.

Knowing how you parent is critical because it often defines how your children will react to you and you to them. There’s three primary parenting styles - authoritative, permissive or authoritarian.

Authoritarian parents have high expectations, discipline often and generally don’t listen to their children’s needs, meaning communication is often only one way.

Permissive parents tend to be very nurturing but provide very little structure, rules or clear expectations.

Authoritative parents, on the other hand, are nurturing, listen well to their children, and set clear expectations or rules for the family. This is the ideal parenting style as it’s the best of both worlds – lots of communication, trust, follow through when rules are broken, and plenty of love and nurturing.

3. Create a home environment that is emotionally safe for your child.

Home should always be our children’s safe space. Their emotions and bodies and constant hormonal changes are chaotic enough. Make home be an oasis where they can feel and think and not be judged or treated as though they’re not loved.

4. Don’t take their actions personally.

Nothing stings more than when our children misbehave or shout “I hate you” or avoid talking to you because they’d rather be with their friends. As easy as it is to take those comments personally and question your parenting skills, remember, they DO love you and often their outbursts or hurtful words are coming from a deeper place. A place of insecurity. A place of doubt about themselves and who they are becoming.

5. Love them unconditionally. And make your love apparent.

Even though they may not admit it, our middle schoolers desperately want to know they are loved. They want our hugs (even though they may act horrifically embarrassed when you do it in front of their friends!).

Let them know regularly that no matter what, you are there. You love them. And that will never change.

I take my kiddos on dates and they look forward to our one on one time just as much, or more, than they love my chocolate chip cookies. It’s precious time to talk about all the things…the hard things and the fun things. I never shy away from the tough topics either. They need to hear about sex and drugs and faith from YOU, not from their friends at school.

The growing up years are just as hard on your littles as they are for you. Be patient with yourself and them, moms and dads, and remember, you’re their calm in the middle school storm of life.

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