Okay, the word trick sounds desperate. However, I am not above any tactics of desperation if it means getting to spend time with my middle-schooler who now barricades himself in his room unless I’m feeding him breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks… and there are so many snack requests. Luckily, I’ve found some creative ways to lure this pre-teen creature from his den of isolation. Read on to learn how you, too, can find ways to interact more with your middle-schooler.
Tip One: Offer incentives.
Instead of just paying for that expensive art class, robotics course, or basketball program, have your kids earn those special privileges by spending some quality time with you. My middle-schooler and I agreed that I would pay for an expensive sports program for him as long as he committed to a bi-weekly movie night with me. Oh, how I love how he rolls his eyes as he comes downstairs with his pillow and blanket (cell phone, too, of course) and settles in on the couch for a night of Zootopia.
Tip Two: Do something your middle-schooler likes doing.
My middle-schooler likes to play video games, so I sit down and watch him play his games sometimes. I ask questions about what’s going on, but not too many questions! I also make observations about what’s happening in the game. If I dare, I may even say “good job” when he scores points — but remember not to get too excited. Too much energy turns them off BIG TIME!
Tip Three: If they ask for help, help them.
My high-performing middle-schooler has very high standards when it comes to his grades. However, he can sometimes get overwhelmed with all of his advanced placement classes. So I sit with him in his room on occasion while he does his work. I can tell that he appreciates this because he will literally tell me to stay if I try to get up. However, I am not allowed to actually help with the homework because I never know what I’m talking about.
Tip Four: Take advantage of small moments.
I’ve noticed that my middle-schooler really does still like me. He comes down from his room every so often to stand in front of the TV, do the floss dance (which he knows that I loathe), burp loudly, or engage in some other charming behavior. Find ways to express your love for them during these rare precious moments when they are willingly seeking your attention.
About the Author
Erica Whitfield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and over 10 years of experience working with children and adolescents. She is the Founder of Positive Development, LLC, a counseling practice for youth located in Jacksonville, Florida. Erica combines expressive therapies using art, music, physical movement and writing, with evidenced-based therapeutic modalities such as CBT, solution-focused and positive psychology approaches to help children and adolescents process past trauma, transition during difficult life adjustments, form healthier relationships, perform better in school and work through self-harming behaviors. She specializes in providing strengths-based counseling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity.