Our family loves roller coasters!
The higher they are and the faster they go, the more we enjoy them.
We’ve not met many coasters that we didn’t like.
However, on one of our treks to a large amusement park in Virginia, we chose a rollercoaster that may have been a little too much. This particular roller coaster had a very short line waiting to ride. So, we jumped in line thinking we had just timed our visit well.
The ride started out great and was much fun on the first few turns. But, as it progressed, we were tossed, turned, spun, and churned.
For what seemed like hours, we were put through a course of corkscrews, dips, turns, loops, and more. As we exited that crazy roller coaster, we were exhausted and so glad to be off of the ride.
Evidently, everyone else had a similar experience with this particular rollercoaster because the line to ride it was always short.
That particular rollercoaster is much like raising middle schoolers.
Babies, preschoolers, elementary children, high schoolers, and even young adults are more like riding regular roller coasters. There are highs and lows, dips, curves, and turns, but these stages of parenting are a little more predictable and manageable.
They are in a class all by themselves.
And, much like riding that crazy roller coaster in Virginia, parenting middle schoolers will put you through a course of corkscrews, dips, turns, loops, and more. You will likely be tossed, turned, spun, and churned.
Similarly, you will probably be very glad when you get off the “ride” of parenting middle schoolers and likely hope to never “ride” that stage of parenting again.
But, not everything about parenting middle schoolers is hard, bad, and difficult.
In fact, there are some surprising JOYS of parenting, teaching, and working with middle school kids.
I had the opportunity to teach middle schoolers in the school classroom for several years. Some of these insights are from my time teaching 100’s of kids. I’ve also called on the help of a few friends who are currently raising middle schoolers.
My friend Gay Edge, longtime teacher and principal shares this insight:
“I have worked with middle schoolers as a teacher and as a principal for nearly 40 years. They are so fun. Every day is a new day. You can see the light bulb come on in their brain as they discover more of the world around them.
They are not too cool to talk to their teachers but can work independently. They are forming their worldview so there are such great opportunities to disciple them and to teach them that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.”
Here are 10 Surprising JOYS of Middle School Kids:
Surprising JOY #1 – They GROW UP so much during this season!
Middle schoolers come in all shapes and sizes. They all grow and grow up so much during these grades.
Mom Holly McBerty shares, “One of the absolute best joys is when your son outgrows you. Seems silly but my son loves to show me how much taller he is than me but loving up on me! He’ll wrap his arm around me just to show me how much taller he is than me. I’ll take hugs from my 14-year-old anyway I can get them!”
Surprising JOY #2 – They are lots of FUN!
Laughter (and tears) are a big part of middle school. In fact, emotions are at high-alert status during these grades. Parents can try to enjoy the fun and the laughing moments as much as possible with children this age.
“Middle school boy humor is always interesting, but it’s become a little endearing to see my teen be able to laugh with his father and relate on more of a “man” level. Not that I get their sense of humor most of the time, but it is neat nonetheless!” shares mom Lori Schumaker.
Surprising JOY #3 – They are so HONEST in telling you how they feel about you!
For the most part, middle schoolers will tell you how they feel about you, their school work, each other, and life. They may not be straightforward about what they are texting, writing, or doing, but they tend to make their feelings known about the adults in their lives.
As a middle school teacher, I would always know how my students felt about my hair, my lessons, my outfit, my new glasses, and pretty much everything else. They weren’t mean, but they didn’t try to hide their true feelings either. If middle schoolers don’t like or appreciate something, you will know it!
(In fact, I should probably go back and thank those kids. I dressed better, taught better, and learned to relate more genuinely after spending so much time with them!)
Surprising JOY #4 – They start developing their own FAITH!
Mom Jennifer Shackelford remarks, “I love watching him figure out who God wants him to be.”
Lori Schumaker shares, “I’ve also enjoyed witnessing his faith play out in his life. He was always comfortable speaking of Jesus and praying out loud, but now I’ve seen him take it a step further and initiate prayer within larger groups such as a new basketball team where all of the participants were not even believers. His comfort and ease as a spiritual leader is a blessing.”
Surprising JOY #5 – They begin to figure out their PASSIONS!
In most schools, middle school is the season when our kids get to join the band, the glee club, or the football team. This is a stage when children begin to figure out what they like and don’t like.
“I’ve really enjoyed seeing my son take the initiative in pursuing his passions. It changed from Mom’s reminders to get in those extra free throws, eat healthy, and take care of yourself, to my son doing those things all on his own. Now he’s asking me if he can get up extra early to fit in an extra workout!” shares Lori Schumaker.
Surprising JOY #6 – They start to become more INDEPENDENT!
Middle schoolers can take on so much more responsibility. They are smart, capable, and moving toward young adulthood. Parents can often begin to allow middle schoolers to be responsible for their own homework, schedules, and chores.
Holly McBerty shares, “One of the joys at this age is realizing they are somewhat self-sufficient!”
Surprising JOY #7 – They like to TALK to you about the coolest stuff!
As kids move into these middle school grades, the conversations go to a whole new level… a deeper level.
Jennifer Shackelford remarks, “When my son entered middle school our relationship changed. We are now able to talk about deeper subjects instead of our time being spent meeting basic needs.”
Valerie Murray shares, “My most cherished moments with my middle-school daughter have been when she sneaks into my room when she’s “supposed to be in bed” and we end up having heart to heart conversations about life and God.”
Surprising JOY #8 – They become YOUNG ADULTS right before your eyes!
It’s almost like a magic trick. Children will enter middle school as sweet, little 6th graders and exit as taller, more mature 8th graders headed toward high school. The metamorphosis is amazing.
“He is literally turning into a young man right before my eyes,” shared Jennifer Shackelford.
Surprising JOY #9 – They are SO OPEN to encouragement!
As a middle school teacher, I found that these kids readily responded to words of affirmation. In fact, I don’t think there is a season in a child’s life when they need to hear encouragement more than when they are in these middle school years.
Coaches, teachers, parents, grandparents, and church leaders can greatly impact kids at this juncture in their lives. This may be the BEST time to influence and encourage a child toward Christ.
Personally, I am one who came to Christ, was mentored, was greatly encouraged, and chose to follow hard after the things of God because of the adults and older friends in my life DURING middle school. I’m so grateful that people took the time to affirm and train me when I was most teachable.
Lori Schumaker echoes this idea, “It was a joy to watch my son recognize when friends were turning toward things that didn’t align with Christ, he chose to separate himself from that. He realized that friends will change, but God will always stay the same.”
Surprising JOY #10 – They will ENTERTAIN you if you let them!
Middle schoolers are a whole lot like preschoolers – only taller. They are curious, fun, interesting, and they can run the game of emotions—often in about an hour.
As a middle school teacher, I was always entertained by these children and their crazy moods.
As a parent, it was usually possible to find a little humor in their changing moods as well.
Mom Julie Meeks shares, “The joy of parenting a middle schooler (for the third time) is knowing it’s like a fashion fad, short-lived. When you’re in the throes, it feels like it will never end. About the time you think you’ve figured it out, it fades away and they move into high school.”
Holly McBerty shares, “There are times where I want to strangle my son and there are times when my heart is bursting with joy – sometimes within the same hour. But, I’ve learned that parenting isn’t for sissies! Lean on your fellow parent friends – we’re all in this together!”
And, you may want to check out these previous parenting articles for other age groups: (Just click on the title to access each article.)
- JOYS of Young Adult Kids
- Praying for Young Adult Kids
- JOYS of High School Kids
- Praying for High School Kids
- JOYS of Middle School Kids
- Praying for Middle School Kids
- JOYS of Elementary Children
- Praying for Elementary Children
So, do you have middle schoolers??
What are some JOYS at this age for you?
What are some of the challenges you are dealing with?
Can I pray for you and your kids about something?
I always enjoy hearing from you!
*Special thanks to the amazing moms who contributed to this article! You ladies are wonderful friends, and we really appreciate your insights. Thank you, Lori Schumaker, Valerie Murray, Gay Edge, Jennifer Shackelford, Holly McBerty, and Julie Meeks.
**And, would you do me a favor — if this article has encouraged you today — would you share it with someone else?
Maybe you can send it to a friend or family member?
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