The Middle Years: Calming the Chaos

The Middle Years: Calming the Chaos

Have you ever wanted to get off the middle school roller coaster of life, either as a parent or a child?

Parenting middle schoolers isn’t for the faint of heart! The middle years are a roller coaster of emotions for both the kids and the parents. Recently a friend asked for parenting advice for these volatile days with her tween. I’ll share advice in a 3 part series, but you can get started today with these nine tips for calming the chaos in the middle years. 

If you are new here, I describe the stages of childhood as the younger years, the middle years, and the launching years. I also try to keep each blog post as a short read and vary my topics often. This month will be focused on the middle years.

Tips for calming the chaos in the middle years:

  1. Teach your kids the “why” behind the rules. How does this rule protect them? 
  2. Allow your kids to discuss/ask for exceptions but teach them to respect your final authority.
  3. Point them to one or two acceptable people they can talk to if they feel they cannot talk to you (close family friend, youth leader, mentor, relative, etc.). You’d rather hand pick these like minded people ahead of time.
  4. Consider a formal mentor relationship with someone when your kids hit the middle years. Look around your church or community.
  5. Regularly give your kids conversation starters. Teach them the art of conversation.
  6. Brainstorm appropriate consequences for and with tweens. (Read more in the next post The Middle Years: Part 2 The Consequences)
  7. Listen big. Maybe take them to coffee, a chocolate shop, or somewhere on neutral ground and promise to be in their business until they are an adult because you love them. (We did this as a promise ring and letter around age 14, not a purity ring, more in the Middle Years: Part 3 The Promises)
  8. Find yourself a mentor or mentor couple and ask questions. Keep asking questions through each stage of marriage and parenting. So thankful for those friends who were just a few steps ahead of us in life.
  9. Start/join a weekly prayer group for moms or dads. (Moms in Prayer is a great one! Watch for a ministry review coming soon.)

We took time to build in the “why” behind our rules, pointing out the Biblical principles behind why certain movies/shows/books are not ok with us. Our girls seemed to balk less when they understood the why. We want our kids to move from obeying us to being motivated and convicted to obey God, which also means obeying you as the authority he set in place. And ultimately to become God fearing adults who are motivated and convicted and encouraged by the Word of God.  When my girls eventually grasped this concept, it seemed to become less of an issue with their close friends that we were the parents with the strictest rules. I think it was partly because of their attitude regarding our family rules. They accepted it, and their friends did too. 

My kids were never the ones to win any classroom quizzes related to pop culture or know all the song lyrics that their friends did, but we addressed this early on. We told them it would happen, but we also pointed out the strengths to this… their heads and hearts were less likely to be filled with mindless or corrupt clutter because we banned certain shows or forms of social media. We did find common ground on movies to see and shows to watch and were more than willing to discuss any particular exceptions to the rules. 

Allowing your kids to ask about exceptions to the rules will allow you to learn what they are interested in and check to see if an alternative exists or have a good discussion as to why you are still saying no. We tried to say yes more often than no. While we had lots of restrictions we also pushed independence at an earlier age than many other families, but that’s a whole different conversation! Calming the chaos of the middle years will allow families to tailor joy in everyday life and set the foundations for the launching years. 

Next blog is The Middle Years: The Consequences. Followed by The Middle Years: The Promises. Read them both.

Table Talk: What’s your best memory from the middle years? How did your family balance the emotions and drama of the middle years?

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