What is man's ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.

~ Shinichi Suzuki ~

Motivation and Middle School Children

March 7th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 11 secs

Motivation and middle school children...uh huh...

There’s no way round this. Motivation and middle school children don’t exactly go together like a horse and carriage. When is middle school? Well, I’d peg it around the ages of 12-15. Around that time, kids begin taking things into their own hands, like deciding who they want to be.

This middle school period is a stage of enormous change, not least because kids minds are undergoing a total refit. Forget how your son or daughter was in their younger years. They’re mind is getting a revamp. If their brain were a telephone exchange it would be undergoing the equivalent of having most of the cables randomly ripped out and starting again.

This means that what they could do before isn’t exactly what they can now. Then again, every middle school kid is busy learning a whole new way of being themselves. For us grown ups, that’s exciting but it can be frustrating at once.

Motivation takes a major hit too. “Why should I?” is probably the banner of protest most middle school kids would march with. That’s because motivation and middle school children don’t mix. At least, not your motivation. By carving out their own identify, they’re liable to question the intentions of everyone, leaving their desires and priorities to take centre stage. Not their parents or teachers, but their own.

Which means it’s a whole new ball game of negotiation to get things done. Generalizing is always a blunt instrument, but middle school students aren’t interested in doing anything unless there’s an immediate pay off. Forget talking up “their future” as a priority. If it isn’t happening inside a year, they don’t care.

Personally, I think a lot of well-meaning psychologists gloss over this stage, by offering all sorts of glib solutions that don’t actually work. Just know that by the middle school years, kids want to have it both ways. They want the freedoms of childhood plus the privileges of adulthood at once. So, naturally, they aren’t going to appreciate being babied or made to be responsible. They want wriggle room to do what they want.

So what’s to be done? When it comes to motivation and middle school children, do we simply give up on them? In a way, yes! By all means expect them to do whatever is reasonable and purposeful. Just don’t expect them to necessarily be civilized about it for a few years. Exercise a blind eye to some of the nonsense and a sharp eye for any effort.

Refuse being overly serious too. But if you do, have exit strategies. Use time out to handle what can be a very frustrating stage. Just remember teens don’t mean half of what they say, and their sense of cause and effect is still developing. So try not to take their poor motivation levels to heart. Like you, they will work out their own path too. Then, when the time is right, they’ll want to know all about what to do from you. But don’t hold your breath. It’s going to take a few years yet.


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