Strategies for helping draw out the best in your Middle School child - Glasshouse Christian College

Strategies for helping draw out the best in your Middle School child

  • March 14, 2024

Strategies for helping draw out the best in your Middle School child

I recently read ‘Never Split the Difference’ by Chris Voss, one of the chief FBI negotiators. Here is my summary of some transferable strategies he advocates that may help you, as parents and carers, navigate conversations and direct that wonderful teenager to make the best decisions they own for themselves!

1. The Power of Mirroring

Middle schoolers can display a rollercoaster of emotions. One excellent step to connect with your child during these turbulent times is to practice active listening by mirroring their feelings. If your child expresses frustration or excitement, mirror their emotions by saying, “It sounds like you’re feeling [frustrated/excited]. Can you tell me more about it?” This shows you’re engaged and invites them to share their thoughts more openly.

2. Labelling Emotions: Helping Your Teenager Navigate Feelings

Your child may struggle to articulate their feelings at this age. Using what Chris calls the labelling technique by saying something along the lines of, “It seems like you might be feeling [anxious/happy/sad] about [school/friendships].” This helps your child understand and express their emotions and reinforces that you are a supportive listener.

3. The Power of “How” Questions: Encouraging Dialogue

This is actually my favourite strategy:

When faced with resistance or opposition, instead of a direct “no,” consider asking “how” questions. For instance, if your child disagrees with a rule or request, ask, “How do you think we can find a solution that works for both of us?” This approach encourages problem-solving and empowers your child to participate in decisions that affect them actively. And, it often leads them to realise – for themselves – that the answer may have to be a ‘No’!

4. Building Trust and Rapport: A Foundation for Connection

Middle schoolers are navigating the complexities of forming their identity and asserting independence. Building trust and rapport is crucial during this phase. Spend quality time together, engage in their interests, and actively participate in their school life. Establishing a strong connection creates a safe space for your child to share their thoughts and concerns. They are usually happier to talk about those important things when doing an activity together with you rather than sitting opposite each other at a table. Making time to do this is such a great investment!

5. Acknowledging Achievements: Celebrate Small Wins

Amid the challenges, acknowledging and celebrating your child’s achievements, no matter how small, is also so important. Recognising their efforts builds confidence and reinforces a positive attitude toward learning and growth.

As you embark on this middle school adventure with your child, remember that understanding and effective communication are key. Applying these principles can strengthen your relationship, support your child through the ups and downs, and create a foundation for open communication during these formative years.

Wishing you a harmonious Middle School journey!

Jacq Vreeling, Head of Middle School

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