childhood milestones

3 Must-Do Milestones for Boys Before Middle School

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I worked with middle school students for 10 years and have seen it all. Most of the time, people want to run from these kids because we just don’t know what to do with them. Middle schoolers are growing spiritually, mentally, and physically. In this growth, they learn things that will shape their identity as adults. They’re ready for childhood milestones.

They explore who they are. This is part of adolescent development and it’s normal. Parents can help shape kids by encouraging and equipping them before adolescence hits. Here are 3 must-do childhood milestones for boys to do before middle school.

1. Pressure Test

As men, we grow tremendously when we are put under pressure.

As men, we grow tremendously when we are put under pressure. We either will face it and succeed, leaving us more confident and experienced, or we will fall under pressure, leaving us with lessons learned. Boys need to feel some pressure and the weight of responsibility. A few months ago, I built a treehouse with my oldest son. In the middle of the project, I made it clear that he would drill every screw on the decking. He was nervous at first, but once he realized he could handle it and actually do a good job, his confidence grew. It was hard work with a reward at the end. He is proud of himself and tells every person who comes over that he did it. Boys need a good pressure test before middle school. It provides an example to look back on. Use it later to remind your son of how he made it through. You must find the right test for your boy, set him up for a win, and watch his chest stick out a little further.

2. Independence Try-Out

Independence is a product of trust. The more trust you have for your son, the more independence you allow him to have. And in middle school, boys want independence. They want the freedom to explore but also still want a safety net at home. One of the must-do childhood milestones is giving our boys opportunities to earn trust before middle school. This way, when they ask for independence, you’ve already established the trust you’ll need to give them some. If you wait until middle school, you will find yourselves in conflict. I let my 8-year-old ride his bike to a friend’s house by himself two blocks away. I trusted him and he did a great job. Now that trust is earned, freedom is given. You must look for small and big ways to let boys earn trust and to give them freedom before middle school.

3. Sex Talk

If you do not talk about sex with your boys, they will find out about it somehow—and what they’ll learn definitely won’t be accurate. We have the opportunity and privilege to give our sons a healthy understanding of what sex is. Sadly, I’ve met too many middle school boys whose dads never had the talk with them. One way to start the conversation is to plan a trip with your son. Plan some super fun stuff to do together but carve out time, too, to have the talk. Be honest. Don’t use cute nicknames for body parts and don’t be afraid of questions. When you get back from the trip, be sure your boy knows that the conversation hasn’t ended just because you’re home. Be sure to follow up with him periodically.

Sound off: What childhood milestones would you add to this list?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think are the next big milestones for you and others in the family?”