how to help your child succeed in middle school

How to Emotionally Equip Your Kids for Middle School

Whoever said that sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you either never has taught in the public school system or has never been in middle school. I can’t remember everything my teachers taught me in school, but I can remember every time a mean child teased or taunted me. All parents want to prevent that for their kids. We all have memories that make us want to learn how to help your child succeed in middle school.

Having been an educator prior to my first child’s birth, I had a front-row seat to how emotionally devastating middle school can be for some kids. So, when my son was in the fifth grade, I taught him a tool that prepared him for the inevitable emotional challenges of middle school, like peer pressure, rejection, fear, taunting, and teasing. You can teach your kids this tool, too.

I called it “Martin Mantras.” They are sayings or affirmations I wanted my son to remember to use for strength to stand up to others and for himself—sort of like a “break and use in case of an emergency” life tool for middle school.

I know from personal experience that growing up in a less than ideal home can be very traumatic if you don’t have strong role models in your life and you’re not considered “normal” by other children’s standards.

If you were unlucky enough to be too small, too tall, too skinny, too fat, too proper, too country, too smart, too dumb, too religious, too ugly, too dark, too pale, too developed, too clumsy, too poor, too rich, or your name sounded too funny, you could find yourself constantly under attack by other children. So, I knew I had to teach my son, and later my daughter, how to be stronger than any words others could use against them (even teachers).

To prepare my children for the inevitable teasing, taunting, worry, and self-doubt they would experience in middle school, I equipped them with the following mantras to help strengthen their character. I encourage you to create, correct, borrow, or even change any of them with your middle schooler. Here are ours.

“If I do my best, God will handle the rest.” – To let them know that regardless of the outcome, success has more to do with their effort and attitude than their performance and results.

“Even if I fall, God controls it all.” – To let them know that failure is not final, and even their losses carry lessons if they’re willing to ask God to reveal them.

“If I lie, God will always deny.” – To teach them that good things come to those who tell the truth, not lie.

“No matter what people say, God loves me anyway.” – To remind them that the opinions that matter most belong to the people who love them most.

“Whenever God tells me how, I must obey now.” – To always do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, even if it’s unpopular.

Be intentional about teaching your kids how to affirm themselves even when their peers won’t.

Again, you don’t have to use these or even agree with them all. But be intentional about teaching your kids how to affirm themselves even when their peers won’t.

As my children got older, they thought these mantras were kind of cheesy. But they never forgot them. They can recite them verbatim, even today. As cheesy as this tool is, my son is graduating from college and my daughter is graduating from high school this year. The Martin Mantras accomplished their mission of helping my kids survive the middle school years and stay drama-free and emotionally healthy.

Sound off: How are you teaching your kids to affirm themselves?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Has anyone ever said anything to you that has affected your self confidence?”