The tween years are notoriously tough, and while puberty doesn't make much of anything easier, they have gotten a bit of a bum wrap. The middle school years could use a PR person, because they aren't always a bad as everyone seems to think.
Michelle Icard may be the closest thing to that needed PR person, because as an author and educator, she's stresses that the middle school years can and should be fun for both kids and parents. She's explaining how to make that a reality in her new book, Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. It offers both help and hope.
Publishers Weekly said in its review that Middle School Makeover "shares affirming, spot-on advice for guiding kids through the difficult middle school years, blending thoughtful practicality, and gentle humor."
I really liked her suggestion of having a “Botox Brow” face to lessen parental reaction to some of the tween wackiness. This very much reminded me of something a school administrator told me this week that he would like to tell parents: "Adolescence is a time of high emotions, adulthood is not."
A lot of tween parents want their kids to share more with them. Icard says that she learned from experience with her own kids that the more neutral she kept her expression, the more her kids opened up to her.
I am known for having a bit of an expressive face, and there are certainly times when that doesn't help my parenting or make my conversations with my tween productive. Goodness knows it is tough to not react sometimes because my tween sure knows how to push my buttons, but I'm thinking that the reminder to put on my Botox Brow will help encourage my child to open up. If nothing else, it may make me chuckle to myself and that's always a help in remaining calm.
Another aspect of the book that I liked was the focus on parents finally losing their own middle school baggage.
"I call middle school a 'sticky' time in our lives because the stuff that happens to us in middle school seems to stick with us longer than what happens in elementary or high school. Most parents I talk to tell me middle school was the worst time for them growing up. Consequently, I hear lots of parents worry about their kids middle school experiences," Icard explained. "Middle School Makeover is about changing our perceptions and expectations about the middle school experience so everyone can better enjoy the ride!"
Icard stresses early on in the book that parents can support their child's middle school experience by being enthusiastic and hopeful about this time in their child's life.
If parents fear middle school because of their own bad experience, chances are very high that kids will pick up on that. The negative feelings become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and no one wants that. Parents thinking positively lead to kids thinking positively and enjoying a positive experience.
Icard covers a lot of ground in a relatively short book, from fashion battles to social media usage to bullying. She also addresses dating and kids sneaking around behind their parents' backs, as well as just how long of a leash to give the tweens. Those sections are all four to six pages, making this a handy guide to keep on hand and refer back to when those situations arise, and they invariably will pop up.
I liked a vast majority of the book. When it comes to social media, though, Icard and I have differing opinions. She explains in the book that she is a big fan of Instagram in part because it is a window into your child's world and a way to learn about new interests and affinities they may have.
That's true, but I wish the book addressed that Instagram and other social media platforms have age requirements and those should be followed. Instagram states that users must be age 13 or older. A lot of middle schoolers are younger than that, so I think it needs to be expressly stated.
I believe that allowing your kid to lie when setting up an online account or setting up one as a parent to navigate around that requirement send the wrong message about honesty online and sets a dangerous precedent.
She and I do agree that ask.fm is to be avoided at all costs.
As with all parenting books, you should take what works for you and leave what does not, and there is good information and advice to take away from this book. The positivity found in the pages nicely combats the groans and sympathetic expressions tween parents get. Reframing the middle school years as Icard does is in Middle School Makeover key to making them an enjoyable successful time for kids and parents.
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Filed under: Books & Magazines