Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not Much Just Chillin' - Book Notes

Some of my notes from Not Much Just Chillin' : The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers by Linda Perlstein. A pretty important book to read if you are around middle schoolers much, or as in our case, you have kids near that really fun time of life. If the thought of middle schoolers, as in being around them or parenting them, scares you a bit, this book will scare you more. Luckily for us, the middle school profiled in the book is right around the corner from us. Dear God, if you keep our kids from going to that school, I will going on a missions trip... oh wait ...

p. 5
A few of the parents have even read what little ‘literature’ is out on middle schoolers. They’ve learned that their children are about to go through the greatest period of physical and emotional growth, after infancy, that humans experience – years during which no significant part of themselves will go unchanged. They’ve read that the irresponsibility, the selfishness, the boredom their kids are about to exhibit are signs of progression, not regression – no, really. They’ve read to expect contradictions: Children start to fix their values and figure out who they are independent of their families, at the same time they are too timid to set themselves apart as individuals. Twelve-year olds are eager to turn everything into arguments but don’t have the cognitive skills to win them. They are at once submissive and defiant, idealistic and materialistic.
p. 121
...the brain’s emotional and logical control centers are engaged in a tug-of-war. The frontal lobes managing memory and learning also manage emotion, which, being the more developed skill at this point, wins this battle every time. If you’re sad that you rarely see your mom or dad, those emotions literally shrink the space available for your science test.
p. 99
If the Wilde Lake principal could have one wish, it would be for parents and teachers to resist a distance that seems inevitable and draw nearer to their middle schoolers instead. With parents of preadolescents immersed in their own worries … it can be tempting to indulge the "Leave me alone."
But look close, Ms. Thomas says, and you'll see that these budding adolescents, for all their bluster, are still needy children. A better way to think of a preteens changing relationship with her parents is as a reorganization, not a rejection. Wanting to be independent is not the same as wanting to be left alone. She wants to explore; she also wants a safe harbor.
So, I'm reminded that middle schoolers sometimes don't know why they act the way they do, which is sort of reassuring. I'm also reminded that the middle school years is a time of huge, huge change. Change is difficult. And I'm optimistic, both for my own kids and the middle school kids we all know and love. Because change usually equals opportunity.

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