I've dreaded this day since the day she was born. Middle school. It seems so daunting and scary and too much for this momma's heart to handle. In middle school are boys and hormones and drugs and sex talks and....am I really ready for this!?!
But God, in all his grace and love for me, has prepared me for this moment. Fortunately, my oldest wasn't handed to me as a 12-year-old. We've gone through a lot together and built a relationship that led to the middle school years. And, while I'm still scared to death by all that is to come, through reflecting, I've realized a few things I've learned and wanted to share them with you -- no matter how old your little ones are!
Here are the 4 things I've learned about parenting during the tween years...
Not "listen while you're thinking about how you're going to respond." No interrupting. Just listen. If we give our kids space to be heard, they will show us their hearts, hurts, struggles, joys, and be more open than we could hope for. This has been a focus of mine as a parent. I want my kids to feel safe to share anything with me. This doesn't mean there aren't consequences for disobedience. It just means they feel safe to share. Trust me, this hasn't been easy, nor do I do it perfectly. But, I did see a little victory a few weeks ago.
You see, now that my oldest is in middle school, boys have entered the picture. Yep, we're there. Most days my husband and I just want to crawl in a hole and stay there. But, that's not what God has called us to...so, we parent the best we know how. Anyway, one night during bedtime, Grace was sharing with me how she was talking to some friends at school about this boy "situation" and she told them, "Yeah, I was talking to my parents about it..." Then she looked me in the eyes and said, "Mom, they couldn't believe that I talked to you about this! They told me how cool it is that I can talk to my parents about boys." She then wrapped her arms around me and said how thankful she is that we do that. Sweet victory. Thank you, Jesus!
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
2. Drive the carpool
I don't like being in my car any more than I have to. Some days I put 100 miles on my car just driving around our little suburb and end up back in the same place I started. But, you know what happens in those 100 miles?! Talking. Lots of it. More from my girls than my introverted son. However, when they have friends in the car with them -- you see a whole new side of your child. You get a glimpse into who they are around their peers -- an insight into how they talk, what they laugh at, the confidence they have (or lack of it). And, I have heard stories about teachers, friends, other kids at school, and all the good stuff that I wouldn't have heard otherwise.
It's good, friend. It just takes a different perspective.
3. Admit when you're wrong
This is a tough one. As a parent, we are the authority and want to (appear) to have it all together. But, that's not reality. I have failed so many times while parenting my kids. I get angry, overreact, make the wrong choice, fail them in some way, don't have energy to give, the list could go on and on.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
There is no such thing as a perfect parent and I think it speaks volumes to our kids when we admit that. They see us as perfect, so when we admit that we're not, they can see their shortcomings in a whole new light. Their imperfections become a little more "normal" instead of them feeling like a failure.
I attended a parenting conference last fall and one of the breakout sessions I went to was about parenting middle schoolers. The speaker shared that middle schoolers wake up feeling like a failure and focus on all the ways they fall short. So, as parents, if we can level that playing field and show our imperfections as well, it can boost their self esteem.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. James 5:16
Don't stop at admitting you're wrong. Ask for forgiveness, so they have the opportunity to see how confession and forgiveness play out. If we ask for forgiveness, then maybe they will too when they wrong us as parents.
Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:12-14
4. Show them Christ
Modeling what it looks like to live a life worthy of the Gospel is a high calling as a parent. They see us at our best and worst. They know how we handle different situations. They see us rely on our own strength or run to the Lord for help. They are watching.
Whether our children are toddlers or teenagers, we need to let them see us reading our Bibles and praying to the Lord. Leave your Bible out. Read while they are playing at your feet. Journal as they are eating their breakfast. However it works best for you, let them see it modeled in your life.
You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lamp stand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16