One time during a ministry event I was hiking through the woods with a group of middle school boys. The sky was clear, the temperature was perfect, and there were no bugs. It was a fun middle school ministry moment. But something else about the moment made it particularly exceptional.
Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com/Diego Cervo
The boys in my group were talking! They were jabbering away— completely unprovoked. I didn’t have to do any work to sustain the conversation. I said a few things here and there but mostly marveled at observing 12 year-olds attempt to articulate their thoughts.
Physical touch is an important way to connect with the people in our lives, teenagers included. It is especially important for people whose primary love language is to give or receive love through touch.
Photo courtesy of dollarphotoclub.com/leungchopan
Unfortunately there are a multitude of factors preventing adults from connecting with middle school boys through physical touch. Here are a few:
This guest post is written by Jackie Tysdal
, who had a son in my ministry a few years ago. I asked Jackie to share about how her relationship with her teenage son. I respect and appreciate how she tries to connect with him in healthy, age-appropriate ways. I know you’ll benefit from her wisdom!
You know those opinions and advice you get from everyone once you have kids? When my son was 3 years old someone told me that as he gets older he is going to be more into his dad and forget about mom for a while. I thought “WHAT? Not MY son!”
The real Jackie with her real son!
That was not going to happen to us. I pray he is close to his dad but he is NOT going to drop mom! So, that was the starting point of my intentional relationship with my son. I do not want to be just a teacher and bystander in his life. I want to enjoy life with him and be an active participant on his journey. Here are 5 things I do stay connected with my teenage son:
This is a guest post written by my friend Susan Shisler
. She has had two boys in my ministry over the past few years. This post is overflowing with wisdom.
I am a boymom (a mother to only boys) and I absolutely love it. Along with my husband, I have the privilege of raising four boys into men. Currently we have an 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a bonus little guy who is 6 years old. By the time he is a teen I hope to have this whole “motherhood” thing down.
Susan and her boys.
I have learned a lot along the way but have by no means perfected my parenting. Despite the varying personalities of our sons there are several things that have remained the same while raising them as teenagers.
Here are the top10 things I have learned from parenting teenage boys:
Trust is valuable. We all need people we can trust, especially when life is unsettled and chaotic. There’s plenty of craziness in the lives of middle school students, so they crave connections with people they can trust.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/Yuriy Seleznyov
Middle schoolers are generally naive and more willing than high schoolers to trust an adult, but they won’t trust freely. As with anyone at any other age, trust must be earned. Since trust take a long time to build and can quickly be lost, it’s important that we protect the trust middle schoolers give us. Here are ten ways to build and maintain trust with middle school students:
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.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/master1305
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.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/yanlev
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:
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.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/carballo
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/ulkas
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/eric
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.