It is the late afternoon on the Friday after Thanksgiving and Sally is dressing for the 8th Grade Thanksgiving
Harvest Dance at her middle school. She has anticipated this event ever since she watched her older cousin
conduct the similar ritual four years ago prior to her Harvest Dance. Sally's preparations have occupied most of
her waking hours for the past several weeks. Mind numbing effort went into the selection of the dress, hairstyle
and jewelry that she would wear on this evening of evenings.
Dozens of phone calls between and among her friends have been part of the ritual over the past weeks as
critical decisions were made regarding how and when they would make their arrival at the dance. In Sally's mind
this event was - quite possibly - the most important and significant event in the history of humankind.
mirror, he stops and innocently asks, "Why are you so dressed up, Honey? You look terrific."
"It's the Dance, Dad. Tonight's the Dance. Jenny's Mom is picking me up at 7:30."
"What? Tonight? I knew you were going to a Dance this weekend, but I thought the dance was tomorrow night.
"Oh, Sally, I'm sorry. I had no idea that the Dance was tonight. Grandma and Grandpa are going to Europe next week and - as you know - they always like to get together with the family before they take a big trip. They are coming here for dinner tonight\u2026along with all your cousins. You have to be there. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that you can't go to the Dance."
"BUT, DAD, IT'S THE DANCE."
"Honey....it's only a dance...there will be plenty of other dances."
With that final statement, Dad confirms to Sally that he is indeed the buffoon that she thinks he is turning into!
MIDDLE SCHOOL KIDS ARE MANAGED BY THE MOMENT...they have no past....no future....the event or incident
that is currently occurring in her life AT THAT MOMENT is the most important occurrence since time began.
When a middle schooler says, "Becky is mad at me and is not going to invite me to her pool party...my life is
over!!!"\u2026she means it.
It is critically important that , as adults, we understand this basic tenet of child development. It explains and
clarifies many of the puzzling behaviors that we see from middle schoolers. The anxieties, over reactions, fears
and tantrums become more understandable when we recognize that their chronic "present orientation and
fixation" make it impossible for them to establish an adult-like perspective on the events in their daily lives. Dad
Perhaps Sally should be required to attend the dinner with her grandparents. But Dad should have been far
gentler and empathetic in delivering that news to her. Perhaps a compromise (stay for the appetizer course and
then arrive a bit late for the Dance) could have been negotiated.
I know a lot about Middle School kids. We raised three kids through that minefield and I have worked with
middle schoolers for over thirty years. I have read volumes about this intriguing life stage and have attended
countless related courses, seminars and workshops over the years.
However, some of the most interesting insights that I have gained about preadolescents have not come from the
fields of education or psychology. I have long been intrigued by the mountains of middle school research
conducted in the fields of ADVERTISING and MARKETING.
Consider. It is the goal of advertisers to analyze the interests and affinities of middle schoolers in order to design
and promote products for this subgroup of customers. Toy companies, clothing firms and the entertainment
industry are constantly monitoring preadolescents in order to determine the most effective ways that they can
sell their wares to this age group. As educators and parents, we would be well advised to become aware of this
research as it analyzes the habits, interests and concerns of middle schoolers. Advertising - like Teaching -
focuses on MOTIVATION!!!
Boys at this age are extraordinarily interested in competence and skill development. They want to be "really
good at something". This explains their near obsession with mastering video games or sports skills. This mastery
provides much-needed power and independence.
Boys also are intrigued by any battle between "good and evil". They are generally view the combatants as "all
bad" or "all good" and have little tolerance for ambiguity. Movies (Star Wars, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) and
popular products (GI Joe, etc.) reflect this simplistic view of life.
Middle school boys are, frankly, quite "gross". Their fascination with bodily functions reflects their desire to have an interest that is puzzling to their younger siblings...and repulsive to their older sibs and the adults in their lives. Advertisers recognize that - if it's gross - it sells( Ren & Stimpy, Garbage Pail Kids, etc.)
At this age, boys can be quite silly and may find side splittring humor in pranks, jokes and stunts that adults find mindless. This is a natural aspect of their development and should be understood and tolerated by the adults in their lives. In the words of humorist Roy Blount, Jr.:
"When you look back on your childhood, you come to realize that your most enjoyable activities were ones
wherein - if an adult were to come by when you were doing it - the adult would say, 'What in world are doing
Another significant interest of middle school boys is bravery. The preadolescent boy may seek out opportunities
to demonstrate his courage by taking risks or accepting dares. The worst reputation that a boy can acquire is
that of a "chicken".
The interests of girls are significantly different. Candy necklaces and kiddie cosmetics demonstrate their budding
interest in beauty. They enjoy exploring art and crafts and may spend endless hours drawing, sketching and
Girls begin demonstrating maternal instincts during preadolescence as demonstrated by their desire to care for and nurture their friends, pets and others. The Cabbage Patch phenomenon of the 1990's is a good example of this.
Girls, like boys, can also be quite silly at this age and may engage in activities and conversations which may
seem mindless and unduly time consuming. The ritual of "you hang up first....no YOU hang up first..." at the end
of a phone call can occupy countless "wasted minutes". Mastering and competence are also of significant interest
Use your Facebook login and see what your friends are reading and sharing.
Now bringing you back...