1.  When we hear you say, “My kid tells me everything,” we shake our heads with sadness, because we know you are being seriously manipulated.  Your child tells you 1) what makes him look good; 2) what he thinks you want to hear, and 3) whatever will push your buttons to make you mad at the school or teacher and let him off the hook.  Seriously, what teen ever tells a parent EVERYTHING?

2. We wish you’d help us fight the dress code battle.  I had a parent once who, after I pointed out in front of her that her daughter couldn’t wear that at school, turned on her daughter and said, “See?  I told you!”  If she’d already told her, then why was her daughter at school in that outfit?  Why had she been allowed out the door in it?  I know why – because Mom wanted us to fight the battle instead of her.

3. It’s time to stop cutting the crusts off your teenager’s sandwiches.  This speaks volumes to us about your parenting style; you’re not ready to scrstls sndee your child as an adolescent.  You might also still be picking out his clothes, ordering for him in a restaurant, and cleaning his bedroom.  While you say you’re doing it because you love him, what you’re really doing is delaying his independence.  He won’t wake up one day and suddenly be a mature and responsible adult; you have to give him a chance to practice.

4. What seem like little things to you – chewing gum or texting at school – are big issues to us because they mean a student does not respect the rules.  “You’d really suspend my daughter for texting at school?”  No – we’d suspend her for repeated acts of defiance, because if she’s continually breaking one rule, chances are we’ve caught her breaking others.  When you downplay the situation, it only encourages her to keep seeing what she can get away with.

5. When we tell your child “No, you can’t,” and he gets angry and argues with us, we know he’s doing so because it works with you.  The same goes for whining – we know he’s using it on us because it gets him his way at home.  Hold your ground in the face of arguing and whining, and you’ll help your child to be more socially acceptable at school – and eventually in the workplace.

6. When we hear your teens use “please” and “thank you” without prompting, and we see them holding the door or letting others go first, we know you have taught them to be polite and considerate of others.  This is also true when they apologize, clean up after themselves, and refrain from interrupting.  It makes us think good thoughts about them – and about you!

 

I received this email from a parent:

I have been concerned with the amount of social activity my 7th grader seems to be having at school, but don’t know how to control that.  She loves her friends, and I think that is the main reason she gets up in the morning for school.  I don’t know how to get her to understand the importance of these learning years.  I sound like a broken record with her.

My reply:  “Got bad news for you – she’s perfectly normal!”

At this stage of development, friends are pretty much everything.  We need to celebrate with a teen who has so many, because for some kids this age is a nightmare of not fitting in.

However, that doesn’t mean she gets to play all day and fail her classes.  Ask her why she thinks she has to go to school, or why grades matter, or some version of that question.  Don’t prompt her, and don’t disagree with her answer (don’t let her get away with shrugging and saying, “I don’t know,” either – just calmly repeat the question).  Hopefully you can get her to admit it matters for her future.

Then re-state how important it is to you, and ask her what it would be worth to her to get A’s (or B’s?) on her report card.  Be prepared to negotiate until you can arrive at an incentive that you both like.  Make it – or part of it – attainable with the very next quiz.  For example, if there’s an expensive pair of shoes she wants, offer to put $5 or $10  toward them every time she hits the agreed-upon score.

For most middle schoolers, school is where they can hang out with their friends, and homework and classroom lessons interfere with their social lives.  A wise parent will understand and accept this but still hold the line on giving a good effort in school.

(This also might be a good time to point out that “Number of Friends” is not a question asked on a college application.)