5 Do’s and Don’ts for Raising Middle Schoolers: What To Do When You Can’t Drop-Kick Them Over the Fence

Dec 7 2012

Oh, man.

His body is too big for his brain right now, you guys. It’s one-half Bambi On Ice around here and one-half T-Rex Takes Manhattan. The holes in the wall are, I feel, simply an outward symbol of an inward reality.

It’s okay, though, this Parenting a Middle Schooler thing. It is. It’s normal, right? Normal and exhausting and exhilarating and consuming and every day. Relentless, like all of parenting. Harder in some ways than parenting littles because I can’t tuck this kid under my arm and bodily move him to a timeout chair. Easier in some ways than parenting littles because he can clean my whole laundry room which is AWESOME on toast with a side of butter. So it’s okay, see? Some days, I even believe we’ll all survive this.

Last night, I was thinking about how very grateful I am for the people who take my kid away for a while… and who insist that he’s delightful and kind and considerate and making progress… and who remind me by their example to dwell on the best and not on drywall repair. So I wrote to them on Facebook.

Dear People Who Work with Middle Schoolers on Purpose, you crazy teachers and youth pastors and tutors and coaches,

Thank you for the work you do with our children.

Thank you for thinking they’re interesting and capable and funny.

Thank you for never, ever drop-kicking them over the back fence, even when they really, really, really, really, really deserve it.

Also, if you have any special secrets — say, tricks of the trade — for accomplishing that last thing, do share. I’m asking for a friend.

Your #1 Fan

Crowd-sourcing wisdom is one of my very favourite things. I may have one good parenting idea from time to time, but together we kick child-rearing butt. 

So I took your Facebook offerings last night, Middle School Workers and Warriors — your top secrets and tricks of the trade — and I distilled them here so I can find them when I need them which may be every minute of every day for the next three years. I’m gonna wear this page out is what I’m saying.

And here it is, thanks to YOU…

5 Do’s and Don’ts for Raising Middle Schoolers:
What To Do When You Can’t Drop-Kick Them Over the Fence

The Don’ts:

  1. Don’t fight every battle or get into a public pissing match. It’s OK to let some stuff go. Besides, being calm is far more irritating.
  2. Don’t talk too much. Remember to W.A.I.T. (Ask yourself, Why Am I Talking?)
  3. Don’t breathe through your nose. Particularly if they just finished P.E. This is the one time in your life that it’s WAY better to be a mouth-breather. Live it up.
  4. Don’t actually drop-kick your middle schooler over the back fence. Or shake some sense into him. Or yell, “STOP IT. Just StopItStopItStopItStopIt STOP IT!” But it’s OK to scream into your pillow if you must. Or to mutter a few choice words in the shower. My friend highly recommends it.
  5. Don’t forget what it was like to be a middle schooler. The Land of Conscious Incompetence is a rough spot to have to live, and a little sympathy, even in the face of loads of broken crap, is a good thing.

The Do’s:

  1. Do laugh. Loud and long and with a maniacal edge if necessary. Embrace the goofy. And the ridiculous. And the crazy. And the wonky weird. This is like CPR for the soul; laughter will bring you back to life.
  2. Do have a short memory. Everyone should be allowed to change.
  3. Do perfect the Hairy Eyeball. This is a parenting Life Skill.
  4. Do create opportunities to let them run off the angst. In the dark. With glo-sticks. Or through sports. Or at youth group. Anything, really, that’s outside the house.
  5. Do forgive your kid — and yourself — for being human, and choose to see the best. We’re fallible, beautiful creatures, every last one of us.  If your kid knows you’ve got his back through the thick and the thin and the thin and the thin, then you’re lightyears ahead of schedule in this grand Trust Building project that may one day make you his friend.


If you have more Do’s and Don’ts to add, please DO use the comments section below. And thanks for your wisdom.