Middle schoolers are wired to question the values they’ve been taught. Listen in on a conversation between thirteen-year-old Gavin and his mom.
“Mom, some of the guys are meeting down at the park tonight at midnight. May I go?”
“What’s happening in the park at that hour?”
“Nothing. We’re just going to hang out.”
“Adult supervision? Whose parents will be there?”
“None. It’s just the park. We’ll take our flashlights”
“Gavin. That’s not a good idea. We’ve talked about the need for adult supervision at your age. Things get out of hand pretty fast when a bunch of middle schoolers are in an unsupervised group. Something called peer pressure.”
“Mom, please. Everybody’ll be there.
Does this sound like the kind of argument you might have with your middle schooler? With my kids, the only difference was that it seldom ended so soon.
Although Gavin knows the dangers of being in a group where peer pressure and mob psychology can trump years of training, he begs his mother. He’s testing his desire to fit in against what his parents teach.
Talk to Middle Schooler a Different Way
Let’s pick up in the middle of the above conversation, but with a different approach:
“None. It’s just the park.”
“Tell you what. I’ll make a list of the reasons you might think you should go, and you make a list of the reasons you think I’ll say no. We’ll both keep in mind our family values and ways of doing things. Then we’ll get back together after supper.”
It may take a few times to make this work, because Gavin has to trust his mom to write valid arguments in his favor before he’s free to voice things from her point of view.
Next week, we will listen in on Gavin and his mom’s after-supper conversation. She’s discovered a way to give a middle schooler the opportunity to question values within bounds. Everybody wins.