Our girls enter middle school playing with American Girl dolls, and leave flirting with boys. Some even have boyfriends and are dating by the time they head to high school. In middle school our girls are trying to grow up, but still have a lot of “kid” left in them.
It’s a lot of change in a short time. Raging hormones, painfully awkward social interactions, and academic pressure lead to stress. The stress usually winds up dumped on our doorstep. Between the ages of 10 and 13, tempers flare and conflicts with parents increase. So does the backbiting directed at other girls. Any mother of a middle school girl would be lying if she didn’t tell you that this stage comes with drama. One moment they act like angels, and the next the fangs come out. You may need more wearwolf hunters than you’ll find on an episode of Teen Wolf.
When the cliques form in middle school, there is always one girl in the group who deserves an Oscar for Best Tween Drama Queen.
Some girls thrive on the negative attention. They gossip, betray confidences, and pit one friend against another to remain center stage. You need to stop it while you can still mold them like a piece of clay, or they’ll be the type of toxic adults you avoid at high school reunions. The rapid physical and emotional changes can put almost any middle school child on edge as they struggle to find their identity. Are they a nerd, a jock, a goth? They worry that they won’t fit in. One minute they are deliriously happy, and the next miserable.
Any little thing can set them off and trigger back talk or a meltdown worse than any toddler you’ve seen.
Experts say that arguments with parents are normal as they separate and assert independence. The key as a mother is to keep calm. Do not take the bait and resort to sarcasm, name-call or fly off the handle and yell. I find yelling doesn’t work. The “loudmouths” may have gotten high ratings on Morton Downey Jr.’s old “trash” TV show, but your child turns it around and asks, “Why do you yell?” If they yell, the best way to get them to stop is to tell them that they don’t want to sound that way. You also need to pick your battles or kids will rebel if you are too rigid. Middle school meltdown triggers can include:
- Not being able to find a hair tie
- Their favorite pants are in the wash
- They are forced to admit you are their mother publicly
- You turned off their computer before they caught a Pokémon
- Jimmy Kimmel has you tell them that you ate all of their Halloween candy and plan to eat their Christmas stocking stuffers too, down to the last peppermint pattie
A recent study found that having a child in middle school is the most stressful time in a mother’s life. It’s just such a roller coaster. But look at the bright side, at least they’re potty-trained and share their feelings.