Oh my goodness! I can literally tell you that I have worked with every kind of middle schooler with behaviors ranging from eager and bubbly to annoyed and sloth-like. As a teacher, I prefer. . . both of them! Bubbly and eager students are fun and exciting, while the annoyed-to-even-be-in-our-presence kids are a welcome challenge.
Where does your middle schooler’s attitude lay?
Wherever their characteristics fall on the motivation and engagement scale, all middle schoolers share one main quality:
The world revolves around them!
Wait...don’t stop reading yet. This is a good thing! This is developmentally normal...even though we all aim to get our kids to think beyond themselves for the greater good.
Of course, if your child is exposed to life lessons, church, youth groups, scouts, etc. they likely are growing beyond this egocentricity at a faster pace. However, this “selfishness” is not a bad thing and we can use it to our advantage when teaching and helping them. The first step is getting them motivated. Now, don’t get me wrong. This can seem like herding cats at times. The truth is though that it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Most of us know that we should find their interests and engage adolescents using things they like to engage them. I totally agree with this. There are a few additional strategies you can try:
1. Ask for their help.
Kids LOVE to help us, even if they act reluctant on the daily.
Casually mention that you like lemonade and I bet the next time you ask for a drink, if it’s in their power, that’s what you will get!
Shhhhhh...of course, they cannot act like they are listening. Therefore, these strategies take some patience before they give us fruit. Just recently, I left a to-do list sitting on my coffee table, which also included a couple of tasks I wanted my 13-year-old cousin who is staying with me this weekend to do to clean up after himself. Usually getting him to do anything not “fun” (or super hyper and wild AND CRAZY!)is a battle BUT to my surprise, all these tasks were done when I returned from working AND he also organized my things in the living room! Win, win!
Another almost real-life example: “Geesh, I really need help typing this!” ...then magically, a little while later, he or she is sitting beside you hinting that they want to learn how to do xyz on the computer and showing they are willing to help...I’m sure you’re getting the picture.
Now, on the most hormonal days, this likely will not work, but try directly or indirectly asking your middle schooler for help on a normal day and see what happens!
They are watching. They are listening. They look up to you. You are their secret rockstar. Allow that to help you help them.
2. Start doing something they are interested in on your own.
For example, I recently joined the most annoying, just-for-teenagers (or so I thought) app, TikTok ::insert eyeroll here:: To Ben’s (my 13-year-old cousin/nephew/my heart’s) surprise, the super silly video opening my Wish packages that I recorded in the 15 minutes before a tutoring session BLEW UP! (Well on my scale it went viral haha…..maybe not on a teenager’s scale ;) )
After that, Ben walked in the living room a couple of days ago and excitedly announced, “Your TikTok…” (The one I had already forgotten about that I had made just to show him that I cared about something that mattered to him) “has been viewed 28K times!” I quickly opened the app and lo and behold I was baffled! But excited! And Ben and I had bonded over something so easy. For some reason, which I correlate with having these little daily connections, he did his math with ease later that day.
Does your kid like baseball? Go throw the ball around with them a little. Does your child like hair and makeup? Let them do yours. Some things literally take 15 minutes. So, stop scrolling and go engage in a way that will literally light up their day to see you WITH them!
3. Find out what TRULY motivates & sustains them! What are they OBSESSED with?
Do they want to be a millionaire? Show them some things they can start doing now, like starting a small biz, reading allllll of the books/audiobooks, and saving/investing in their future. Start small and this motivation will build BIG!
Also, be sure to emphasize through example, that we aren’t always motivated about the things that we are passionate about. Some days, we just have to push ourselves to take those tiny actions and KEEP GOING!
Okay friend, that’s all! Some of these may apply to your family and some may not, and that’s okay! I know you’ll be surprised at the results you see simply from trying something you maybe haven’t before. Let me know in the comments what your kid’s motivation is like and what you plan to try!