Who Has an Influence on Children During Middle School?

Peers, coaches and siblings are influencing your tween, and so are you

Students taking notes in class
Peers can be both positive and negative influences. Don Mason/Blend Images/Getty Images

Your child is now in middle school, and that means a lot of changes. One of the changes parents have the most trouble accepting is the fact that they don't have as much influence on their middle schooler as they used to. It's true, your child is now being influenced by others, but that doesn't mean your opinions, values, and rules don't matter any more. What are the influences on children during the middle school years?

You might be surprised.

Who Has Influence on Children During the Tween Years?

  • Friends: Now that your child is older, friends play a more important role than they might have in the past. Your child wants to be accepted and wants to belong to a group, and tweens know just how difficult it is to be left out or rejected. That means the opinions and pressures of his or her friends are important to your tween now. Be sure you know your child's friends, and welcome them into your home, so you know what kind of influence they might be. Offer to carpool to games and middle school events, so that you can spend time with your child's friends, and understand what's important to them, and determine if they are subjected your tween to inappropriate pressure.
  • Teachers and Coaches: Teachers and coaches do play a role in your child's development and maturity. If your child has developed a close relationship with a teacher or a coach, he or she could positively influence (or negatively influence) your tween. Be sure you take the time to chat with teachers, coaches or tutors so you have a better understanding of what they might be passing along to your tween. A good teacher or coach can profoundly impact your child's life. Be sure to appreciate all they do for your child, and to let them know that you're aware of the good example they're setting.
    • You: It's true, in the tween years friends tend to take center stage, but that doesn't mean your child doesn't care what you have to say. Just the opposite. Your tween still wants to know what you think, and he or she still wants to please you, it's just that your older child is also considering the opinions of others. Share your beliefs and values with your tween, and your expectations for him or her. But refrain from lecturing your child constantly about what you think. That is likely to backfire, and eventually your tween will tune you out.
      • The Media: It's no secret that the media influences a great deal of our children's lives. From what they wear, how they talk, and the music they listen to, the media has more influence on children than most parents would ever want. But that doesn't mean you just cave in and accept it. Make sure you know what television shows your children are watching, as well as the music they listen to. Use any opportunity you can to talk about what the shows mean or are conveying and how your child feels about it. If your child listens to music with profane or violent lyrics, ask him or her how others might feel if they heard lyrics like that, or how those lyrics might influence the behavior of others. You can also use the media as way to begin important conversations with your tween. If you watch a movie that has a character with an eating disorder, you can use that opportunity to discuss the issue with your tween, and to see how your tween feels about social pressures and expectations. 
      • Older Siblings: If your tween isn't the oldest child in your family, there's a good chance that an older brother or sister is an influence on how your child behaves. Sit down with older siblings or relatives to let them know that they are in a position of privilege, and that hopefully, they'll prove to be a positive influence on your younger child. If they think that they can make a difference, they may take their role as an older sibling more seriously. Also, if you enlist their help, they may feel more grown up, and therefor, more likely to provide the example you're hoping for.

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