So I officially finished my first year as a middle school mom and let me tell you , it was hard. ha! I bet you thought I was going to come out the gates on a high note. But even though there were some really good moments, the year was hard and challenging but it was exactly what our family needed. Here’s what I learned during my first year as a middle school mom.
It’s hard to see our kids struggle when it comes to anything. The first time they walk, the first time they’re hurt by a friend. The first time you catch them not being so nice. I’ve cried many tears this year when I would hear about the way others were treating my kid. I wanted to punch someone. But I was also heartbroken when I heard the way MY child treated others! I mean mamma didn’t raise no fool!!! The social, emotional and spiritual challenges of middle school are enough to make any mother fall to her knees!
But throughout this year each time an issue came up, big or small, I knew I wanted the lessons. Because the reality is, the lessons will either come now or they will come later. But right now while my kids are under our care, love, supervision and influence our home is the safest place to fail and fall. We have the opportunity to teach, re-teach, and redirect their actions. We get to parent them with all the grace that the world will not give them. We also get to tell them the truth about who they are. Something else the world lacks.
Hopefully the building blocks of trust and discipline that you’ve worked so hard on during the elementary years will start to make their way into these years so your kids will actually listen to you and respect what you have to say.
But even when you put your best parenting foot forward, as parents we must understand that no matter how hard we try, no matter what the expectations are, kids will still test the waters. Some kids will put their pinky toe in. Some will splash around and get out quickly. Others will get completely naked and jump in the entire lake. haha!
To see if what you say is true.
Will that really happen? Or are you over-exaggerating? Or lying. Because if you are, I can’t trust you.
But if it what you say really does happen then, WOW! You were right and I’m listening. I trust you.
Number one lesson I learned as middle school parent? YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR KIDS.
It seems wrong even typing that. It seems like you’re already defeated as a parent.
Because of course I can control my kids. The black mamma in me believes this 100% ha! I’m the queen of clapbacks. Oh yes, yes I can. I can control my kids with looks. I can control them with that little pinch on the back of the arm in the grocery store when they want to act brand new. Or that motherly stare down when you only make eye contact with your child and press your lips together. We all know that means ” Wait until we get home” haha!
Watch how quick I can unplug a Playstation. How quick I can countdown before someone’s “gonna get it” lol! I can control them! I got this.
But Reggie and I are always listening to parents of older middle schoolers and high schoolers. We listen to the stories, the struggles and the frustrations and the one thing we pick up each time? Control.
You can’t control your middle schooler.
You can discipline them.
You can talk to them.
You can suggest things.
You can guide them.
But at the end of the day, your middle schooler will and has made some choices that you will not agree with. Choices you just can’t control.
Look at the relationship we have with our heavenly father. It’s almost the same right? God gives us the choice to choose. He can control us if he wanted to. But he doesn’t. Because he’s after our hearts. He can discipline us. He can talk to us. He can suggest things. He can guide us. But at the end of the day we choose whether or not we want the advice or love. We test the waters. No wonder he calls us children :0)
So as a parent what do we do with the fact that we can’t control our kids?
You go after their heart. Just like Christ does for us.
As as you move from grade to grade as a middle school parent and eventually a high school parent you’ll understand there is a big difference between controlling your kids and guiding your kids. Still with discipline, still with understanding, still with love and of course that beautiful thing we call grace. Go after the heart of your child.
First Pour on the Influence
The word influence seems a little sneaky but it’s actually the perfect word to describe how someone follows patterns. Whether good or bad, you have an influence over your child’s choices. But your kid has to actually like you in order for you to influence them.
So make sure you’re still nice to them. Not like BFF nice ( that’s a whole other issue) But like human being nice. Compliment them. Hug them. Praise them in private and in public. Hangout with them. Share with them. Ask them nicely. You know all those characteristics you want them to have and use? Be an example.
Remember, they have opinions. You WANT them to have opinions! You may not agree with them, but listen to them because those opinions (which is really their voice) matters so much to them. There is nothing more defeating than not having a voice. Be a parent who understands and listens to those very really fears, feelings and concerns.
This year we were so much more intentional about showing our middle schooler how important he was to us. We praised him continuously, celebrated achievements and reassured him almost daily how much we loved him. Not only that, but we told him how much he was wanted and how important he is to our family.
Kids like cool people. Not Mean Girls “I’m a not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom” cool. hahaha! But I mean they are attracted to the person or persons who are seeking to understand. That’s what makes them cool to you. Not the parent who flips out over every single thing and loses their cool every single time. That starts to create an unhealthy fear between child and parent that’s hard to reverse.
We are naturally pulled towards being wanted. During the middle school years kids are looking for a place to belong. Hobbies, clubs and finding “their people” is on the top of their minds. So we really wanted to make sure that he knew at the end of the day he never had to question whether or not he was wanted at home.
