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10 Things Your Middle School Kid Desperately Wants You To Know

10 Things Your Middle School Kid Desperately Wants You To Know

Maybe your middle school kid is not actually aware of it, but their hormones are taking control of their bodies and minds. That is why they are so desperately unpredictable, difficult, defiant, flaunting, sulky and at times clingy. But have you, as a parent, ever wondered what is really going on inside the middle schooler’s mind and what makes them tick? Here are 10 things they really want to tell you. Are you listening?

1. I am reckless for a reason

Why does your teen ignore your warnings about scary skateboarding dares, smoking, sex, drugs and drinking? What is really happening here is that the teen’s part of the brain which controls rational decisions, the prefrontal cortex, is not yet fully developed. The thrill seeking part of the brain, the amygdala, is still in control. That means risk- taking and reckless behavior is still enormously attractive for the teen

While parents will want to make sure that their children are aware of certain limits and mortal dangers, that is no reason not to let them try out new things and take certain risks. Yes, this will probably get messy but the alternative is wrapping up your kid in cotton wool.

2. I want you to show me love

“Having kids – the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings – is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”- Maria Shriver

Parents are so often obsessed with the end goals of raising great kids, that they forget about showing them affection and love often enough. This is the view of Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist. Teens are often deprived of love and affection and feel that their bad behavior is getting far too much attention.

3. I need encouragement, but you do not mention my strengths often enough

Often, parents can ruin a kid’s self confidence by a careless, throw away remark. Having low esteem is a major problem among teens. They can feel incompetent, inadequate, ugly or unlovable. Some estimates say that about 70% of teenage girls tend to avoid daily activities (even going to school) when they are not confident about their body shape and how they look. Up to 38% of boys may start taking steroids because they are dissatisfied with their body shape.

Parents can really help by making sure that they always mention their teen’s strong points. They should also resist the temptation of mentioning a friend who happens to be perfect and that they should copy them. This can be soul destroying and may seem that you are setting unreasonable standards.

4. I need to talk to you about a few things, but will you listen?

Did you know that 48% of children and teens have experienced some form of bullying? It seems to reach its peak around the 6th and 7th grades. The most important thing is to be able to look out for some signs of bullying, such as not wanting to go to school, loss of appetite, or an unwillingness to take part in favorite activities. Bullying may not be the only issue that is causing this withdrawal.

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Teens, in spite of all their eye rolling, banging doors and sulkiness, need a shoulder to cry on or just some advice and support. One good way to encourage this is to ask and listen about what is going on at school. Try to empathize with them so that when things go badly, you are more likely to be in the loop. Also, resolve not to interrupt or offer advice straight away. Teenagers usually assume that a lack of interest on your part is synonymous with neglect.

5. I do not need to be nagged to do things all the time

You know the usual things, showering, getting up in time, tidying up, doing homework and being home by a certain time. But are you nagging your middle schooler too frequently about these? If you are, then you might be making matters much worse. Do you nag when they are watching their favorite TV show? Do you do it when you are in a bad mood or irritated? If so, you need to step back and try not to overwhelm them with these constant reminders. The teen knows he or she needs reminding but enough is enough!

6. I need my down time

There will be times when your kid just wants to chill out and play a video game in his or her own room and not be interrupted. They need this breathing space just like parents do. Many parents are just too overbearing and do not realize this.

7. I am under a lot of pressure

There are so many pressures coming at middle schoolers from all directions. There are pressures to study and compete for the best grades in the classroom and on the sports field. Then there is peer pressure to fit in with their social network, conform to certain patterns of behavior and to even look the same as everyone else! This peer pressure is not always so negative because teens can be socially stimulated or persuaded to try new activities and study harder.

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The best way that parents can help teens deal with negative or doubtful peer pressure is to make sure that their values are sound and sensible. Parents should talk to them about how to make wise decisions based on these values. It is a great way of finding out what is really going on, if your teen decides to confide in you, of course! Most teens will open up only when they are sure that they will not be criticized or reprimanded.

8. I am not getting your full attention as you are always on your smartphone

According to Dr. Jenny Radesky, a paediatrician at the Boston Medical Center, parents are not giving their kids their full attention during prime time. The reason is that they are spending too much time on their smartphones. This was observed by her and her team when studying family groups eating out at fast food joints in Boston.

This study was about young kids, but the lesson applies just as much to teens as they often feel that they are not getting full or any attention from their parents when they want to confide in them or talk to them. One great way to ensure your full attention is  to ban all mobile devices  during mealtimes. You should also ensure that when your teen wants to talk, you are not answering an email or surfing the Internet. Just turn away from the computer to give your teen your full attention.

9. I need lots of food, but I often find the fridge is empty

Teens are growing at a fast rate. They need lots of food and one great way is to encourage them to go for healthy food options rather than junk food. They are also under enormous pressure to conform to the media’s brain washing about the ideal body shape, not to mention the peer pressure about this.

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One great way to put this into practice is to ensure that there is enough healthy food available. If your teen finds the fridge empty, there is no other option but to go out and get some fast food. Why not talk about food as often as you can and also post this cheat sheet on your fridge so that all of the family is up to speed on this?

10. I cannot tell you everything

Teens need their privacy to bond with friends. They do not want to share with you what they are talking about on Instagram or Twitter. They have their own private jokes and they do not want to be asked about them. Certain limits of privacy need to be respected.

Now that you know what is going on in the teen’s mind and body and the issues that are assailing them every day, you may be able to help them more by empathizing and showing your love and affection.

Featured photo credit: Beautiful Earth (Bella Gaia) program for Middle school students from Annapolis Middle, Goddard French Immersion School / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via flickr.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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