Good Manners Don't Disappear in Middle School
Now that your child's hit middle school, relationships have gotten pretty complex. The peer group is new, less familiar, and more cutthroat; the teachers are many and varied in style, personality and expectation. Since adolescents are already taking relationships more seriously, they're already in tune with the fundamentals of good manners – they just need a little guidance with integrating them into day to day life.
What You Need to Know
The humorous math teacher doesn't mind a little noise, but the science teacher will accept nothing less than absolute quiet. Adjusting behavior to respond to the variations from class to class and activity to activity is a challenging task that can require resiliency, patience, and a strong foundation of manners, including consideration for others, respect, tact, and flexibility.
How You Can Help
- Discipline at this stage can seem rooted in contradictions, as the very reason for your rules are to guide your child safely into independence. Rules should be fewer, but clear, at this stage, along with the consequences for breaking them. Let your child make his case wherever rules can be negotiated.
- Realize that the attitude your child sometimes directs at you isn't actually directed at you. During this stage, your child needs a scapegoat, and much of the time it will be you. Rather than take outbursts personally, let your child know that you understand her feelings, and help talk through them and sort out solutions.
- Work on your child's communication skills by offering some basic, but essential tips:
- Make eye contact.
- Jokes and whispered comments behind another's back don't make you look cool, only mean.
- Remove earphones when speaking or being spoken to.
- Reading isn't appropriate during instruction, live performance, worship service, etc.
- Although by now, your child has a firm handle on the basics of table manners, by this point, he may be ready to take it a step further by hosting a dinner party to learn some of the finer points. To get the full experience, he should be involved in planning a multi-course meal, using dinnerware and table linen, doing the shopping, cooking, cleaning, setting the table, taking coats, making introductions and keeping conversation going.
- Take control over who's driving your child around – an older sibling? Your child's older friend? Your child's friend's older sibling? Set firm rules in place for riding with teenage drivers, and make the drivers aware of your expectations.
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