Parenting is one of the most thankless jobs in the world. It is also one of the most important. As we each stumble and trip our way through being a parent, there are things we can do to be better moms and dads.
This is part 1 of the Top 10 Mistakes Made By Parents of Middle School Students. Here are numbers 10-6:
10. Being a helicopter parent and saying “no” to everything
Your entire job, so far, for your child has been to protect them from bad things. However, it is imperative that your child starts to learn how to handle life.
This means he/she needs to start making some of his/her own decisions and making mistakes. This is hard for parents, especially when you see the mistakes coming.
It would be easy to tell your child, “No, you can’t hang out with Suzie because she is going to stab you in the back.” Or, “No, you can’t spend the night with Tommy because he is up to no good and you will get mixed up in it.”
As long as your child’s safety is not at stake, it is OK to start letting them experience mistakes on his/her own. Most people learn best from their own mistakes, not from the mistakes their parents made a million years ago.
Speaking from personal experience, this is difficult. I don’t think there is anything more painful than watching your child suffer, especially if it is consequences of something you might have been able to help prevent. Growing up is hard, for kids and parents alike.
9. Reacting to your teen’s/preteen’s mood swings
You’ve likely been there. Everything is swimming along pleasantly. People are smiling and laughing and all is well in your world. Then, out of nowhere, your son/daughter loses his/her mind.
If they have siblings, fists might be thrown. A parent may receive dirty looks, notice downward glances and hear slammed doors. Your teen is falling apart and your reaction is to let him/her have it.
I can say that nothing escalates my temper faster than the irrational negative behavior of my son. So, I am learning to fight the urge to react by yelling or rolling my eyes back.
Although all kids are different, I have found a great reaction to this behavior is to tell your child how much you love him/her and hold him/her close. It might seem counter-intuitive, but you will be surprised how much this works. Many times your son/daughter is testing the boundaries to see if you will still love them when he/she acts awful. Showing your child that you do love him/her usually quickly takes the edge off the situation.
8. Letting your child drop out of all extracurricular activities
Many times when students enter middle school they naturally want to retreat to their rooms and/or their phones/computers/TVs/game systems. Giving in to this is a mistake many parents make.
The truth is, being connected to a team, group, sport or other activity can be the one thing that motivates your child to keep up his/her grades and stay in school. Middle school, especially, is a time when students need to belong. Withdrawing is a way some kids try to protect themselves from being excluded. They think, “If I don’t participate, they can’t exclude me.”
It is OK to insist your child stay involved in something you know they love to do. Fight through it. Sometimes they just need to get past the initial scary feeling they have. If they still want to drop out after six months or a year, it is time to reconsider.
7. Not knowing your child’s friends … and their parents
Many times, middle schools bring together students from various elementary schools and your child suddenly has lots of new friends. It is ALWAYS OK to ask to meet the friends and the parents before allowing your child to hang out with them outside of school. You aren’t being overprotective or nosy. IT MATTERS whom your child spends his/her time with at and outside of school.
When this happened with my son this year, I hosted a holiday party and invited all of his friends to our house. This allowed me to meet his friend and the parents when the kids were dropped off.
I also walk my kids inside when we arrive at a friend’s house. This helps me get to know the parent and the setting better. And as a mom, I have learned to listen to my gut. If I get a bad feeling, I either ask lots of questions to resolve my fear or I don’t let my son stay long.
6. Not keeping up with your child’s grades
Now that your son/daughter is in middle school, they don’t need your help staying on top of their work, right? WRONG! It is more important than ever to help your child keep up with his/her work.
Your child has likely gone from having one homeroom teacher to six or more teachers. This is a huge transition and most students struggle at least a little with it.
Fortunately, technology allows most of us to see our child’s grades online through a web site, such as Parent Portal. If you aren’t looking at your child’s grades at least weekly, start now. Even though your child should still be responsible for his/her own grades, it is still your role as a parent to guide them to taking on this personal responsibility. Your child won’t wake up one morning spontaneously knowing how to do this. Parents and educators must guide them through this process.
Check back soon for the rest of the Top 10 Mistakes Made By Parents of Middle School Students.
Michelle Sutherlin is a NewsOK contributor and a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. For more articles about parents and middle school, check out her blog.
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