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Teaching Your Middle Schooler How to Be More Responsible

 Teaching middle schoolers how to be more responsible can seem like a challenge, but it doesn't have to be. By working together with your child, you can help them grow to understand the importance of responsibility as well as how they can best balance their own school work, sports, and other activities.

1. Teach Them Responsibility For Their Words

Words have power, whether written or spoken, and this is a responsibility that everyone carries, no matter who they are. Teaching your child about responsibility for their words is something that you shouldn't neglect, and it can be highly beneficial. The classical approach, known as Trivium, which mirrors the natural development of the mind, can be beneficial for helping to teach these lessons.

Divided into three stages -- grammar, logic, and rhetoric -- this approach instructs students to understand the mechanics of language (grammar) while applying logic. Logic is the process by which false statements and contradictions can be examined and removed. Applying these skills to rhetoric, which can be used to instruct or persuade, is the other key step. Consider grammar as knowledge, and its understanding logic, with the rhetoric being the outward transmission of this wisdom. By using this line of thinking, you can emphasize the importance of words,and the power that they can have to help, express, persuade, and harm.

2. Look For Teachable Moments

Teachable moments can be found every day, some in places you never would have thought to have looked. For example, if one of your child's responsibilities around the house is taking the dog for a walk, and they forget, you can sit down with them to better help them understand the significance of this responsibility.

You could say something along the lines of, "These daily walks are important for our dog's health, and you've been doing such a good job with it. It's okay to forget every now and then, but if you need help, maybe we can set a reminder up on a device." This can help teach them the importance of their responsibility while also showing understanding and a willingness to teach and work together instead of punishing or placing blame.

3. Listen to Concerns and Provide Support

If your child is struggling with some responsibilities, such as getting school work done on time, you may want to ask them whether or not there is anything that you can do together to help make it easier. This can help relieve stress -- which can be bad for health -- and it can provide your child with needed support. Make sure to frequently check in with your middle schooler to see how they are handling their responsibilities and if they have concerns. Work together to try and find a better solution so that they can be responsible without feeling like they're taking on too much at once.

4. Consider Accountability

With responsibility comes accountability, so it's important to hold your middle schooler accountable when they aren't able to follow through with their responsibilities. However, this shouldn't be done as a punishment but rather as a teaching strategy. For example, if they've failed to complete school work on time due to distractions, you could start having them turn over their phones after a certain time, or insist that they do their school work at the table when they get home.

Make sure to phrase this as a lesson, not a punishment. You could say something like, "I know you've been having trouble turning in school work because of distractions. How about we try working on your school work at the table together?" This shows that you're not angry but rather willing to help them work through the problem as a team. Although they will lose access to their phones temporarily, it's done in a constructive way.

5. Let Them Practice

Practice makes perfect, and this goes for responsibility, too. As your middle schooler gets older, start having them take responsibility for themselves while still providing support when they need it. For example, 50 million people in the U.S. have acne, with 85% being teenagers. If your middle schooler is starting to experience breakouts, you can help them set up a daily skin routine that can help. Remembering to do it each morning and/or each night will be their own responsibility.

Similarly, four million people in the U.S. have braces, and 75% are under age 18. Braces can be a huge responsibility, and if your middle schooler has them, you can work with them to set up a routine that they will have responsibility for. This isn't to say that you shouldn't monitor them to make sure they are actually doing what they should, but you will need to give them some freedom to look after themselves so that they can learn about responsibility in a hands-on way.

Teaching your middle schooler responsibility can take time, but it's important that you provide support and guidance throughout the entire process. Start small with household tasks and school work and gradually build toward giving them more responsibility for their health and decisions. If you work together as a team and lead by example, your child can learn to be much more responsible without either of you needing to feel unnecessarily burdened or stressed.


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