Middle school students learn to organize, prioritize and communicate less like small children and more like adults. That transition can be awkward, but with encouragement and practice, adolescents can learn personal skills that will pay big dividends throughout their lives.
So, what personal skills do tweens need? A group of teachers, former teachers, and guidance counselors responded to that simple question, and their combined experiences and advice can provide a starting point for parents to speak with their children about what it means to be successful.
Adolescence is a time of new freedoms, but with freedom comes personal responsibility. Successful students take charge of their time and their behavior. They recognize the importance of meeting deadlines, doing their best on assignments and being organized.
Keeping a positive attitude.
Students are bound to find themselves facing things they don’t like at school. But there can be serious consequences for poor attitude and poor behavior. Successful tweens learn to embrace challenges. They refuse to let circumstances dictate how they feel or act. They seek solutions rather than simply point out the problems.
Learning to work with others.
The world is filled with difficult people, and school is not an exception. Personalities and ideas are bound to conflict at some point. Whether in the classroom or in the cafeteria, successful adolescents practice cooperation, diplomacy, and good manners. They understand that working with others means pulling their own weight, leading where appropriate, and compromising when needed.
Goals help maintain focus and give students a way to measure success, so goals need to be achievable and measurable. Students need to know that with effort, they can reach a goal and to learn to easily recognize when they have met that goal. Equally important, goals must be personal. Not every student is going to get an ‘A’ in technology or have perfect attendance. Successful students set personal goals that reflect their abilities and their individual circumstances. Goals can be short-term such as finishing a project on time or long-term such as improving those science grades.
Advocating for self.
As children grow into adolescence, they begin to exercise a measure of independence and may feel uncomfortable having parents step in to resolve a question or problem. Unfortunately, those students may be equally uncomfortable taking on that responsibility. Successful students learn to respectfully address teachers, administrators, and classmates–asking questions, resolving problems, or presenting a differing point of view.
Maintaining good health.
Eat nutritiously; get plenty of rest; exercise daily. Students who take care of their bodies have more energy, perform better in school, and have a better outlook toward themselves and their world. Beyond meeting those basic physical needs, successful tweens are conscious of (but not overly consumed by) personal hygiene and appearance. Not everyone has movie star looks or an athlete’s physique, but a maintaining healthy body-image is another critical element of success.
By these middle years, most kids understand the difference between right and wrong; they know when they have done well and not so well. Truly successful kids routinely step back and look objectively at themselves and their behavior. They recognize their accomplishments and feel proud and personally rewarded for working hard, meeting goals, and “doing the right thing.” They also look objectively at places where they miss the mark and develop goals to improve their work habits and personal behavior. Equally important is their understanding that some problems are not easily solved by themselves or a quick chat with peers. With adolescence come complex physical, social, and academic changes that few preteens are equipped to face without help. Successful kids will seek the help of a responsible and trustworthy adult such as a counselor, teacher, or parent.