The middle-school years are often a time of tumultuous transition for kids -- and their parents. As children start to gain independence, they tend to gravitate toward friends and social cliques rather than looking to adults for answers. This transition, coupled with a longing for individual identity, sometimes leads to rebellious behavior. Every child is different; there is no one “right” way to talk to middle schoolers, but you're bound to find some success if you approach them with empathy and respect. Once you break through to them, you'll find that chatty preteens often learn and grow from simply talking it out.
Start the conversation on common ground. Middle schoolers tend to bore easily, especially in regard to mundane tasks like chores or homework. If you usually start conversations by asking your child to do something, you might need a new tactic. As a parent, you know what your kid likes, whether it's the latest gadget or a new movie series. Even if your child's interests aren't relevant to the topic at hand, you can often use a topic that interests you child to get a conversation going.
Set an example. Passionate middle school kids sometimes express themselves through sarcasm, snark and even aggression. Show your child the right way to communicate by staying level-headed, rational and balanced throughout your conversation. Meeting anger with anger only escalates the situation. Let your preteen know that anger is natural and welcome her to express her anger or her reason for rebellion in a calm, grown-up fashion. On the other hand, draw the line at outright disrespect; if you allow your child to shout at you, insult or demean you, the conversation quickly becomes one-sided.
Listen. Your middle schooler doesn't want you to treat him like a child, but if you don't give him the opportunity to fully express his thoughts and opinions, he'll feel like you're doing just that. Let your preteen finish his thoughts -- and show that you're listening by giving the conversation your complete attention. Ask questions that expand on the topic in a positive manner. When you're a good listener, you're letting your child know that you value his words. In “Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for Middle School,” Ruth Culham notes that middle school kids must talk to learn. Letting your middle schooler know that you value his opinion creates an environment of productive, open conversation.
Bite your tongue. Steer clear of making harsh, black-and-white statements, or statements of total control, especially early in the talk as you try to facilitate open communication. Avoid the classic “because I said so” line. Middle schoolers have rapidly growing intellects, which fuel their need for independence. Exerting total control can simply lead to stronger rebellion.
Give reasons. Since you're asking your preteen to talk openly, you need to be forthcoming in return. If you object to your child doing something, calmly explain why. Before outright rejecting your child's ideas or plans, ask yourself why you object to them. Above all, ask yourself if the act that you interpret as rebellion is unhealthy or harmful to your child, or if it's simply different from the way you did things at that age.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images