Back-to-School tips from Focus on the Family

Positive Parenting Your Middle Schooler

Is middle school off to a rocky start? 
It’s common for a middle schooler’s self-esteem to take a noticeable dive during the first few weeks of school. This is when your child may especially appreciate encouragement and empathy for what he or she is going through.

How much do grades matter?         Putting a lot of pressure on your middle schooler to get high grades can increase the temptation to use deceptive means to measure up to expectations. Add the strong influence of peer pressure, and even good students may be tempted to cheat. Instead of pressuring middle schoolers to get good grades, help them polish their study skills. This doesn’t mean letting kids get by with not trying or making excuses but rather giving them a chance take more responsibility for their own success and learn what it takes to keep themselves motivated and competent.

What can you do when your child isn’t “clicking” with a teacher?            Instead of resenting a teaching approach that does not play to your child’s learning style, help your child understand and value a variety of methods, preparing your son or daughter to confidently face a world of different personalities.
Should your child sign up for that team (or club or activity)? At the beginning of the year, new and exciting activities beckon—and some students will be tempted to try them all. Before your middle schooler signs up to participate in a sport or club, get detailed information regarding the time commitment and financial commitment. Unlike elementary school, middle school teams practice almost every day, games involve traveling, and there may be major competitions later in the year that can take up entire weekends.

What helpful boundary should you establish ASAP?             Middle schoolers are often pressured by friends to have boy-girl parties. Making a rule such as “no boy-girl parties until you’re 16” will take the pressure off your middle schooler, and it will head off situations he or she isn’t prepared to handle, like games and activities that involve inappropriate coed interactions.

How can you get your child to study—without nagging?              Instead of nagging her to study, try a more subtle approach: “How should we celebrate when your science test is over?” You’ve planted a seed and allowed her to saunter off and pretend she was planning on studying all along. Mission accomplished, conflict avoided.
Has your middle school been asking tough questions about faith? Middle schoolers are journeying through some intense self-discovery. Their whole world is beginning to shift and resettle, and it’s natural to develop doubts about the faith they’ve previously taken for granted. Wise parents will welcome the questioning as a sign that their children are beginning the process of personalizing their faith. If you don’t feel equipped to answer the tougher questions, seek help and advice from youth pastors, who are specially trained to deal with kids who are searching for answers.

Could this be making your middle schooler irritable?           Sudden growth spurts can cause fatigue. After all, it takes a lot of energy to grow that quickly. When your middle schooler seems grouchy or out of sorts for no reason, look for any recent physical changes. Is he taller? Did you just have to buy her new clothes or shoes because the old ones no longer fit? It could be that all of it’s related to the bad mood (and yawning) you’re seeing. That irritability might just disappear with a well-timed nap.


Could your middle schooler use a hygiene reminder?               As kids develop more adult-like bodies, they also develop more adult-like smells. Unfortunately, they don’t always have adult-like hygiene habits. To prevent too much awkwardness or embarrassment, create a code word to discreetly let your middle schooler know when it’s time for an armpit freshening.

Can they wear that?
Check out the school’s dress code for yourself rather than taking your middle schooler’s word for what it says. No parent enjoys spending big bucks on something only to learn that it can’t be worn to school!
 This article appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of Thriving Family magazine. It was adapted from Middle School: The Inside Story. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family. Get Thriving Family delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.



Verne Hill
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