Next, Still Discipline But with Love
If you aren’t discipling your kids when they mess up, then your in the friend zone and not the parent zone. Kids need direction and limitations. They NEED boundaries and expectations. So let them know what the rules are and be consistent.
- We expect them to treat others with kindness
- We expect them to work hard in every circumstance
- We expect them to always do THEIR best academically
and so on.
But sometimes they don’t meet those expectations.
Sometimes the consequences are natural. Loss of friendships, below average grades, loss of activities and privileges, etc and other times we get to teach a lesson. The kids are always laughing because Reggie is the king of lessons and stories. He’s like a TV dad. I almost hear the sappy music playing in the background as he sits down with the kids to explain why their behavior was not ok and how they should improve it next time. But the point is that after things don’t go right and expectations aren’t met, we always take the time to have a serious talk if needed. Usually one on one but sometimes we involve siblings because it can be a learning moment for them too.
Oh and don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we get UPSET and angry. We yell when we shouldn’t and man that makes everyone feel bad. Because yelling makes us feel like we are getting the point across a little better. It makes us feel like we mean business and really yelling makes us feel better. But we know that’s not true. There are sometime when you need to really make a point and yelling/raising your voice will do that. But if you ALWAYS do it then it’s not as effective. But I will tell you that we always end on a positive note. Always. Not matter how upset we get. We always let them know we love them. Period.
It’s sometimes so discouraging because as parents it seems like we are ALWAYS teaching the same thing over and over again with no improvement. There were moments when I was like ” I can’t do this. This SUCKS! As soon as one issue is over another one begins!!!”
Then some days I felt complete peace about everything! Like ” This is life Destiny, nothing is perfect. Life is about growth. EVERYONE, including your kids will have struggles but also look at all that is good too!”
I’m reminded of the bible verse in Galatians. Paul is writing the church and reminding them that they are truly free.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
This encouraging verse reminds us as parents that each seed you sow in the name of Christ in due time will reap a harvest of blessing. So we all need to keep going. Maybe try different approaches or techniques but never grow tired of doing the right thing when it comes to correcting your kids!
Also, we must remember that discipline isn’t fun. Not fun for us and definitely not fun for the kids. If your middle schooler is anything like mine, they will push back. With eye rolls, stomping, or door slamming ( which is always addressed immediately.) I know Reggie and I struggle because we really don’t want to be the bad guys. There are times when we can offer the grace and forgiveness and move on. But there are other times when we MUST take things seriously and discipline because otherwise the situation will only get worse.
Guess what? You might even cry. ( I DID) You might actually feel really bad. ( I DID) But you have to be ok with that. The more in control you are when you deliver the consequences, the better it will be. A house full of mad, yelling people is no good to anyone. Try to be the adult and stay calm.
But what about when my middle schooler does ________ and _________? What do I do then?
You’ll notice that none of the actual issues that we dealt with this year was mentioned. Nothing was necessarily “fixed”. That’s because middle school, I think, will continue to be full of diverse and endless fill in the blank issues. Some that can be “fixed” others that simply need more attention. But through it all and even as we add one more middle schooler to the fold next year, I feel like I can always come back to these truths….
The more you try to control the more you start to lose.
Discipline with love.
Influence is king.
Go after the heart.
Have you finished your first middle school year as a parent? What did you learn? Or have you graduated all your children? What advice do you have for the parent who is just starting? What would you do differently?
The Just Destiny Community full of REAL parents and even middle school teachers, left some great advice for you too!
@maxzoelaw- Don’t get involved in middle school drama or it will be your full time job! lol!
@laughx2- As a middle school teacher, talk to your kids about EVERYTHING! Daily check in meeting with them. Make sure you’re as involve in their life as them.
@facefanz – Measure your reaction to negative things your kids share so they’ll continue to be open!
@reaj_sunshine- Give your children the same grace God give you.
@thesimplenote- I’m a middle school teacher and my step daughter is exiting middle school. Here are some tips. Structure and accountability matter. They need HELP learning how to be more responsible. The transition to elementary to middle ( self advocacy) is essential.
@chrissiemitchpartyof6- It will be better than you think. You will start to see the maturity of your child become clear. Don’t let up!
@nnekalove- Remember that these are likely the more transformative years in regard to their emotional intelligence and they likely need more love than harsh discipline.
@sarah_damo- get to know their friends!
@welcomehome.friends- Don’t put your heart into every emotion your child has. They will be over it in 5 minutes.
@foodiarymama-Have constant open dialog with your kids even when you feel uncomfortable with the subject.
@coach_armstead- whatever you think middle school will be like, throw it out the window! lol
@thatsjenn_c – They will encounter so many different conversations that differ from the way you parent.
@amykahn- I feel like the changes that happen for our kiddos in middle school are intense! Love them even when they aren’t acting human! haha! Coming into a new school and not knowing a lot of parents was hard for me. So my best advice is to be connected! Staying in the loop with school, friends, teachers and other families makes for a positive experience for everyone.