A couple of weeks ago, Bonnie wrote this post about 21 Things Parents Should Know About Their Teenagers. I was reminded of a guest post I had written over the summer and decided to actually post it on my own blog as well.
Teaching has taught me many things about my curriculum, about the school system, etc. But, I feel that it has prepared me for the time my own children reach their preteen ages. While Bonnie focuses on older teens about to graduate, I focus on 12-14 year olds in schooling. But, there is a lot more than just teaching them how to read and write. We also have to understand them as well.
1) All misbehavior is a positive attempt at attention.
A prevailing classroom management (as well as now parenting style) theory is called Love and Logic. It tries to focus on the positive side of children, understanding that there is always a reason for their misbehavior, always something on their mind that they are scared, frustrated, nervous, or unsure about. This theory calls for us to “kill them with love.” Be understanding, err on the side of mercy. They want to be heard. Repeat what they said, “You said you feel anxious when I kiss you as I drop you off because it’s embarrassing. Ok, I’m sorry. How about this, you give me a kiss before we even leave the house, so no one sees.”
2) They want to prove themselves.
Preteens aren’t teenagers yet. They are still children, but are stepping into adulthood as they begin pubescence. They want to feel accepted. They want to feel like adults. They want to show you they are smart. Give them that opportunity, whether it be with (school) assignments or responsibilities at home. But, don’t micro-manage.
3) They are smarter than you think.
Again, they just need an opportunity to prove themselves. Find what they are good at and let them know! Help build their self-confidence. They are actually very bright, but when told, “No, do it this way” or “You are bad at math, so you are dumb” or “You don’t do well in standardize testing so you’ll never get anywhere,” they stumble and fall. Always, before telling them something is bad or wrong, tell them something they did right and well. Again, don’t micromanage–give them options to use their talents in and the result will surprise you.
4) They are still children, and thus, still need repetition.
Just because they think they are adults, doesn’t mean they are. They still need repeats of instructions. They still need drills. They still need practice. They are at the stage in life where quality is surpassing quantity, and they need to focus on that.
5) Give them time to be creative.
I played with Barbies until I was in 8th grade. I ran through my backyard with a blanket on my back pretending it was wings. I wrote a short story on one of my state standardized tests rather than a 5-paragraph essay. And now, I feel I am very creative. Creativity is a dying part of human society, especially in the schools. All we do is focus on the test. Focus on grammar, on math, on analyzing books. But, we need to let be creative. I strive to include creative writing into my school work. I also try to have them color at least once a week (either with a paragraph analysis or a poster presentation or a collage). It is very important to exercise the right brain as much as the left brain for growth of preteen mentality and knowledge.
6) Preteens are pack animals.
They truly are. They would rather sit and talk with their friends then sit down quietly and work. This is probably the biggest problems in the schools when it comes to classroom management. So, I always try to incorporate at least one partner/group work a week. This can be done at home, too. Let your kids hang out with their friends, let them do extracurricular activities, be part of sports or clubs, host parties. They thrive on a social life.
7)They are absolutely hilarious.
Because they are still developing physically, emotionally, and mentally, preteens can be some of the funniest people in the world. This can happen both purposefully, and not. So, if they are purposefully trying to get a laugh out of you, indulge them–give a guffah or a chuckle. If it isn’t intentional, just smile and make a mental note…then share it on your blog! Check here for some silly, but sometimes inspiring things my students say in class or in their writings!
What other secrets to understanding preteens have you come up with?