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I know these years are rough. Apparently, the middle school years will be the toughest on moms. My kids are still little — 2 and 5 years old — but not a day goes by where I don’t give a mental high five to all the moms and dads of 10–14 year olds. Not only do you have to deal with a roller coaster cocktail of hormones coursing through your kid, you’re helping them transition to a more competitive and stressful, yet less personal school environment. You will also probably have to deal with your child’s first experience with actual bullying and peer pressure, harder stuff that goes way beyond the typical primary school antics.
As a teacher of this age group and in the past, of older teens, I’ve got to hand it to you. These years are a rough ride.
Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you have to let your kid be the boss of you, or worse, the President Of Your Entire House. I don’t know the magic recipe of raising a great kid. I have not yet parented a pre-teen kid, but me and my 7920 hours of experience with this age group are going to share a few ideas on getting your little one on the right path to being an awesome big person.
Let’s Stop With The Violent Video Games
How about you start by not purchasing your 10 year old the newest Call of Duty game, even if it has a teensy bit less violence and profanity than other versions. In fact, don’t even buy your 20 year old Call of Duty. Games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Assassin’s Creed are full of stuff like violence against women, gun violence, graphic and violent imagery, and much much more! And it’s not like your kid is going to be watching passively; he or she is going to be an active participant in the game, making decisions like “which zombie should I kill next, and which gun should I use to kill him?”
Teach Your Kids That Throwing Their Own Garbage Away Is Super Cool
Nothing says “I have no respect for anyone” than leaving an apple and a half eaten sandwich inside a desk because snowflake couldn’t walk 5 feet to the nearest trash bin. I am always surprised and shocked when, at the start of every school year, I have to give a 20 minute demonstration on which type of garbage goes into recycling, and which goes in the regular bin. I also have to remind most kids on a daily basis of these rules. This shows me that one of three things is happening at home: A) Your family simply doesn’t produce garbage, so this topic never comes up. In this case, kudos to you! B) You constantly clean up after your child, and have never bothered to teach them how to use a garbage can, or C) You are incredibly fancy and live in a hotel room, where garbage is meaningless because someone else does absolutely everything for you.
Teach Your Kids To Be Aware Of Personal Space And To Be Responsible For Their Bodies
On a daily basis, I get hit in the back, butt, head, calf, and arm, all usually before lunch, and all accidental. As in, I just don’t care enough about you to avoid touching you when I walk by or I just can’t be bothered to wait for you to move so I’m going to squeeze in between this tiny space near your armpit. This is just weird, and quite frankly, a bit gross. Respecting personal boundaries and being able to interpret non-verbal cues are keys to things like job interviews, first dates, riding an elevator, or approaching a teacher for help.
Show them That Patience Is A Part Of Life
Shit doesn’t just happen, immediately, because you want it to. You have to wait in line for the washroom, to get on the bus, or for your hot lunch to be delivered. Sometimes, people and things are late. Teach your kids that waiting for things can be virtuous and wonderful and that waiting is just a fact of life.
Teach Your Kids About The Importance Of Boundaries
This is different from #3, which is all that “accidental” touching. I’m talking about students hitting me in the face with a pen, or putting vinegar in my water bottle, or smearing black pen all over my arm, all in the name of “jokes.” Parents, please tell your kids this isn’t funny. Teach them what an actual funny joke is. Start them off with appropriate clips of Kids in the Hall, then work your way up to Inside Amy Schumer.
Don’t Buy Your 10 Year Old A Smartphone
It will be all he/she looks at until, well, until they get distracted by something else like alcohol and drugs and raves. A 10 year old isn’t capable of NOT being on their phone once its extreme power is revealed. They aren’t capable of saying, “That’s enough for today!” More importantly, there are about a million apps out nowadays that allow your child to not only interact with strangers, but to possibly (definitely) be exposed to mature content on a regular basis. Constant vigilance is required on the parent’s part to keep on top of all the new apps out there. There’s even apps designed to hide icons on a user’s screen, allowing teens to download and hide the more questionable apps from their parents. How about you avoid this nightmare altogether and just say NO THANK YOU when your 10 year old asks for a phone? Tell them you’ll discuss it again when they turn 14. If they travel alone on public transit, and you would feel better if they had a direct way of contacting you, buy them an ancient flip phone off Ebay. No wifi, no apps, just texting and old-fashioned phone calls.
Over the years, I have seen multiple examples of people who are getting this whole parenting thing right. They raise respectful and kind 10 year olds who go on to become awesome teenagers.
It is possible to create good humans, it just takes a bit of patience and a splash of NO every once in awhile.
Jennifer is a teacher and mother of two children. Her son was born with a rare genetic disease that has resulted in a variety of health conditions, two of which are a penchant for Dora and all things Thomas. She writes at Mother of Bones and can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.