Step Up and Step In

The middle school years can be just as challenging of a time for parents as it is for their kids.

We go from being one of the most admired, loved and smartest people in our kids’ lives during the elementary years to someone who doesn’t know anything anymore. We play “second fiddle” to our kids’ friends. Our rules and expectations are being questioned and challenged. Conversations that came easy with our child are now limited and difficult to initiate.

If you’ve been or are a middle school parent, you understand. The middle school years can be tough.

At a time when parents need to step up and step in even more with their parenting practices, parents may feel the tendency to step back and pull away during the middle school years. Many give up and give in to the other influences they believe is overriding their influence.

A recent study asked kids, aged 11 through 17, “Who has a very important influence on you?” The kids’ responses were:

  • Parents (86%)
  • Grandparents (56%)
  • Place of worship (55%)
  • Teachers (50%)
  • Peers (41%)
  • Community (23%)
  • Television, movies and music (22%)

Studies consistently indicate that parents are the single most important influence on kids’ decisions to smoke, drink or use other drugs. It’s also important to recognize the influence non-parental adults – grandparents, teachers and YOU – can play in kids’ lives. Yet, many parents and adults do not fully understand the extent of their influence.

If you see a drop off in parental involvement and engagement during the middle school years in your school or youth program, don’t conclude that it’s because your parents don’t care or aren’t interested. Instead, believe they care even MORE. The problem their facing is they don’t know what to do with their child right now. The parenting practices that came so naturally or easily to do during the elementary years are harder to do now. Sometimes the harder it gets, the easier it can be to give up and give in. This is the last thing we want parents to do.

Instead…

We need parents to step up and step in even more during the middle school years.

Research shows that increased parent/adult attention is very important and has identified six important things for a parent or another important adult to delay the onset of risky behaviors with a middle school child. They are…

  • Nurture a loving and caring relationship.
  • Use positive discipline.
  • Encourage and support positive friendships and activities.
  • Supervise and monitor the child’s whereabouts, activities and friends.
  • Set, state and enforce rules and expectations about risky behaviors.
  • Be a positive example.

In future blog posts, I will break down each of these strategies and offer practical and proven ways your parents can use them with their middle school child.

For now, just know and believe that a majority of your middle school parents really do care. They just need to be reminded they still can and do influence their child. Their opinion and actions really do matter and it’s important to stay, “in the trenches” during these critical years. Empower them to step up and step in! Support, love and care for your middle school parents. They need it just as much as their kids do.

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