Middle School: The Inside Story: What Kids Tell Us, But Don't Tell You

Middle School: The Inside Story: What Kids Tell Us, But Don't Tell You

by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, Sue Acuna


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Remember middle school? Many parents would rather not. It’s often a rough ride, filled with insecurity, peer pressure, awkwardness, and world-rocking change. This book provides practical, hands-on advice for helping your child through this minefield—with information about what he or she is really going through, but isn’t likely to share.

Best-selling learning-styles expert Cynthia Tobias and veteran teacher Sue Acuña reveal what they’ve found by listening to kids when parents aren’t around—and give you insider tips on how to bless your middle-schooler with success in class, at home, and in relationships. Topics include advice for keeping communication lines open, predictable physical and social issues, and solutions for problems like self-centeredness and over-the-top emotions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781589977778
Publisher: Focus on the Family
Publication date: 08/01/2014
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 366,234
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Middle School: The Inside Story

What Kids Tell Us, But Don't Tell You

By Cynthia Tobias, Sue Acuña

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Cynthia Ulrich Tobias and Sue Chan Acuña
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-58997-777-8


Where No Body Has Gone Before

"I wish my mom knew that I'm struggling with a lot of things right now."

—A middle schooler

"I wish my parents could understand the things that go on when they aren't around. Also that I may not always want to share what struggles I am going through ..."

—A middle schooler

"I think I might be raising a narcissist."

The statement came from a dad sitting in a room full of parents of middle school students. Heads were nodding in agreement all over the room as he continued. "She's so self-absorbed! It seems like she's always in the bathroom. I don't know what she's doing in there, but she spends hours in front of the mirror!"

Of course she does. Think about how much her looks have changed in the last six months. As adults, we usually don't find many drastic physical differences from one year to the next. We may get grayer hair or lose or gain a few pounds, but not much else. For an adolescent, though, six months is like a lifetime—almost like translating dog years into human years!

Between the ages of10 and 14, middle schoolers may gain as much as six inches in height (and a few inches in other places). They might sprout new hair in spots they won't show their parents, grow broader shoulders, and lose the roundness in their faces. About this time many students acquire braces or contacts, both of which bring new challenges of their own. The smallest pimple can cause a major meltdown. The mirror is the object of a new love-hate relationship—and it's hard to tear themselves away.

During this time when your teen exhibits these rapidly changing physical characteristics, it might help to remember this: You're not the only one who doesn't recognize this new person in your home. Your middle schooler is struggling to get to know the kid in the mirror, too.

Middle School Guys

What makes somebody cool? "Being able to embarrass yourself without being embarrassed."

—A middle schooler

This is a good time for parents to stay alert for changes in body shape and size. It's not unusual for a gap to suddenly appear between the top of a seventh grade boy's shoes and the bottom of his pants. Longer arms need longer sleeves, and broadening chests need bigger shirt sizes. If your son can't be persuaded to go shopping, you can spare him a lot of embarrassment by discreetly buying clothes for him and returning whatever doesn't fit or meet with his approval.

Boys are constantly wondering if they're normal. They keep sneaking looks at each other in the locker room, comparing themselves to the other guys. Boys who suddenly shoot up several inches early in seventh or eighth grade often have an advantage; deservedly or not, they're looked up to in more ways than one. They're also more likely to be the object of the girls' interest.

For those who hit their growth spurts later, this can be an excruciating time. Classmates may keep calling attention to their short stature, and they may act out in anger as a result.

Middle School Girls

What makes somebody cool? "Having the right clothes, especially if people compliment you on them."

—A middle schooler

"Jenny, I need to talk to you for a minute."

Mrs. Walker was a young and popular middle school teacher, and Jenny quickly came up to her desk. Smiling, Mrs. Walker said, "Let's go out into the hallway for some privacy." When they were alone, Mrs. Walker gently pointed out that Jenny's new shirt (which was what every cool girl was wearing this fall) didn't quite measure up to the dress code.

Jenny was surprised. "Why? Most of my friends are wearing shirts like this, and they don't get in trouble."

Mrs. Walker nodded and lowered her voice. "Jenny, have you noticed that your shirt tends to ... show a little more of your maturing body than the other girls' shirts do?"

Jenny blushed, but was unconvinced. "So?"

Her teacher sighed. She didn't really want to have this discussion here in the hallway, but Jenny didn't seem to have any idea how the cleavage shown by her shirt was affecting the boys in her seventh grade classroom. As she briefly explained why Jenny's shirt was a problem for young teenage boys, Jenny got a horrified expression on her face. Tears welled up in her eyes.

"What ?" the girl shrieked. "Eww! Can I go get my sweatshirt?"

A girl's body shape will change even more dramatically than the physique of the boy who sits next to her in class. This is a good time to have a discussion about modesty—and to gently explain that two friends can't always wear the same styles. What looks good on one girl's figure might not be very flattering on her friend.

