“Your child’s primary job beginning in middle school is to develop an identity apart from you” (page 38).
This chapter is about encouraging your teen’s growth as a unique individual. By supporting his/her experimentation with different styles and clothes while they figure out who they are, you lessen the likelihood that they’ll take more dangerous risks. From my own personal experience, when I got to junior high I decided I wanted to have short hair. Having never had more than a trim my hair was all the way down my back, and I chopped it all off, shorter than my ears (for the record, it was not a good look). Even though once I was older my mom told me that it made her sad to take me to cut all my hair off because I looked less like her little girl, she let me do it. This is a significant step I remember in our relationship because we bonded over my excitement in choosing my own hairstyle—even if she knew it was one I would look back on with embarrassment.
Your child is dealing with the issue of bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood, which Michelle tells us, is called Identity vs. Role Confusion. “The conflict of Identity vs. Role Confusion is between wanting to be an individual and being confused about your role in the world” (page 43). This struggle is necessary to move onto the next developmental stage: Intimacy vs. Isolation. Not resolving this identity conflict in the teen years can lead to more promiscuity, isolation, and depression than those who develop a solid identity from adolescence.
Michelle suggests positive risks to encourage your child to take to help them find out who they are in the world. A few of her suggestions (page 45) are: starting a new sport, joining a club, auditioning for a play, volunteering, or getting a part-time job.
If your child rebels or takes harmful risks, Michelle offers these three steps:
1.) Express empathy- relate to how he/she must be feeling before you discipline
2.) Be unemotional in your discipline- be firm and direct without tears or anger
3.) Motivate with social reward- your child is more likely to respond to positive reinforcement rather than punishment
Thoughts for discussion:
What are some positive risks you remember taking as a middle schooler? How did your parents respond?
Have you had any success encouraging positive risks with your child (like the ones listed on page 45)? Do you think this could work?
What experiences have you had handling your child’s rebelling or negative risk taking?
How do you handle disciplining your child? Do you think Michelle’s strategies of empathy and positive motivation would work for you?
We love hearing your comments! Feel free to post any thoughts/ideas/reactions to this section of the book. Happy reading!