"Declaration of Independence": Middle School

Nothing in life can prepare parents for the experiences they are about to have with their middle schooler. What a roller-coaster life it will be for everyone. Your adolescent bounces between childhood and adulthood, being irresponsible and responsible, testing parental authority and then depending on it. Parents often do not know what to expect and many adults find it difficult to understand the adolescent's growing need for independent action, and even for rebellion. Most parents and their children get through it intact and much of what you hear and see in the media is greatly exaggerated. May parents look back and can chuckle.

Parenting and Behavioral

  • Dramatic physical changes are the hallmark of early adolescence and these physical changes are important to your adolescent. They signify that he or she is developing like his or her peers. Generally, girls begin puberty an average of two years earlier than boys. During early adolescence, most girls experience a rapid growth spurt, changes in fat distribution, and the development of secondary sexual characteristics such as pubic hair and breasts. For most boys, the early adolescent period marks only the beginning of the biological changes of puberty, with increased abdominal fat deposits, testicular growth, voice changes and the development of acne, pubic hair and nocturnal emissions. Since many young adolescents are unaware that the onset and rate of puberty vary greatly, they need reassurance that their own growth and development are normal, and they will benefit from learning about the progression of physiological changes.
  • Many young adolescents, preoccupied with their attractiveness, will try to change their appearance through dieting or consumer fad food products. Anorexia and bulimia may occur especially among females. Some males use supplements and steroids for bodybuilding. While some teens exercise regularly and develop bodies that are extremely fit, others remain sedentary and have poor physical fitness. These behaviors are often predictors of fitness habits later in life.
  • Most 12-year-olds focus on social life, friends and school. They continue friendships with members of the same sex. Sometimes, a teenager's best friends becomes a parent substitute and confidante. These friendships, however, may change abruptly, causing hurt feelings.
  • Teens need to learn to respect the rights and needs of others. They should follow family rules, such as those for curfews, television viewing, and chores, and share in household chores.
  • Parents need to serve as a positive ethical and behavioral role model.
  • School activities are important in the life of a 12-year-old adolescent. Social activities often center around sports events. Teens meet together in groups or pairs.
  • Parents should learn the signs of adolescent depression and drug abuse!

Traits of the adolescent who is doing well:

  • Believes that he or she will do well.
  • Has self-confidence and a sense of pride and competence.
  • Enjoys close interactions with peers (especially same-sex friendships).
  • Enjoys recreational activities.
  • Recognizes the need for rules and fair play.
  • Is energetic, enthusiastic and vital.
  • Has reasonable athletic ability, or has dramatic, artistic or musical talents.
  • Does well in school or performs at or near ability in school.
  • Takes appropriate responsibility for homework with little prodding.
  • Assumes responsibility for his or her own health.
  • Is comfortable in asking parents questions.
  • Generally cooperative and considerate, although at times is inconsistent and unpredictable.

What to Expect of Your Teenager

Erma Bombeck said of preadolescents and teens: "Bury Them at 11 and Dig Them Up at 21." She was just joking, but perhaps you are finding your child’s teen years more of a challenge than you imagined. You are not alone. Adolescence is a challenging period for both children and their parents. Three rather distinct stages of adolescence-early, middle, and late-are experienced by most children, but the age at which each stage is reached varies from child to child. These different rates of maturation are connected to physical development and hormone balance, neither of which the child can control. For this reason, adolescents should be treated as individuals, and guidelines for levels of responsibility should be adapted to the particular child.


Early Adolescence: 11-13 Years

  • Children often challenge adult authority at this age, but they still need help in learning to choose between right and wrong. Setting a good example for children is an excellent way of teaching at this stage and will help them establish fair and human values
  • Both boys and girls need a period of time in which most of their activities are with children of their own sex. Scouts, athletics, and church groups are some ways of meeting that need.
  • Teens need a hero or an adult to look up to at this age. Special people outside the family, as well as relatives, can be helpful.
  • Curiosity about sexual matters begins. Teens begin having new feelings, which are centered around their own bodies, rather than developing sexual relationships with the opposite sex. Accurate information needs to be made available.
  • Special athletic, artistic, academic, or musical talents may emerge and should be encouraged and supported as much as possible. This will help the child to develop a good self-image.
  • Most young people have opportunities to experiment with drugs and alcohol by this stage, and parents have little power to prevent such opportunities from arising. A major objective should be to get adolescents through this stage alive and intact. Parents should be frank about the dangers of substance use and of mixing drinking and/or drugs with driving. Tell your teens that you will provide transportation no questions asked rather than have them ride with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs.
  • Open communication about sexual matters is an ideal goal.
  • As difficult as it can be, try to find time to spend together with your teen. A shared activity enhances communication and builds the relationship.

The 11-year-old

  • Appetite increases
  • At times can be loud, boorish and rude
  • Tends to be moody, sensitive
  • With strangers may be cooperative, friendly, lively and pleasant
  • Frequent arguments with parents
  • Friends are selected because of mutual interests
  • Interest in the opposite sex is changing
  • Attitudes about school are changing
  • Very active
  • May read without being able to explain the story sequence, or the consequences of actions

The 12-year-old

  • Enthusiastic for short periods
  • Emotions are extreme; either really likes something or really hates it
  • No longer wants to be considered a child
  • Emphasis on "best" friend
  • Can be critical of physical appearance (especially girls)
  • Some restlessness, day dreaming and wasting time
  • Has some difficulty accepting praise
  • Participates less in family activities
  • Talks frequently of the opposite sex


 Characteristics of "teen friendly" parents:

  • Does not try to be the teen’s best friend. Remembers that their role is to teach and parent.
  • Understands the normal growth and development of adolescents.
  • Praises, approves, supports and shows interest in their adolescent. Attends events in which their son or daughter is a participant.
  • Encourages reasonable independence, friendships and interests outside of the home.
  • Finds time to be with and listen to the adolescent.
  • Establishes realistic expectations for family rules and enforces them, with increasing responsibility given to the adolescent.
  • Establishes and communicates clear limits and consequences for breaking rules. Does not repeatedly warn or threaten. Simply follows the protocol already agreed upon and is consistent.
  • Is present at home or makes arrangements for the adolescent's supervision in the parent's absence.
  • Assigns chores around the home and provides an allowance.
  • Demonstrates interest in the adolescent's school activities and emphasizes the importance of school.
  • Takes pleasure in their son’s or daughter's abilities and achievements.
  • Trusts the adolescent and understands what he or she is experiencing.
  • Respects the adolescent's privacy.
  • Does not criticize the other parent. A teen needs to love and respect both parents.
  • Enhances the adolescent's self-esteem by providing praise and recognizing positive behavior and achievements.
  • Minimizes criticism, nagging, derogatory comments and other belittling or demeaning messages.
  • Shows respect for their teen. Listens to the adolescent's side without interrupting or judging.
  • Gets to know their teen's friends, and avoids making quick judgments based on appearances only. Whenever possible, avoids downgrading his or her friends.
  • Encourages their son or daughter to invite peers home.
  • Allows their son or daughter to make age-appropriate decisions and selections (for example, choosing clothes).
  • Involves their teen in decision making regarding their role in family chores, supervision of younger sibling, etc.
  • Assumes a role in the teen's sex education, perhaps with the help of books recommended by the physician.


 For additional information go to http://www.education.com/grade/middle-school

 This information is a guide to the “typical” child. Each child is unique and achieves these mile stones in their own time. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s progress, please contact the teacher for ways to help your child to work toward achieving these mile stones.