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Three Ways to Help Your Middle Schooler Succeed
by Joe Bruzzese
The Parents' Guide the Middle School YearsThe New Year often brings a resurgence of emotional gusto that drives change. Use this energy to instill a sense of responsibility in your middle schooler.

Have You (Really) Chosen to Lead?
Parents guide their children through the twists and turns of life. In addition to putting food on the table, parents take on a leadership role, guiding their children through life's twists and turns. How you lead has a dramatic effect on your family's continued success.

Step 1: Parents Lead?
Do you ever find yourself completing tasks that you know are not the best use of your time, but you want them done right? You have heard that old expression, "If you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself." The expression lacks essential trust in your leadership qualities where the goal is not to do everything yourself, but to inspire, encourage and support others for the ultimate benefit of the group, in this case--your family.

You may need to release your grip on having things done your way, and promote the growth of someone (your child) taking on new responsibilities. In the beginning, you may need to invest more time explaining the task than it would have taken you to do the job yourself. However, this exercise is more of an investment in the person, the process and your family. This eventually frees up more of your time to graduate to a higher level of activity, or perhaps result in a few moments of free time. You may need to ask yourself, "Am I the best person for this task?"

Step 2: Leaders Play in the Bigger Game
Hope is not a strategy for achieving goals. Challenging children with growing levels of challenge ensure that they will persevere and eventually achieve despite adversity. Modeling this process for a child takes time and effort on the part of parents.

The key to doing this successfully is having a full inventory of everything you expect your children to take responsibility for and then to hold ongoing conversations so there is still time to act if an unexpected situation arises. A common exchange that teens have with their parents: Although John, age 14, and his dad (Bob) lead busy lives they check-in on a daily basis to talk about their goals and achievements. Their shared passion for soccer creates a place where they can begin a conversation.

After a short recap of the day's soccer practice or match their conversation segues into John's recent academic challenges. Bob is concerned about his son's progress but knows from past conversations that an advice-filled lecture will bring their conversation to an abrupt end.

Perhaps the following lead-in question would prompt a richer conversation, "How much time will you need to finish up with your projects this week?" Asking John to talk about what he needs, in order to solve a problem, shifts responsibility away from Bob needing to provide a study schedule, and keeps the conversation moving in a positive direction.

With John in control of the conversation Bob also has the chance to share ideas without having his words perceived as advice from Dad. When their conversation comes to a close Bob has a clear understanding of John's goals and his plan for achieving them. John leaves the conversation feeling acknowledged for the effort and responsibility he has taken in creating a plan for achieving his goals.

Step 3: Leaders Improve On Every Situation
The final key to successful leadership as a parent is the family meeting. Scheduling a consistent time to meet with your family allows for an ongoing review of your family's progress. Reviewing progress provides a valuable opportunity for you to talk with your children about how things could be done differently in the future-a learning strategy that results in real change. Each time your family meets, your children build on their past success and consider opportunities for change in the future.

With a renewed focus on building a connection among all family members the traditional family meeting can become an effective tool for keeping families moving forward.

Joe BruzzeseAbout the Author:
Joe Bruzzese, author of A Parent's Guide to the Middle School Years and parent education expert, speaks to parents across the United States offering practical and long terms strategies for overcoming the struggles of the middle school years. Download your free checklist, "Is My Child Thriving or Just Surviving" at www.MiddleSchoolYears.com/list. For information on Joe's work visit www.middleschoolyears.com.

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