Five Ways to Help Your Middle School Student Be Successful:
- Don’t wait for things to go wrong. Talk honestly with your young adolescent. Talk about what is helpful to studying: studying after school and not after supper; eating breakfast; keeping an assignment notebook. Talk about what is not helpful: staying up too late on school nights; procrastinating on long-term projects; trying to play on the school team and a recreation league team in the same season.
- Know what your young adolescent is doing by talking to him everyday. Don’t grill him, but find a time when you can sit down and really talk about the day. Many families still make it a priority to sit down for dinner most nights where they can talk about the events of the day in a calm and unhurried manner. If dinnertime doesn’t work for your family, perhaps a short walk in the evening or a time before bed when you can connect and talk about what is important. We are very busy these days, but it will pay off!
- Stay in touch with the school. Ashland Middle is organized by teams, with a designated team leader, so the team should be your contact. Know your child’s teachers and stay in contact. We have a homework hotline that allows you to phone in to hear about the team and assignments; the schools website also has lots of information about the school. It doesn’t take long to stay in touch so you know what is going on.
- Encourage your young adolescent to become an active citizen this year. Have your child practice doing for others. Visiting a special senior citizen; helping with community clean-up; or becoming an advocate for recycling, literacy, or kindness to animals will help your young adolescent be an involved member of society and maintain that balance between caring for others and attending to her own needs.
- Remember that middle school is a time for students to explore new opportunities. Doing well on tests and learning are critical, of course, but students are also learning a great deal about themselves. So, think carefully about what being successful really means. Is it more than receiving all As? Is it learning to be a self-starter? Is it learning to follow through on commitments? You make that decision as a family according to your beliefs and values.
Raising Respectful Children
By Toni A.P. Brown, LMFT
“Your children have the best manners?”
“We love to have your daughter babysit for us – she’s a great role model!”
“Your son is so mature; his good sportsmanship is a real asset to the team.”
What parent doesn’t enjoy receiving compliments about his or her children? But raising polite and respectful children can be a real challenge in an era where television, movies, and even t-shirts celebrate rude, often crude, behaviors and sentiments.
One starting point for teaching your children better behavior and manners is simply remembering that behavior is best learned by example. The power of our example is remarkably strong. When you speak to your children, do you demonstrate the same respectful manners you show the outside world or do you slip into thoughtless patterns?
One good rule of thumb is to address our children the way we do our friends, co-workers and neighbors. We don’t curse or shout at our friends. It’s unlikely we would order a co-worker around, call them names, or ask them sarcastic questions like, “What is the MATTER with you?” Even a neighbor would expect us to be polite. When we’re communicating with the outside world, we’re very aware of the effect our words can have. We are careful about how we express our feelings because we don’t want to alienate adults we interact with every day.
But isn’t our relationship with our children even more important than our relationships with friends and co-workers? We know that if we hollered at and insulted friends, they’d probably soon stop associating with us. Yet many of us feel we can lose our tempers and manners with our children and it won’t alienate them. The truth is that how we handle family manners now will make a big difference in the quality of our family relationships for years to come.
Does this mean you must never get upset with your children again? That would be unreasonable. Research shows that some conflict among family members is natural and unavoidable. How we handle conflict, however, will determine how much respect our children learn.
The examples we were shown by our own parents usually shape what we automatically say when we’re frustrated or angry with our children. How were you treated by your parents? Did you feel respected or ignored; supported or criticized? Did your parents sometimes say or do things that were so hurtful or disrespectful, you swore you would never repeat those mistakes when you became a parent? If you made that promise to yourself – and then broke it – you re in the majority. Most of us have had that uncomfortable experience! Fortunately, there are techniques for raising respectful children that can help bring success and leave you guilt-free.
- Demonstrate respect when handling chores or homework by using fact-based statements. Say, “You’ll need to finish the dishes before you watch television,” rather than, “Why can’t you be more responsible!?”
- Show respect by giving your child a choice in how responsibilities are handled. “What time would you rather take your shower – 8 or 8:30?” builds a child’s decision-making skills and will get a better response than “Get in the shower!”
- Shouting, name-calling and sarcasm destroy respect. Eliminate them from all your family’s communications and monitor the kind of language that is allowed in your home from relatives, visiting friends, the television or any other sources.
- Share good communication skills with your children. If you tell them honestly (and calmly) when you have been hurt, scared or angered by their behavior, they will listen.
- Demonstrate respect for your family by expecting and requiring respectful behavior and speech from every member of the household. Agree on some basic “Respect Rules” and be sure everyone abides by them. Such rules could include, “Don’t interrupt when others are speaking,” “Say please and thank you”. “Knock before entering anyone’s bedroom”, “Don’t borrow anyone’s belongings without permission.” Deciding what the rules should be is a good way to get the whole family talking about mutual respect. When the adults follow the rules themselves, they feel comfortable enforcing them with the children. When the children participate in making the rules, they will be more likely to follow them.
While these suggestions will give you a good start, remember that the core of respect is love. A daily hug, a smile, and gentle words inspire trust. When children feel safe and loved, respect comes naturally.
Toni A.P. Brown is a speaker, trainer and psychotherapist in private practice, and is President of Counseling Services of Brandon in Brandon, Florida. This article is reprinted with permission of the American Counseling Association