Another important point parents need to make to their middle school daughters: The boys are noticing these changes. Often innocently, girls wear necklines that expose cleavage or tight, short clothing that reflects current fashion trends. What they may not realize is how it affects developing teenage boys. Middle school teachers repeatedly share stories about quietly pointing out to a student how her clothing is influencing a boy's thoughts and raging hormones; almost always the young lady is horrified to find out how she's being perceived. Frequently the idea hasn't even occurred to her. As a parent, you can help tremendously by making your daughter aware of and sensitive to what's going on.

Girls also need adult women who'll discuss the issues that accompany her menstrual cycle, and the need for proper hygiene during this time. If there's no trusted adult who will do that, many girls seek out advice from their girlfriends—and what they hear isn't always accurate or helpful.

The Talk

"I never really had The Talk because I learned It In school. So one day my dad told me on the way to school that if I ever want to talk about that kind of stuff, I could ask. But I probably never will because it's too awkward."

—A middle schooler

"I was In the car with my mom when she turned down the radio and said, 'Alan?' And I said 'What?' and she started singing, 'Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees ...' And I was like, 'Mom! No! I really don't want to talk about this in the car. I'm not comfortable with this right now.' And she was like, 'Okay. Well, just let me know if anything in your life is going on that you have any questions about.'"

—A middle schooler

What about having "The Talk" with your middle schooler?

This is something many parents dread. Even if they work up the courage to bring up the topic, their middle schoolers may be so uncomfortable that it just doesn't go well. Parents who are calm and matter-of-fact about the subject of sexuality, or who have honestly answered questions long before middle school, will have an easier time. But a parent who springs it on a middle schooler out of the blue can expect some reluctance and awkwardness from both parties.

A better solution is to address topics as they come up, or to use what's being shown on TV or sung about in the music they listen to as a jumping-off point. Most students will receive information in health or science classes, but it often isn't given through a filter of morals and values. It's important that parents use even short chats as opportunities to reflect their beliefs and to point out how they differ from those of the world around them.

Even if your efforts are awkward or don't seem well received, make your point—keeping it short and tackling the difficult issues. For example, many parents of sixth grade girls are asked if they want their daughters vaccinated against HPV (a sexually transmitted infection which can cause cervical cancer). Regardless of how a parent feels about the vaccination, this can be a time to talk about the risks of sexual promiscuity and God's plan for sexual purity.

Many middle schoolers prefer to get information from someone just a little older than they are. They say they're too embarrassed to ask their parents, so they go to an older sibling or even an aunt or uncle with their questions. They don't appreciate parents who overreact: "If I'm texting and my mom sees me, my mom will think it's a boy, so she will tell me that I don't need to be texting boys. It's like if I'm texting a boy, it obviously means that I'm pregnant or something."

If you're blessed to have someone you trust in your child's life who can be the go-to person for questions about these issues, that's great. If not, be sure you stay in tune with what's going on with your teen. Look for opportunities to bring up sensitive topics in as casual and natural a way as possible.

For guidelines and practical advice from physicians and other professionals about how and what you need to know and communicate to your children about sex, puberty, and related issues, you'll find that The Focus on the Family Guide to Talking with Your Kids about Sex is very informative and helpful.

A Healthy Relationship Makes "The Talk" Easier

"My mom and I are really alike, so I'll say stuff without even thinking. One time I asked her something about sex, and she told me I was a pastor's daughter and shouldn't even be thinking about that stuff. She asked me how I knew about it, and I said 'I'm 13; I know about stuff.' "

—A middle schooler

"My aunt will sometimes talk to me, and since she's in her twenties and closer to my age, it's not as awkward. She'll just say, 'You know what this is, right? And you know not to do this and this?' And I'll say yes and we'll go back to what we're doing. I like talking to her because she just keeps it between us."

—A middle schooler

"My mom told me where babies come from and she was calm about it, so we still have talks and it's just conversation. So it's not embarrassing or anything to either of us."

—A middle schooler

You are often the best potential teacher for your son or daughter when it comes to dealing with these awkward yet life-changing issues. Prepare for this as well as you can; talk to professionals or other parents or mentors, and read relevant and trusted resources. Keep the lines of communication open with your middle schooler. Admit it when you just aren't sure what to say and offer to help your son or daughter look up answers to questions.

Hygiene Matters

"I always wondered what B.O. [body odor] smelled like, and then my teacher told me it's kind of like onions. Now I smell it on boys all the time, and sometimes on girls. Why doesn't everyone just wear deodorant like they're supposed to?"

—A middle schooler

"Smell ya! Shouldn't have to tell ya!"

This obnoxious cry from childhood more than applies when puberty strikes. Even the most expensive or stylish shoes can hide stinky socks. And that's not all that can cause some pretty foul odors on a middle schooler.

As kids develop more adult-like bodies, they also develop more adult-like smells. Unfortunately, they don't yet have adult-like hygiene habits. In some ways they get dirtier than they did when they were little, but parents no longer have the option of undressing them and plopping them into the bathtub.

