As your child is growing and developing physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually, it’s important for parents to recognize what developmental stage their child is at. Parents who recognize the differences in the developmental growth stages are often more successful in parenting. Read through the developmental differences listed below. Keep in mind that children grow at different rates with different degrees of success and failure. As always, it’s important for parents to check with their pediatrician while their child is progressing through the developmental stages described in this article.
Rapid growth is common in the physical developmental stage. Girls often mature faster than boys. Girls are often taller than boys. It’s not uncommon for children in this age group to be tall (six feet or above) or short (five feet or below).
Puberty kicks in! Hormones take over. Skin (acne), hair and sexual organs are affected and begin to occur and develop, often without the awareness of the child or parent.
Energy, energy, energy! Energy spurts are common. Let them run!!!
Aggressive behavior often occurs. Boys tend to be more physical than girls. Girls tend to be more verbal than boys.
Begin to help their child eat the right foods. Too many middle school children are eating and drinking too much sugar and eating fatty foods. Eat healthy foods with the child. Strive to avoid “fast foods” and processed foods.
Encourage the child to be active, but not over active. Limit television and interactive TV “finger games” (Nitendo & Play Station) to no more than two hours per day. “Get out and play!”
Assist the middle school child in becoming involved in physical activities that include their peers.
Avoid weight training that consists of heavy weights or “maxing.” Avoid weight gain or weight loss diets. Eat three healthy meals per day. Yes they are hungry after school. Fruits, low sugar cereals and low grease snacks are often necessary to restore energy loss during the school day.
Get off the couch! Get involved in a physical activity that you and your middle school child can do together. You and your child may find something fun to do together.
DO NOT tell the middle school child, “You are getting fat.” This will no doubt hurt their emotional well-being. Remember, children in this age group are already highly critical of themselves. Encourage a proper diet and exercise plan. Consult the child’s medical doctor. Avoid being verbally critical of their body. They are most likely already being criticized by others in their peer group.
Middle school children usually demonstrate slow brain growth patterns. The learning curve begins to plateau and sometimes go down.
Children in this age group may ask analytical questions, but seldom are able to develop analytical solutions to solve their questions or problems.
Attention span becomes weaker after 30-40 minutes spent on one particular activity.
Middle school children learn more when they are given a chance to apply what they learn. Block scheduling (combining math with science, English with communication) in middle schools are common to accommodate this learning technique.
Allow or encourage your child to apply the math, science, social studies and other areas of learning by providing opportunities around the home to use a measuring tape, read directions in a cookbook, paint a wall in their bedroom, become involved in volunteer work.
Continually communicate with the child in regards to academic performance. Be careful not to nag. Use fewer words when asking for information regarding school or academic information. Ask specific questions such as, “What problems in this math section comes easy for you? What questions are hard?”
If the school has a computerized parent portal, use it! (Parent portals or teacher academic grade books allow parents to see how their child is performing in the classroom on a daily/weekly basis.)
Become comfortable e-mailing teachers, coaches and other adults that work with your child on a weekly basis when your child is having difficulties. Voice-mail is another option that is commonly used and accepted. Meet face to face with a team of teachers or the school counselor when problems persist.
Realize that a child’s interest in school may become secondary to his or her friends. Continue to encourage, set limits and help the child set time frames when schoolwork must be done.
Help the child apply what they have learned. Allow the child to help you balance the checkbook, play a game that requires the use of math (cribbage) and be responsible for chores around the house.
Read, read and read! That goes for you too! Read!
Accept your child’s intellectual abilities. IQ does not stand for Immense Quality human being. Love your child regardless of his or her level of brain power.
Do not be afraid to let your child fail. This is a great age to learn from failure without suffering the greater consequences that comes later in high school and adulthood.
Middle school children have been described (by many educational experts) as being emotionally unpredictable. “Everything is a crisis!”
Children in this age group often want and desire independence.
Rejection of adult advice and “talking back” are common personality traits.
Mood fluctuation is common. One minute they are adult-like, the next they are child-like.
Middle school children are often highly critical of themselves.
Realize that the middle school child will have emotional highs and lows.
Pick your battles! If your middle school child is doing homework, leave the messy bedroom battle alone. Don’t let your middle school child get you on the mood roller coaster ride with them. Stay on the ground! Be calm when they are not calm.
Set limits with and for the middle school child. Children in this age group want and expect adults to set limits for them. Setting limits secures and helps children in this age group feel safe. Do not expect the middle school child to tell you to set limits, or that they agree with the limits. Some limits, such as curfews, R-rated movies and smoking, do not need to be set by you; they are already set by Federal laws.
Do not be highly critical. Remember, they are sometimes their own worse enemy. Many kids in this age group already wish they were someone else.
Listen to the child. Ask him or her how they are feeling. Don’t assume if they tell you that they are angry or super happy that that’s their only feeling. Sometimes angry means hurt, and sometimes super happy means exhausted. Help your child find the right words to accurately describe how they feel.
No matter what happens, always end the day with, “I love you!”
Middle school children are often very social. Generally speaking, girls are more verbal than boys. Boys are more physical with their friends. Gossip and rumors are part of the social scene. Children in this developmental stage often begin to talk more about their friends than their parents. Fitting in is important. If these character traits do not describe your child, that’s normal too. Middle school children have a wide range of social patterns that run from shy to social ambassadors.
Sit down with your middle school child and establish boundaries for social experiences. The discussion should include phone and Internet use, being with friends when adults are not around, social expectations in school, church and other activities.
Provide your child with time to be with his or her friends. Due to the fact that middle school children do not drive cars, parents may have to help the child meet at appropriate times with friends.
Become acquainted with your child’s friend’s parents. Yes, good parents do speak with other parents. Don’t let your middle school child tell you differently!
Avoid being your child’s friend. You are the parent. The parent’s role is bigger and more important than being your child’s friend. Let your child know that you love him or her, but you will always be the parent first. This does not mean that you can’t be social and go to a movie with your child. Parenting means you are a role model, mentor, and financial provider; one who is there when the child really needs you, and the person who says “no” when the child needs to hear it.
Child behavior and psychologist recommend that parents discuss peer pressure with their middle school child. Discuss various scenarios (both good and bad) that the child may encounter. Help the child to come up with a solution for a potential problem before the problem occurs.