A parenting series that doesn't build from one post to the next; rather, it's a collection of thoughts and advice from a mama who's been there, doing that, intended as encouragement, not dogma. I hope you'll check in every day to see if I'm speaking to YOU! ~ ?
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Middle school marks a season of shift for children. Puberty makes its presence known physically and emotionally in a child's body, sometimes rendering him or her almost unrecognizable in appearance and behavior. Relationships shift, too, and once-ironclad friendships can disintegrate into one hot mess.
Shift continues throughout highschool as bodies grow up, fill out and children resemble more of who they're becoming.
It is crucial parents speak truth into our children's lives during this impressionable six-year season or they're going to listen to what their friends and culture's mixed messages are telling them.
Or even scarier, they're going to seek and find it other places.
While I am a Christian, I don't mean this in a strictly religious sense (so if you aren't a person who shares my faith, I hope you'll keep reading ). So what do I mean, then?
- Initiate those "hard" conversations.
- Telling them not to have sex and not to drink or do drugs is not enough.
- Seek to engage them in conversation, not lecture them or make it a monologue.
- Don't make this a one-time conversation; strive for on-going, appropriate-to-their-age-level opportunities.
- Focus on the positives and the benefits of making wise choices, not the prohibition.
- Discuss the lifelong consequences of poor decisions.
- Look for opportunities for these conversations to occur naturally; don't plan them necessarily, but seize opportunity when it's presented. Some of my best conversations with my children have occurred in my garage.
- Find ways to esteem your children but do not ever resort to insincere flattery.
- Your boy-child needs you to notice his best qualities and to stroke his ego when it's warranted. Remember when he was little and he showed you his "muscle" and wanted you to squeeze it? Like that, except you need to speak TRUTH. Tell him when he looks good in your favorite shirt; if he's working out, verbalize it when you can tell a difference (but not a second before). Articulate your pride when you see him committed to a task and following through on his word. Don't assume he knows your thoughts!
- Your girl-child needs you to see her princess-beauty and to recognize her most attractive features when the world is blind to them. Little girls play dress-up because they want to be a princess; your daughter wants to be seen as beautiful and she needs to hear she is…from you. If she's not hearing it at home, she'll eventually seek it elsewhere. Tell her what makes her special; notice the qualities you want to reinforce and let her know when she's done a good job.
- It's always spirit-lifting for your children to overhear you speaking favorably about them to someone else, even if it's your spouse. Be careful not to share too much or to resort to bragging; no one likes that. And don't embarrass them especially if they're private!
- Timing is important. If your child is distracted, upset, angry or overly tired, he's probably not going to hear a word you're saying.
- Even though words speak loudly, actions speak louder.
- Be sure what you do matches what you say.
- Don't compare siblings to one another.
- Show them love by speaking their love language.
- Readily admit when you're wrong and ask their forgiveness.
- I was jarred by the comment thread in a recent piece I wrote about the potential destructive/restorative nature of words; many adults shared hearts broken in childhood by empty or cruel words.
- Three important things every teen and tween should hear on a regular basis:
- I love you.
- I'm proud of you for __________ [fill in the blank with current examples that demonstrate good character traits].
- Sincere compliments that esteem their inner beauty and positive character (even the guys); i.e. "When you smile like that the whole room lights up," "You inspire me with your commitment to your team, even though you aren't starting yet."
A closing thought:
Words withheld can be just as damaging as cruel words. A high school friend of ours lost her mother a few years ago to illness. At her funeral, the daughter beautifully eulogized her mother, saying she could be at peace with her death because their relationship was current. Nothing was left unsaid between them because they maintained open lines of communication. On the other hand, I have friends who've lost parents who never said "I love you" to them. Gaping wounds still seep years after the loss.
I promise, your teens and tweens are listening. Be intentional about what you're telling them.
Your turn: Over the next day or so, make opportunity for a heart-to-heart with your child. Give him or her space to speak openly and respectfully to disagree with you, if that be the case. Esteem them honestly in a way that reinforces character.
Missed a post? Here ya go!
Day 1: Introduction to 31 Days of Parenting Teens & Tweens
Day 2: Intentional parenting and developing a parenting philosophy