Remember when you were 11-12 years old and you were starting middle school? How new everything was and how awkward you felt? I know that was me. plus I was painfully shy. I was in a different school with mostly different people because that's the time your friends from elementary school and yourself get separated and go to different schools. Luckily, my best friend at the time got to go to the same school with me & I quickly made a new best friend, too who lived just three houses up from me. I think those girls were my saving grace during that time.
Now that I have a 12 year old who is going into 7th grade I see the same things through him. Last year was very different for him & for me, as a mom. He moved up to a new school but since it's next door to the elementary school he went to all of his friends are with him. It was still an awkward year because he had gone from being the big man on campus in a school where everyone felt like family to being the small man on campus in a school that seemed big. It's smaller than the elementary school since there are only 3 grade levels there (6th-8th) but it just felt bigger to this momma's heart. I knew he was "safe" but he wasn't feeling settled. Middle school was a big change that he conquered in the end. I had no doubt that he would. Yet, this was my most favorite year with him.
I'm sure you're wondering why the hardest year of my child's life is my favorite? Because he blossomed into a young man that thinks for himself and that learned how to do things (organizational skills) his own way. He stood up for himself, not because he was being bullied but because he had his own thoughts and wasn't afraid to speak up for them. He, his Dad and I had several come to Jesus meetings about grades. We had to implement rules about electronic time and we had to create chores for him. Sure he argued about that but I feel like it helped us all create a stronger bond. We worked together as a family to create a flow in our house that worked for all of us. It's something I didn't know we were missing. I had to find the boundary between letting him handle things himself and stepping in. I'd say in the end we all came out on top. I'm proud of the way we made it through and i'm even more proud of the young man he's becoming. My favorite part about last year was that he opened up so much to his Dad and I and talked to us about a lot of major things. Even the car rides on the way home he would talk to me. For 6 years (k-5) of elementary school he'd get in the car, I'd ask him about his day. What did you do? Nothing. What did you do in Math, Reading, Etc? "I forgot". Mmmkkay, sure kid but his grades were all A's and he never had a comment about behavior and I was super involved in the school so I knew everything was fine and didn't push it. Last year he'd get in the car after school and have a full conversation about his day on the way home. It made me smile and beam with pride. His struggles made him a much more confident, stronger
I read this amazing post by the always inspirational and fabulous Stephanie May Wilson
on Change How You See Yourself. She talks about how she used an activity to change the way a group of middle schoolers think about themselves. She sat each student in the middle of a circle of peers and asked the peers to list the good they saw in that person while she and her husband wrote each of those things on a piece of paper for the students to keep. At the end she says they were beaming with pride, blushing with embarrassment & crying. What a simple gesture to let these kids know that they are worthy, they are loved, they are someone of importance. So often we forget to say those things to the ones we love. We assume they know.
Because I believe that we, as parents, can change the way our kids, especially in this awkward time of middle school, see themselves and each other by doing the same activity and by filling their confidence. I think I do a pretty good job at telling my son i'm proud of him but often the daily things that I ask him to do are the things I overlook saying thank you for.
It makes my day when my fiancee comes in from work and says "the house looks great. You worked hard today. Thank you." It's my job to do these things and I don't expect praise from them every time but it sure does help when the small things don't go un-noticed. That's the same with our kids. Praise them for the small things, the things that you'd like to be recognized for, too and watch them beam with pride.
Recently my son helped my mom do some housework and cooking and was helping with his 2 year old cousin. When she pulled him aside and told him thank you for helping with ... and filled in each blank he smiled the biggest smile and beamed with pride. His cup runneth over. Every kid deserves that daily. I try hard to remember to thank him for helping but from now on i'm going to be more specific with my thank you's and make sure his cup runneth over all the time.
If you need ideas on fun ways to slip your kids a compliment here are a couple.
Write a note and stick in it their lunchbox.
Start a journal between the two of you, or members of your family where you can share personal, sweet notes.
Make a "mailbox" out of construction paper and put it on their bedroom door, you can slip notes in to them while they're gone or asleep.
Write on a mirror with a dry erase marker.
Create a chalkboard wall or small one for a counter space to write on.
The list could go on and on but my point is, make sure the people you love know how much and what for. I promise, if you do this with everyone in your life then it will make a difference. Compliment someone everyday and watch them smile with pride. It's a simple gesture that means so much.