Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Social Nanny. This week is a super exciting topic for me, as we will be diving into the realm of older kids: middle and high school ages. I will preface this talk by saying this: This is definitely not my area of expertise. I have indeed worked with kids in this age range, for years and years, but would not consider myself to be an expert in this field by no means. This blog is more research- based, and I will also be interviewing some people who are, in my humble opinion, some of the foremost experts in this field: my parents.
David and Stephanie Jones are residents of Baton Rouge, LA. They have 8 biological children and 1 adopted child. They have given their lives to work with at-risk youth in the Greater Baton Rouge area, and have been doing so for the past 19 years. They currently run the Bethany Center for Adult Education and the Bethany Mentorship program where they provide education for adults and at risk youth and oversee mentoring over 100 kids every week with the help of volunteer mentors. Together, their combined experience with their own kids in the teenage years and kids outside of their home in the teenage years totals over 70 years! They are a super rich source of wisdom and information in their field, and I am so so excited to learn from them today.
Jessica: Hey mom and dad! Thanks for being here today with us!
Mom and Dad: Hello sweetie, we are super excited to be here!
Jessica: Today, as you know, we are talking about the middle school and high school aged kids that caregivers and parents are stewarding and helping to grow up Biblically. I wanted to start this off by asking, what do you think are the top characteristics of this age group?
Mom and Dad: Insecure, Emotional, Indecisive, Impressionable, Immature, Hormonal, Energetic, Adventurous, Social, and the list goes on.
Jessica: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of raising middle school to high school kids?
Mom and Dad: Knowing exactly who you are dealing with. Teens can change from day to day. One day they want you to treat them like a young adult, other days, they want you to treat them like a child.
Jessica: What do you think is the most important thing to give to kids during this time?
Mom and Dad: Patience!!! Keep things in perspective as a parent. Don’t make things more important than they are. Remember, you traveled that same road. Try to understand more, and not just jump to conclusions based off of perceptions.
Jessica: How do you think that parents can do this?
Mom and Dad: Definitely have a strong prayer and word life! Have other Godly adults who you can talk to about any issues that you feel you need to strongly address before addressing them
Jessica: Now I know that you and mom have also mentored kids, and in relation to helping to steward a child that isn’t your own, what do you think the most challenging aspect of helping to raise a middle school or high school aged kid is?
Mom and Dad: We believe that you MUST have a personal investment of time in their life. A personal relationship with them is the doorway to becoming an influence in their life. No time, no invitation to speak in their life. Also knowing how to honor a child's parents while having to sometimes counteract some non-biblical examples and teachings of their parents.
Jessica: How do you think discipline should be handled with a middle school or high school student as a parent?
Mom and Dad: Definitely not with a belt or paddle! You cannot demean them with infantile methods of discipline. You must begin to take more internal forms of discipline around middle school age. You have to do things that will begin to help them internalize a sense of self- empowerment to make their own decisions to bring about positive results in their life. For example, setting boundaries with them to begin to allow them freedoms that can be utilized to bring about behavior and attitude correction. Sit down with them and begin to draw up some fair punishments for specific violations of trust and bad decisions. (bad grades=no cell phone for a season, disrespect=no hanging out with friends for a season, etc.) Also ensure that the punishment equals the crime. MOST IMPORTANT: you have to keep your word, and not allow them to talk you out of whatever punishment was agreed upon.
Jessica: And in regards to mentors/caregivers, I think that discipline should be deferred to the parents or guardians. I think it’s super important to give feedback to parents about behavior and things that you have noticed, but I don’t think that it is necessarily the place of the caregiver at this stage to discipline in a sense. Now, if you need to send a child to his or her room for a little while to cool off while you call parents and ask what the plan for discipline should be, then that’s a different thing. As long as it is not an immediate matter of safety, I think the parents or guardians should be made aware of the situation and then they should be the ones to decide discipline and who should enforce it.
I think it’s especially important because at this age, most kids are trying to push those boundaries of authority and establish their own. We as caregivers have to be SUPER careful to not disrespect the parent or guardian’s authority in front of their kids in any way. And I think that just throwing around discipline without inquiring with parents is a way that kids can get those messages mixed up. Would you agree?
Mom and Dad: Absolutely! We must always show proper respect for the child's parents. If we do that well, we believe that most parents would welcome conversations and dialogue about discipline of their child, because we have effectively built those bridges of partnership. Bottom line, parents want the best for their child.
Jessica: What can we do as parents and caregivers to be there for these kids?
Mom and Dad: TIME, TIME, TIME. We have learned sometimes through our own lack thereof, that there is no substitute for spending time with your child. Even when they will sometimes make you feel that they don't want to be with their parents because its not “cool”, they absolutely LOVE the message that it sends to them that they are valuable to you.
Jessica: I know at this age, middle and high schoolers usually know what things they are into and love to do those things. What can we do to support them in these endeavors, even if we think they are something miniscule or unimportant?
Mom and Dad: Give them all the encouragement and support that they need and then some more. It is a vital time for them to begin building confidence to “step out” and take initiative for their own life. It is hard enough for some just to take the step, much less have the confidence and wherewithal to see something all the way through.
Jessica: One last question! And let’s switch the tone for this one: What are some of the funniest stories that you have from raising middle and high school students?
Mom and Dad: Some of our fondest memories are of the entire family dancing in the house to loud music doing our own version of the Soul Train Line!
Or, the story of our middle school son Daniel going through a phase of wanting to own his own business. So while we are out of town for a weekend getaway, we return home to find out that Daniel has removed all of the furniture in he and his brothers bedroom and moved in a desk into the middle of the room. We immediately demand that he put all the furniture (beds, chairs, and clothing) back, we sadly find out that he has sawn up all of the wood from their beds to create several pieces of gym equipment in our backyard!
Jessica: Thanks for being here with me today. I really learned a lot and I hope that our readers have learned a lot, too!
Mom and Dad: Thank you sweetie, it was a tremendous pleasure for us! We pray that it is a blessing for those who will read it.
That’s it for this week. Be sure to join us next week as we talk about relationships and representation as it relates to families and caregivers.