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Middle School Problems: We Know You Wanna Fix Them, But Step Away

Resist the urge to fix those middle school problems and you’ll build a much more competent high schooler.

Worrying about your middle schooler’s problems? Normal. Solving them? Please don’t.

I host a group of moms at my office in Charlotte, NC every month for a Moms Meet Up. It’s a casual and rotating group of about ten women who gather round a conference table to do what I call “normal checking” on the many mysteries of parenting a middle schooler. Is it normal or completely deviant that my son looked up (fill in the blank) on the computer? Does anyone else’s daughter yell at them in front of their friends? Why can’t my kid turn in his homework and should I be running it up to school?

Raising a middle schooler can feel almost as awkward as being in middle school. Both are fraught with angst-filled questions and insecurities! Especially when it comes to what to do about common middle school problems.

What to Do About Middle School Problems

You cruised along at a steady and comfortable pace at the end of elementary school but the terrain has changed drastically and now you and your kid are hitting a lot of bumps in the road. Feeling overwhelmed by all of these new issues in your kid’s life is completely normal, I assure you. Also perfectly normal is your urge to try to make the road smoother for your kid (and therefore yourself, as well). Bumps in the road, however, appear for a reason. They are a part of middle school development. They are the catalysts of change that prompt kids to become adults. Without them, things would stay easy and childlike and THE SAME forever.

Resist the urge to smooth the road too much for your middle school children. When faced with a problem, what every tween craves are empathy and personal triumph. Let your child know that you recognize her struggle and that you empathize with the challenges she faces. But don’t handicap her by creating a false sense of accomplishment.

Parents who call the teacher about seating assignments, run the forgotten project up to school, or inform other parents about social expectations for all children only undermine a middle schooler’s chance at personal triumph. When your middle school children learn to solve their problems on their own, they’ll develop confidence, competency and resilience that will last them long past the bumpy middle school years.

Michelle Icard

Michelle Icard is the author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. Learn more about her work with middle schoolers and their parents at