As students move through the middle school grades, they seek increasing independence in their own lives. This is a natural part of the transition to adulthood, but they are still at the age where they require guidance and input on a regular basis. How do you motivate your middle school student without being overbearing or too lax? Here are some great tips and tricks for motivating your middle school student:
Letting your child have increasing ownership of their lives is important but it needs to be done in a positive manner. For example, have them set their own goals at the start of the year which you can revisit together later to track progress. At SIS Education Rise, we strategists teach young clients about setting SMART goals and WOOP goals, and we have observed that students are much more excited to achieve targets they have set for themselves - rather than targets mandated by strategists or parents. Another way to go about increasing your child’s ownership over their goals is to give them some say in how their room and study area is set up; or try asking them to choose their own after school activities, and or to go shopping together for clothes they are interested in wearing. Giving them a voice in a safe environment is the best way to allow them to slowly define their own identity and desires.
Let your child express themselves
Be it art, music, writing, or a different creative outlet, letting your child express themselves is of vital importance at this age. The challenge here for parents to not be too nosy, as at this age many children have thoughts and ideas they consider private. It may seem contradictory, but creating a safe space for them to express and explore feelings will actually make your child more open to sharing at a future time. If you are really curious, the best thing to do is to kindly let them know you are open to sharing if and when they choose. Respecting their confidentiality is key to ensuring trust is present at this age.
Another important way to motivate middle schoolers is to ensure they are engaged in some kind of passion project. SIS Education Rise strategists work intensely with students on not just exploring hobbies but on developing a deep passion. This takes the idea of intrinsic motivation discussed previously to the next level, and if your child wants your involvement in this area, join them! Whether it is going to the aquarium together on weekends to study animals, analyzing videos of soccer games to improve your child’s goal-keeping skills, or baking together for your child’s birthday party, this is a great time for you to serve as a positive role model while showing your middle schooler that you are proud of them for pursuing their interests!
As they slowly leave childhood behind, it is vital that middle schoolers are surrounded by positive adult role models beyond their parents. Whether this is extended family, coaches, tutors, their team at SIS Education, etc, try to find a mentor for your child. At this age, having an adult they can connect to and who makes their own beliefs feel valued and appreciated goes a long way for development. Middle schoolers find it inspiring to practice a more mature way to relate to others. On the flipside, understand that play is beneficial for all ages and allow your middle schooler time to enjoy the activities they used to do when they were younger. Striking the balance between these two is difficult, which is why having some open time with your child is incredibly important. Set time to do an activity together – be it shopping, hiking, a drive somewhere, etc. The aim is to create an opportunity for open conversation and to see where it takes you. Your child may surprise you in the best of ways and bonding as a parent and child duo when external influences (peers, etc) become increasingly dominant in the teenage years is priceless.
It may sound obvious, but being a great listener is a great way to motivate your child’s development. If your child disagrees or does not want to do something, give them your ear, and listen to their argument as to why. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to start engaging in reasoning and rationalizing their beliefs and behaviors, as self-advocacy is a great skill for this age group to develop. When you listen, do not interrupt, and repeat back what they told you in a respectful fashion using your own words. This will show your child that you understand and will help maintain a healthy relationship.
Finally, let your child know that when they fall, it is so they can learn to stand back up again. No matter how badly a day goes, make sure they know that tomorrow is another day, another wonderful opportunity for new beginnings. Model this to them by acknowledging you can do better when you have a bad day and show them the next day that you are determined again to tackle life’s challenges. Let them know that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a speeding train, but the sun rising for another day full of potential. Showing them internal motivation will help them find ways to discover their own.
P.s. Some modifications have been made in the article.