Eventually peer pressure may be enough motivation for middle schoolers to take care of their own hygiene. In the meantime, it's up to parents to insist on a daily shower, clean hair, clean teeth (emphasize fresh breath), clean armpits, and clean socks—and clean-everything-else that goes under their clothes. Don't assume this will happen every day automatically; you'll probably have to ask.

The topic may be uncomfortable at first, but many others will thank you—especially if you find ways to help your child smell socially acceptable within the confines of a small classroom, car, or family room at home.

To prevent too much awkwardness or embarrassment, you might consider creating a code word to discreetly let your middle schooler know it's time for an armpit freshening. Sue had a student whose mother had died when he was nine years old, so he was being raised by his elderly grandmother. He often wore nylon jerseys but seldom wore deodorant. After a heart-to-heart talk, they agreed that their code word would be "secret." If Mrs. Acuña told him she "had a secret," he would immediately head to the restroom to wash and reapply deodorant (which she supplied and he stored in his gym locker). If he told her he had a secret, she would know he needed to be excused for a few minutes to freshen up.

For a parent, the code word might be "pits"—as in, "Hey, Bud, wasn't last night's football game the pits?" accompanied by a smile and a raising of eyebrows. The middle schooler may be slow to catch on at first, but eventually it will sink in: "Oh! Oh! I'll be right back." The result: a graceful exit from the room to apply deodorant or change a shirt.

What Teachers Told Us About Physical Changes of the Middle School Years

• Hygiene is important. As early as third grade, some kids begin to smell. At the beginning of fourth grade, some students should start wearing deodorant.

• Puberty seems to be happening earlier. Girls are developing. It catches parents and teachers unaware.

• One boy's body odor was so strong that the teacher had to open doors or kids would feel sick. His grandma owned a restaurant and cooked everything with onions and garlic; it seemed to be coming out of his pores. The teacher would intercept him in the morning and hand him deodorant. Then she'd meet him at lunch and tell him, "Reapply."

• P.E. uniforms should be washed regularly. So should other school clothes or uniforms.

• What teachers used to see in grades six, seven, and eight is now showing up in grades three, four, and five. Girls are developing earlier, and are either embarrassed by it or "loud and proud" about it.

Here's a Thought:

This is a case when you can do something positive with a middle schooler's fear of doing the wrong thing. Kids don't want to find out that their classmates were talking behind their backs about how bad they smelled. If nothing else works, try telling a story about a student you remember from seventh grade who always smelled so bad that nobody wanted to sit by him. Or use the one we've already mentioned about the boy whose grandma ran a garlic-and-onions restaurant. Chances are good that the fear of being "that" student will be all the motivation it takes to get your middle schooler to shower more often.


Excerpted from Middle School: The Inside Story by Cynthia Tobias, Sue Acuña. Copyright © 2014 Cynthia Ulrich Tobias and Sue Chan Acuña. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

What's Going On? 1

Part 1 Changes

1 Where No Body Has Gone Before 11

2 The Good, the Bad, and the Gangly 21

3 How They See (and Don't See) the World 27

Part 2 Parenting

4 What Your Child Needs Now 39

5 Behind Closed Doors 45

6 Technical Difficulties 51

7 The Missing Links: Relationships and Communication 59

8 Too Late to Discipline? 75

9 Verbalizing Values 87

Part 3 Friends and Other Problems

10 Finding Where They Fit 99

11 Young Love, Old Challenges 107

12 Responding to Red Flags 113

Part 4 School

13 Not So Brave in the New World 125

14 The Hassles of Homework 139

15 Getting Teachers on Your Team 147

16 Learning Styles and Learning Disorders 153

17 FInishing Strong 167

18 After School and Out of School 173

A Final Word 189

Notes 191

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Middle School: The Inside Story: What Kids Tell Us, But Don't Tell You 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone with a middle schooler/preteen/tween and everyone who will have one should have this book!! I am so excited about this book. We are always on a quest to equip ourselves to help our son through life and honesty, I know the middle school years can be a challenge. I remember it and I taught middle schoolers for a while. I appreciate the uniqueness of this book in that there is input from middle schoolers. I love that it covers communicating, independence and discipline, conflict, faith, school, romance and all the new challenges kids face like technology, Internet and gaming. I long for building and keeping a loving relationship with my son and I really resonate with this book!! I highly recommend it!!
chana67 More than 1 year ago
This was recommended by my daughter's school counselor. If I'd known what was inside I never would have bought it. Take this little gem: "Often innocently, girls wear necklines that expose cleavage, or tight, short clothing that reflects current fashion trends. What they may not realize is how it affects developing teenage boys...Middle school teachers repeatedly share stories about quietly pointing out to a student how her clothing is influencing a boy's thoughts and raging hormones." Seriously??? Girls are responsible for boys hormones? Um...nope. I bought the NOOK version, otherwise this book would be going back for a refund.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago