I remember sitting for hours at the table doing my Math homework. I would look up the even answers in the back of the book, thinking my teachers wouldn’t notice that I didn’t show my work or I had no idea how to do the problem. I just had the answer and that should be good enough, right?
Working through math problems (especially when math is your weakness) takes a lot of time, effort, erasing, and trying again. Isn’t that the same process that we use in life? Don’t we need to take a risk, work hard, mess up, and try again? It is not only about knowing the right answer, but the process it takes to get to the answer…that is where the real learning takes place. And that is what we need to remember when we are raising our children…especially middle school children.
I spent the last week in several schools, but mainly, I was in a variety of 6, 7, and 8th grade classes in a variety of middle schools. Our kids are really working hard learning the processes of life and we, as adults, need to understand what that looks like: Work, erase, and try again.
In middle school, especially around 12/13, the process of change from childhood to adulthood begins a new phase and the dramatic changes that are happening internally are like a tsunami. A HUGE TSUNAMI!!! And although we see external changes, the internal changes are ones that we must be aware: physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual. Here is a great chart to remind us about what happens:
Birth -2 Years Old= Sampling (the world opens up to them and everything is new)
3-7 Years Old= Testing (they try new things, pulling things apart, testing boundaries)
8-10 Years Old= Concluding (confidence in what they believe, make statements, and insightful)
This happens all at once or sometimes gradually, but it happens and sometimes you feel like another person invaded or stole your child and replaced them with a stranger. This is normal. This is puberty and the process begins all over again…
11-14 Years Old= Sampling (the world re-opens to them and everything is new)
15-19 Years Old= Testing (independence, trying new things, testing boundaries)
20+ Years Old= Concluding (confidence in what they believe, make statements, the abstract makes sense)
Most of the stress we have as parents is because we are expecting our kids to have the answers and the processes NOW. No work. No failing. No erasing. No trying again. Just get it right because I told you so.
I see this in the day to day life in our house. And yes, the process gets old. The process get tiring. The process means discipline. The process means time. The process means failure. The process means communication. The process gets emotional. The process means forgiveness. The process means risk. The process means prayer. The process means learning. The process means surrendering our pride.
Here is a conversation we have often at our house:
“Here is the deal. When you were little, you had a limited amount of emotions and learning. There was a certain capacity to understand those emotions and learning. We had much structure for you to learn the things you needed to learn and you did great! Now, your body, mind, and relational skills are going through another metamorphosis and your emotions are bigger, your learning is more difficult, and the risks are larger with bigger consequences. This prepares you to be an independent adult. Your father and I are going to coach you through this. Just like a new pair of shoes or a new lacrosse stick, all of this is going to be uncomfortable at times until you get used to it. We are going to be with you through the entire process. The good, the bad, and the ugly.”“
Our kids can not skip to the back of the book to get to the answers. And adults just telling the answers does not work. They need opportunity to practice in all of the areas. We need to allow that process. It will get messy. They need to mess up and fail. The best lessons are learned that way. But, settle in. We all have a little more homework to do.