Junior High age kids are the most difficult to parent, in my opinion. They are old enough to want and need more responsibility and more freedom, but too young to allow me to be comfortable in letting them loose on the world unsupervised.
It is a long walk on a frayed tightrope, for sure.
You do have to allow them freedom, and realize that they are going to mess up once in a while. Your child needs to know that you recognize that he is growing up and more mature.
The real concern for me was their safety. At 13 or 14 they are still not too old to be preyed upon by unscrupulous people, you know? For me, the answer has been in a group mentality.
I am not so uncomfortable with my 12-14 year old heading to the movies or the mall with a group of his friends. There is safety in numbers, and a serious problem is less likely when there are several kids together.
Staying home alone and babysitting are two more significant issues. My kids rarely have an opportunity to stay home alone because with a large family, there is almost always someone home. However, I have left kids as young as 10 home alone for brief periods of time.
I do not think it is a great idea to let kids have friends over when adults arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t present Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and honestly that is the rule that stands until my kids leave home. I allow a few exceptions with my older kids if I know the friend very well.
I know that peer pressure is hard to resist, even as an adult, and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want it to be a problem that causes one of my kids to do something dangerous or stupid.
Babysitting is an entirely different thing. When I was a kid, I was allowed to babysit at age 10, but it was for the next door neighbors.
Babysitting for people you know is reasonable at age 12, especially if they are in your neighborhood. I try to wait until 14 before I let my kids babysit for someone I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know really well, or someone that lives more than a half mile away.
Then there is the dating thing. I am always amazed that kids pair up as early as they do. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t allow dating in the traditional sense Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and my kids never really date anyway until after they are 18. They do go places and hang out with a group of friends, which I feel is much healthier anyway.
Obviously, for me, a group mentality is the key.
When it comes to personal freedoms like picking out clothing, shoes, and establishing a personal style, I try to guide without controlling. I do try to give kids as much freedom to experiment with their Ã¢â‚¬Å“lookÃ¢â‚¬Â as possible at this age. Hair, make-up, and clothing (within reason) are areas where kids can begin to establish their freedom.
What are your rules for middle schoolers? How do you give them freedom without giving them more than they can handle?