The Road to Responsibility
Most middle graders are itching for freedom— usually more than they can handle. This is normal. So are parents’ concerns about how much to give them.
Here are four ways to help your child ease into greater independence.
Count on me
Give your middle grader added responsibility— and control— where you can.
Example: “You can have a paper route after school. But it’s up to you to find time to finish your homework every night.” This lets your child know you trust him to do a good job.
Way to go!
Point out when your middle grader makes a good choice— especially if it’s important to you. Example: “I’m glad you left the party when alcohol was served. You made the right decision.” Behavior you appreciate often gets repeated.
I earned it!
Reward your child’s responsible deeds with more freedom. Example: Your child shops around for a good price on shoes. Why not consider giver him/her a clothing allowance to practice his/her skill? He’ll/she’ll see the benefit of being thrifty.
Life’s little lessons
When your child makes a poor decision, resist the urge to rush in and fix things. Example: your child wants a note excusing him from gym class because he lost his uniform. He/she will learn more from dealing with the results of his/her mistake than he/she will if you bail him/her out
Do you often do things for your child that he can handle? If so, consider giving him more responsibility. For example, give him all of his lunch money on Monday, rather than daily. Why? He will probably become more independent, and your load will be lighter.
You can help your middle grader be more respectful of others. How? Try setting a good example for your child. Examples; knocking before entering her room, asking before using her things, saying thank-you whenever she does something for you.
Are you too busy to spend as much time with your child as you’d like? Here’s a way to be together—while still getting necessary work done. Do solo activities alongside your child/ Example: pay your bills while he/she does their homework.
Making the Grade
Your child can use this easy system to avoid report card surprises. Have he/she attach a tally sheet inside his/her notebooks. He/she can record grades from tests, assignments, and projects—and he/she will be able to see his/her progress at a glance.
“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”
Growing Up, Not Apart
When my daughter Janet entered middle school, she spent most of her time with friends or alone in her room. I knew this was pretty normal for teens, but I didn’t want to lose our closeness.
I tried talking to Janet about how I felt. I told her I missed spending time with her. She just shrugged and said she was really busy with school and her friends. Her laid-back reaction hurt my feelings, but I didn’t know what else to say.
Finally, I decided to write her a letter. In it, I told her she’d be a teenager soon, and I knew she wouldn’t want to “hang out” much with her mom. But no matter what, I’d always be there for her. After she read it, she hugged me.
We still don’t spend a lot of time together. But now I pay more attention to the special moments we do share— meeting Janet’s eyes as we laugh at dinner or chatting while she fixes her hair.