When kids are younger it’s easy to think that we have control over them. In some ways controlling younger kids is easy, especially when they’re physically small. For example, when they were acting up or having a tantrum what did you do? You picked them up, restrained them, or removed them from the room.
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It’s not as easy to control middle schoolers. Good luck trying to pick them up to put them in a time-out! So, what’s the best way to achieve anything resembling “control” with older kids?
I recently met with a group of high school students who had gone through my middle school ministry. They’ve all gotten taller and the boys’ voices are deeper but they’re still the same wonderful people I used to know. It’s fun to see how much they’ve matured since 8th grade. I love staying in touch with former students.
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The purpose of my meeting was to grill them with questions about their middle school experience. I was curious about what they remember and what was impactful during their time in my ministry. I was hoping to get insight into how I can improve my current ministry with middle school students. Here are five of the most interesting things that they said:
Happy Spring Break! Lori Garcia wrote an article on Babble.com that provides a fun perspective on parenting a middle school boy. Her post is called 36 Things No One Tells You About Parenting An Almost-Teenage Boy. I encourage you to check it out.
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I’ll return with regular posts next week!
I love being a middle school pastor! At this point in my life, there’s nothing else I’d rather do. I love the variety of tasks involved, I love seeing students’ energy and excitement, and I love sharing special moments with them during a critical part of their lives.
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There is one small part of my job that I consistently dislike: Graphic design. So, you know what? I got permission to pay a graphic designer to do all that stuff for me. Graphic design issues: Done. Outsourced. Passed on to someone else. Move on. Next task.
There is, however, another BIG part of my job that I dislike even more: Transitions.Saying goodbye to students once they leave middle school for high school. Letting go.
Guess what? You can’t outsource that task.
Do you remember the first time you liked someone of the opposite gender? For me it happened at the beginning of sixth grade. There was a girl in a lot of my classes who I thought was the most perfect girl ever. She was smart, pretty, quiet, and confident. My face turned red and my heart raced whenever I got close to her. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I resorted to acting awkward and abrasive when I was around her. Long story short: It never worked out between us.
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Figuring out how to relate to the opposite gender is tough! It’s one of the most complicated parts of the teenage years, and one reason why most of us never want to return to middle school. However, as adults we have the chance to help middle school boys as they begin to navigate those same tricky waters that we faced years ago.
A few years ago, a middle school dad sent me a text message immediately after we had returned from a weekend retreat. It’s always nerve-wracking to get a text from a parent after a ministry trip. Sometimes it’s for a bad reason. This particular dad had an eighth grade daughter who had been on the retreat with us and and she was new to our ministry.
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It turns out she had had an excellent experience throughout the weekend. PHEW! Big sigh of relief.
The text message went something like this: “Hi Joe. My daughter had a great experience this weekend. She said she met the most amazing boys at the retreat.”
At this point I rolled my eyes and expected to hear about how this girl fell in puppy-love with some cute boys and had their numbers and wanted to date one of them. And how she obsessively talked about them all the time and Dad was upset with me for creating an environment for her to meet those boys.
This is a guest post written by my friend Kimberly Stuart. She is the mom of a student in my ministry and a published novelist. Kimberly just released her latest book, Sugar
. If you enjoy Kimberly’s punchy wit in this post, you’ll love Sugar
Dear Young Dude,
I’m the mom of that girl I saw you checking out today, but don’t get nervous. I just want you to know some stuff about middle school girls and their parents. Pop open a Coke and take that entire new bag of Doritos hiding in the back of the pantry and let’s have a chat. I won’t tell your mom and dad about the Doritos.
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Remember when girls were full of cooties? When the only interesting girl in your class was Jenna C. because she picked her nose and ate it and Maddie M. because she could rip off twenty-five pull-ups in P.E.? Those were the days. Now that you are older and wiser, you know lots of girls are actually kind of great, even the ones who can’t crush a pull-up. They’re great, but some days, you probably wish they came with operating instructions. Or some kind of app. The Girl Translation App, some kind of guide to make sense of the rules that seem to change, the behavior that doesn’t make sense.
Guess what? Statistically speaking, your middle schooler is going to have sex someday. Hopefully he’ll wait until he’s in a loving marriage relationship. You as his parents play a significant role in helping him understand the value of waiting. That means helping him understand his sexuality and everything that comes along with that, starting at a young age.
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Whether you believe it or not, your son is curious about sex. Why do you think so many teenage boys stumble into viewing pornography? Between what’s happening in their bodies, what they learn from classes at school, what they hear their friends say, and what see they in TV and movies, they are exposed to plenty of sexual ideas.
You never stop being a parent. Even when your kids leave the house. Even when they graduate from college. Even when they get their first real job. Even when they move away. Even when they get married and have their own kids.
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Having a good relationship with your adult-aged kids can be a reward for all the investment you gave to your kids during their first 18 years of life. Your kids can be your friends—how cool is that! I personally derive a lot of joy and encouragement from my friendship with my parents these days.
There are certain things you can do—and not do—when your kids are younger that can increase your chances of having a healthy relationship with them in the future. It’s not a guarantee and you can’t force your kids to stay in touch once they’re older. However, they’ll be more likely to come around on their own initiative if you’ve fostered a positive relational foundation.
When I was young I liked to push my parents’ boundaries occasionally. A few times I dared to speak words that I knew were unacceptable in my house.
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My words were met with soap. In my mouth. It tasted disgusting. I hated it. I quickly learned that naughty words would not be tolerated in my house.
Fast-forward a few years to the start of sixth grade. All of a sudden kids started saying A LOT of naughty words. Despite the immense peer pressure to go with the flow, I knew those words were not okay. Even if we were at school and Mom and Dad couldn’t hear me say them. Way to go, Mom and Dad! The soap worked.
Sometimes the best thing you can do in parent-child conflict is to follow Queen Elsa’s advice and let it go. Most battles aren’t worth fighting. Others, though, are absolutely worth the trouble. Here are five battles worth fighting with middle school boys: