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Navigating the Middle School Years (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 02/02/2015

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Authors Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuña explain how parents can effectively adapt to various challenges they and their children will face during the middle school years. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript



Jim Daly: Cynthia, what's one way a parent of a middle schooler like me (Chuckling), what can we do to have meaningful interaction with our middle schooler today?

Cynthia Tobias: Try to remember to talk to them like you want them to talk to you.

Jim: Oh, kinda like the Golden Rule.

Cynthia Tobias: It's a simple rule of communication, that's for sure.

End of Teaser:

John Fuller: A great insight from Cynthia Tobias. She's one of our guests on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and she has more practical tips for you as a mom or a dad. I'm John Fuller and today we'll explore the middle school years in particular, kids between 10 and 14 years of age and how you can parent them most effectively. And Jim, you and I are both living this kind of season with our kids.


Jim: You know, both Trent and Troy are in the midst of these crazy years and I actually love this age, because it's so fun to see them grow and develop and begin to really make their own choices. You can see their little minds beginning to work. It's not simply telling them what to do. It's also a challenging season, because you know, they're testing the limits and the boundaries. They're trying to figure out who am I in all of this?

And last year we had Cynthia and my lovely wife, Jean on to talk on this topic and we received such an outpouring from you, our listeners, that we wanted to come back to it with Cynthia once again and her co-author of a book that I'll mention in a moment and her co-author is Sue Acuña, who was not able to join us at that time. And let me say, welcome to both of you.

Cynthia and Sue Acuña: Thank you.

Jim: It's so good to have you back. Sue, let me ask you. Now first of all, I think and I don't mean this in an irreverent way, but if I could add a Beatitude, it would be, "Blessed are those who choose to be junior high school teachers." (Laughing) How did you do that?

Sue: And I always say, I get blessed a lot, especially by store clerks when they say, "Oh, what do you teach?" and I say, "Eighth grade." "Oh, bless you."

Jim: Now let me ask you this. Why is that funny? I mean, why do we react that way to say, okay, a crazy adult has to say yes to being a junior high school teacher. Why is that?

Sue: Because everybody knows middle school is a tough age to teach. They're so emotional and they don't always know what they're saying or what they're doing. And so, to figure out the best way to respond to them is just beyond what most adults can do. I think it brings back our own angst from those years.

Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, they are not good years typically. Everybody howls about that time. In your book, Middle School: The Inside Story, you said this right on page five and I'm tellin' you guys, everybody, if you have kids or you have grandkids in this spot, you need to get this book, because it's illuminating. Page five, right there, you said, "These are critical years. Teens who don't have good relationships with their parents during middle school are going to have a very tough time in high school."

And as a middle school parent, that's what grips me, because I see perhaps some of that behavior that is nonsensical that you're talking about Sue, that you see every day in your classroom and you begin to panic. And the pillow talk between mom and dad begins to be, "Are we gonna make it? What kind of kid will this be in high school? I mean, I'm worried." What are those key things we need to be understanding about where these middle schoolers are emotionally?

Cynthia: It sounds silly and probably too obvious, but you really can't afford to take it too personally. I mean, this is what middle schoolers do for the most part.

Jim: You just crushed moms though.

Cynthia: Well, it's a very normal part of development and the three things that we say in the book that middle schoolers want more than anything else is to be listened to, to be understood and to be taken seriously.

Jim: How does a parent begin to make that repositioning after elementary school, which is packin' their lunch, tellin' them what to do, when to get up, when to wash their face, when to brush their teeth, all the chore lists that they've got. Now all of a sudden, you want us to talk to them like an adult almost.

Cynthia: Right. You've got a good illustration of becoming less of a manager and more of a consultant.

Sue: We had a consultant a few years ago come to our school and he gave us advice on what could make us a better school, but he didn't hang around to make sure we did it. And I thought, wow, that's what parents of middle schoolers need to do. They need to give advice and they need to step back and let the middle schooler either follow that advice and be successful or not follow that advice and learn the consequences.

Jim: Now we often talk on this show about that hovering parent and it can be both of them. That adds complexity to this, because it's a hard thing to detach, because you don't think they're mature enough. You just talked about the insaneness of middle school years and how ridiculous, you know, some of their emotions can be. So, as a parent you're sitting there thinking, I've gotta stay close. And you're saying, be the consultant and kind of back up. That doesn't come naturally.

Cynthia: Well, it's like relaxing your grip on the steering wheel, but not taking your hands off the wheel. They still need you. They'll always need you, but how they need you changes through those developing ages, so you can't afford to hang on so tightly, but you can't afford to let go either.

Sue: And like you said, Jim, sometimes parents panic and they think, I need to exert more control. I need to have more limits and more boundaries. Which of course, creates a child who chafes against that, who wants to rebel against that.

Jim: Well, talk to me about that for a minute, because it's natural. Let's say your middle schooler is not getting the grades that you think he or she is capable of getting and you begin to apply more pressure. Now I think some of that probably is reasonable, but there can be a point where it's now, you're taking the responsibility off of their back and you're wearing it as the parent. How do you know when you've gone too far?

Sue: I watch for signs with the child. When I have kids who are cheating, cheating to me is not often a sign of a bad character; it's a sign of a child who's under so much pressure that she'll do anything to keep up the grade.

Jim: Hm.

Sue: Now I ..

Cynthia: Pressure from the parents.

Sue: Well, and from themselves.

Cynthia: Okay, a lot of times.

Sue: But I think if you involve the child, a lot of times parents just make decisions. Okay, you're getting a low grade, this is what's going to change. Much better to sit down and say, "You're getting a low grade; how do you think we need to change it? So what do we need to do differently? What changes do you want to make?"

Cynthia: And remember they're still wet cement and there aren't permanent grades. The permanent grades don't count till ninth grade. That doesn't mean that you let them get by with whatever, but that means that you've got a couple, three golden opportunity years, where you actually have grace. In other words, you can start experimenting with what works and what doesn't work, because you still have a safety net. Until ninth grade, you've got a safety net, so you can sit and you can talk to them and say, "You're having difficulty getting your homework in or remembering what you did. What do you think it would take? What would you like to try as a system to see if it works?" And then that way, if it doesn't work and you fail, we'll try something else, but the failure's not permanent.

Jim: Hm, so often, you know, we hear from parents that on the back end of this. Now their kids are in their 20s, they'll often point back to this time in the junior high, middle school years and say, "I wish I woulda let my son or daughter fail more often then, because they're failing now." How does that apply? What are they really saying in that, when they have the underperforming adult child and they look to these middle school years and say, "Yeah, if I could've done that," what would that look like, Sue?

Sue: I think they realize that they did step in too often and make it a little bit too easy. They corrected assignments before kids turned them in. I've had parents fax assignments in, because kids forgot them. And they realize, they didn't wake up at 18, graduate from high school and suddenly, ta-da! They're a full-blown, independent adult. And so, they wish that they had taken their hands off just a little bit and said, okay, if they get a low grade on this one assignment, it's not the end of the world. If they don't have a lunch to each this one day, they're not going to starve. But by then, now they have to start over and you know, it's never too late, but it's a lot harder with a 20-year-old than a 13-year-old.

Cynthia: I want Sue to tell you the story of the ChapStick mom.

Jim: (Laughing) Okay, the ChapStick mom, what happened?

Sue: Well, it was a student, a seventh-grade girl who got to school and realized she'd forgotten her ChapStick, so she called her mom and her mom, who had already dropped her off and returned home 15 miles away, drove all the way back to school just to bring her daughter her ChapStick.

Jim: Let me guess; don't be the ChapStick mom.

Sue: Don't be a ChapStick mom.

Cynthia: We use that as a code word. You can use that, a code word to remind each other as spouses. You can say, "Excuse me, two words, 'ChapStick mom.'" (Laughter) And then—

Jim: (Laughing) Right.

Cynthia: --and then you can smile and go, "Oh, yeah, sorry. I'm rescuing too much."

Jim: Yeah and that does have detrimental impact over the next four or five years as they go through high school, if you maintain that kind of hands-on parenting. It doesn't get them to the independent place they need to get to, right?

Cynthia: It also doesn't create respect in them, 'cause you know, Sue will say, when the kids talk among themselves going, "That's all right; if I forget it, my mom'll bring it." And you don't want that kind of attitude. You want them to value your time and you want them to understand that you can't just skate along in life and other people will pick up the pieces.

Jim: Let's go back to your three concepts or your three things that the junior high, middle schooler really wants. You said "to be understood." Now as a parent, that can sound oxymoronic, I guess. How can this person that doesn't understand, "Take out the trash," be understood in a conversation with me? Talk about what it means and what you mean by helping your middle schooler feel that they are understood. What does that conversation look like?

Cynthia: One big word, right, Sue?

Sue: Yeah, "empathy."

Cynthia: Yeah.

Jim: Empathy.

Sue: Empathy, when it …

Jim: Play that out. What does that look like?

Sue: Well, when my son was in high school, was in ninth grade, so he was fairly young, he came home from school one day and flung his backpack in the hallway and said, "School sucks and I hate my teacher and I'm never going back." Well, what's a parent's first reaction? Don't say "sucks."

Jim: Right.

Sue: And "You're not okay to hate your teacher and you have to go back to school and you should be thankful for the opportunity." What have you just communicated to your child. Your feelings don't matter. What matters is me and I said, "You do what I tell you."

Jim: How should they handle that?

Sue: Oh, looks like you had a bad day. You seem upset. Somethin' bad happened today? It's what I want my spouse to say when I come home and say, "Oh, I had a terrible day at work." I don't want him to tell me how I should feel. I want him to say, "Well, you had a bad day; tell me about it."

Jim: Huh.

Cynthia: Remember, this is a golden time, too for them. They're figuring out from you, how do adults interact? How do they talk to each other? How 'cause you're the one I'm gonna look for, how does an adult function in the world? And so, if you're talking to them still like they're a child, they're not getting any respect and they're gonna talk back to you, not with the respect that you want either. So, again you try to use your voice as respectfully and you demand the respect. And by demand, I don't mean, "You will respect me." You just stop talking until they can speak back to you in a respectful voice.

Jim: Cynthia, you're the one that wrote the book, The Way They Learn. And you know, that is an outstanding book and there's so much of that, that plays into this. Temperaments is a[n] easier way for me to say it. Parents have temperaments. Middle schoolers have temperaments. And the question is, some people that may have heard what Sue just said, you know, and that way to handle it through empathy, they'll struggle with that as a parent, because doggonit, they're under my roof. You're not gonna talk like that. You're gonna respect your teacher. And it's my rules. And they feel almost like that's a biblical approach, because you know, Proverbs says … and fill in the blank. You're saying that's not a very wise approach.

Sue: Because Cynthia always asks that wonderful question, "What's the point?" And (Laughter)—

Jim: That is right. (Chuckling)

Sue: --the point is, you want your child to become independent, responsible, kind to others and how are you going to get them there? Certainly not by pounding on them with your words.

Cynthia: And remember, you're not saying, "You don't have to if you don't want to." "No, of course, I want you to be respectful. I don't want you to use language like that. I do want you to do your homework." But this is not the time to say it. You want to get there a different way. You're still gonna get there. You're not gonna lower accountability. You're not gonna compromise on behavior. But if you really want results, then you use the empathetic approach to get there and you'll get 'em. If you don't use the empathetic approach, you're not gonna get there anyway. So, is it worth it?

Jim: Yeah, the answer obviously is, that's what I want. You're listening to "Focus on the Family." Today we're talking with Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuña, their book, Middle School: The Inside Story. I'm Jim Daly and let me ask you this. This is that time; there's so much change occurring for that 12-, 13-, 14-year-old. What is the effect of puberty on the mind, the brain chemistry, the emotions? What's going on here? Because they are moving from being a little boy to being a young man or a little girl to a young lady. How does that impact these kids?

Sue: Wow, where do you want to start?

Jim: Yeah (Laughing).

Sue: You could give a whole class—

Jim: Well, you see it every day.

Sue: --and full of them. Right and to begin with, we had a parent who said, "I feel like I'm raising a narcissist, because everything revolves around her." And you know, we can see the physical changes, the growth in height and the change in body shape. And then mentally, they're thinking different thoughts and emotionally, of course, they're all over the place. Spiritually they're starting to ask questions.

So, all these changes are happening and they're very introspective. They just think about what's going on. And they study themselves in the mirror, which is why you can't get into the bathroom. So, that whole self-centeredness, what appears to be "I'm the most important person in my world" is actually, "I'm not aware there's anybody else, because I'm so busy trying to figure out who I am and who I'm becoming."

Jim: Is it a heightened sense of that? Because through elementary school, I'm sure they have that kind of self-centeredness. I mean, a child certainly does. It's about me. Look at me. I'm crying. I need my needs met and my wants met.

Sue: It's …

Jim: Junior high, is it a conflict? Are they beginning to think, okay, there's other people in the pool?

Cynthia: Well, I think that they're starting to realize, wait a minute, I'm not a kid anymore. You know, 'cause even when you're a kid and everything's about you, you're still turning to your mom, your dad. They're taking care of you. And I think all of a sudden, you're switching and you're getting this realization, uh-oh, how am I gonna do this? I'm getting older and things are happening to me and I don't feel like I can go to my mom and dad as much anymore. What am I gonna do?

Jim: When you look at the effect of puberty on a child, as well, I mean, now they're starting to notice each other, boys, girls, etc. What does that look in the classroom, the things they're not telling us, your book, you know, What Kids Tell Us But Won't Tell You. This area of sexuality, it's blossoming. What are they not telling us as the parent?

Sue: That the most important thing when they walk in the classroom is not how will I do on the test today, but how do I look to the other boys in the classroom? How do the girls see me? Girls come to my classroom, drop their stuff off and head right to the bathroom (Laughter), experiment with each other's makeup and check out the hair. And the guys go down the hall and they're all jumping to see if they can touch the ceiling light. And I say, "You know, if you bring that down you're gonna deal with the principal." But they're constantly measuring themselves and comparing themselves to each other and very, very much aware that the other sex is watching them in the classroom.

Jim: What's a healthy way for us as parents to channel that energy?

Sue: The best thing to do is always to hit them head on and talk about what's happening. You know, what have you noticed about the guys in your class? And most of the time the kids will be squeamish. One thing that we found talking to parents is, listen to how the kids are talking to each other. If they're sitting behind you in the back seat with a buddy, listen carefully, but don't make any comments.

Jim: What does that sound like?

Cynthia: Because well, the good thing is, they don't recognize you're in the room, because they're in a bubble and it's all about them anyway. So, if you just clam up, you're driving the car and the kids are in the back, just don't say anything. And they will truly forget you're there. And they will start talking and you will understand better what they're talking about to their friends. It's the weirdest thing, but it actually works that way a lot of times.

Jim: Now this is perhaps the light-hearted side of it, the normal development of it, checking your makeup and touching the lights or the ceiling. But this is also the point where that middle school girl or boy, they don't feel like they're fitting in. I mean, I looked at it with football, 'cause my boys played football this past year. And you had some kids that were 6' tall in eighth grade and you had others that were 3'3" and they had not sprouted yet. And you've got 'em both on the field at the same time. That's a picture of what's happening emotionally for them, too. Some of the boys are older and they have deeper voices. And some of the girls have obviously development occurring and others don't. Those children that aren't developing at the same pace, they're probably very vulnerable to social pressure and what does that look like?

Sue: Well, and it's tough, because at this age they don't have a lot of filters. And so, it's not unusual for them to say something like, "Oh, look at Jim. He's still so short. Look at him next to Trevor. He looks like a child next to Trevor, who looks like a man." And I'm always reminding them, you know, what was okay when you were in third or fourth grade isn't okay anymore, because everybody is self-conscious.

Jim: Is that a good thing for a parent to help that child develop a bit more of a filter? (Chuckling)

Sue: To help the short child develop more of a filter or just to help all children?

Jim: Well, just for your children to be mindful of what words do to each other and that's something Jean and I will work on. Make sure you know what you're saying. You're right, they don't always understand the impact of their words.

Sue: And what that means to a young man who's not as tall as all the others, who is not taken as seriously. There've been studies that show, you know, even in the adult world, taller men tend to have more respect. And so, when you're in seventh grade and you look around and everybody else has hit their growth spurt or at least you think everybody else—

Jim: Right.

Sue: --has hit their growth spurt. That other guy who's your height, he doesn't matter. You start to feel like you don't measure up.

Cynthia: And remember on top of all this, you as a parent, you want to try to do what you can to at least covertly protect their dignity to the best of your ability. You know, because they're gangly. They're awkward. They're running into things. They're spilling things off the table. So that only adds to their humiliation. It adds to their self-consciousness. And so, you want to be sure that, for instance, if you've noticed that your son doesn't smell very good.

Jim: (Laughing)

Cynthia: He's definitely got body odor.

Jim: This is a book for reality, isn't it?

Sue: Oh, yeah.

Cynthia: And you're thinking, well, other kids'll notice it, too and they could make fun of him. But how do you tell your kid, you stink, right? And so, so it's the practical things. For example …

Jim: (Laughing) Well, tell us, how do we do that?

Cynthia: Yeah, go ahead, Sue, she's got a great example of this. First of all, kids didn't know. In Sue's class, this blew my mind, they didn't know what body odor smelled like. (Laughter)

Sue: They asked; "What does BO smell like?" And I said, "It's that oniony, musky smell." "Oh, is that what that is."

Cynthia: They didn't even know.

Sue: "Oh, I smell that a lot."

Jim: (Laughing) I smell that all the time.

Sue: I had a student a few years ago and he was being raised by his grandma and his mom had passed away when he was like 9 or 10. He liked to wear the nylon jersey shirts and those hold the smell in. And so, I pulled him aside. We had a really good relationship and I said, "You know, Tony, sometimes your shirt doesn't smell very good." And he said, "Oh, I always forget deodorant."

So, I said, "Let's come up with a code word." I said, "There's a woman's deodorant named 'Secret.' So, I tell you what. You keep deodorant in your gym bag and I'll keep it in my closet. And if I come to you and say, 'You know Tony, I've got a secret,' that's your clue that you need to go clean up and reapply deodorant. And if you come to me and say, 'Mrs. Acuña, I've got a secret,' I know you're really asking for permission to go and take of things." It was a great system.

Jim: But that's a great teaching point and coming from a teacher. You know, teachers hold a very special place in all students' hearts. I do believe that. And when you have that good relationship that's great. Parents can struggle with that. I think, you know, for us, we were more the direct route, Cynthia, where we said, "Come on, you guys. You gotta smell better than that. Get up there and take a shower."

Cynthia: And it sometimes works that way.

Jim: Yeah, I mean, it did.

Cynthia: But a lot of times, you might want to take again, the empathy approach or the sideways approach that says, "Boy, when I was in junior high, I remember there was this one girl and she always smelled so bad that everybody made fun of her. I always thought to myself, 'Oh, I would hate to be that girl.'" So that's just kind of the little hint, right?

Jim: Right.

Cynthia: Saying, well, I wouldn't want to be that girl either. I mean, you can go in sideways if you need to.

Jim: Absolutely. Let me ask you about parenting role in acknowledging the physical changes. I mean, I think a lot of dads feel awkward with their daughters when these changes are occurring and how does a father appropriately recognize that their little girl is becoming a young lady? And then put the shoe on the other foot for moms with sons.

Sue: I think it's a very self-conscious age and for a father to say, "Wow, you look so gorgeous in that dress, he may think he's paying a compliment and what he's actually doing is making her aware that everybody's looking at her and making a value judgment.

Jim: So, he thinks it's a positive. What should a dad say?

Sue: That's a great color. You know, when I look at you I can see that you're going to be a grown-up someday soon. And just acknowledge that she's changing, but don't put a lot of pressure on her to be beautiful, to be pretty. She's getting enough of that from the world.

Jim: Boy, that's unique, because a lot of Christian dads would make that mistake, thinking we're doing the right thing by lifting up her beauty. But you're saying that can be undue pressure.

Sue: Or instead of putting a big amount of pressure on looks—

Jim: Yeah.

Sue: --say something like, "That's a nice dress; it really brings out your beautiful smile," something that doesn't depend on having to have outside trappings.

Jim: Yeah.

Cynthia: And something else that you might not think about was for instance, Sue has to deal with this at school with the girls who aren't developing equally. And so, there's a popular blouse that everybody wears. That's the top; that's the style that everybody wears. But here not everybody develops, so that one girl has a lot of cleavage showing and the other girl doesn't have any. And so, you tell that story about the girl that you had to give her kinda bad news in a nice way.

Sue: Because at that age, they really aren't aware of what kind of an effect they're having on their classmates, because you know, nobody's noticing how much they're changing as much as the boys in that class. And so, I pulled her out in the hallway and I said, "You know, that's just a really low-cut shirt." And she said, "Well, you know, it's the style. My friend is wearing it, too."

And I said, "But you have to understand that when the boys look at you, that's what they see and I don't want them to look at you and think of you that way. I want them to look at you and think, "What a kind person she is" or "What a wonderful smile she has." And so, you need to be careful and understand, too, that you're sitting down and the boys are walking by and they're taller than you are when they're standing up. And they've got a view of you know, parts of you that they shouldn't be having a view of."

Cynthia: And this is what the parents can say, you know, not the dad, but the mom could notice. Pay attention to what they're wearing and instead of just jumping in, "You're not goin' to school like that," it's that sort of thing where you could say, "You know, do you understand what this does to seventh-grade boys?" And a lot of times—

Sue: They'll go with you.

Cynthia: --they're horrified.

Sue: Yeah, she was so embarrassed. She said, "Can I go put my sweatshirt on?"

Cynthia: She hadn't even thought about it. And so, I think as parents, you don't have to have like the big talk and have a big pressure thing. Little bite-sized pieces, things that come up and you can come again, with a little bit of empathy and a little bit of kindness and a little bit, I'm just gonna protect your dignity. And maybe you didn't realize that.

Jim: No, that's a fantastic way to address that. Can you think of an example for moms with their boys and the changes the boys are going through? Maybe they're looking at things they shouldn't be looking at.

Sue: And that's what you hear in the backseat, when you asked earlier what kinds of things do you hear when you hear the boys say, "Oh, did you see Heather? She's so hot." And I'm always quick to jump into that conversation, whether it's between boys or girls and say, "Let's define what 'hot' means." (Laughter) You know, are you saying that she's very nice looking? Or are you saying that she's very attractive sexually?" "No, no, no, I wasn't saying that." But that's what that word means in our culture, so you need to see women as, you know, your sisters in Christ and not as another magazine article kind of gal.

Jim: You know, we've talked about the physical changes and the emotional changes and (Laughing) you know, some of the humor in all of that at this age. But spiritually, how do we help them understand the world they're in and the hopefully, the heartfelt commitment, not just the lip service commitment, that they'll make to Christ and to a life with Him.

Cynthia: This kind of surprised me a little. I think it doesn't surprise Sue as much, because kids talk to her about it all the time. And just spending this last two years with middle schoolers and I was a high school teacher, so I was always not as eager to be with middle schoolers.

Jim: Probably a bit tougher maybe.

Cynthia: Yeah and I just fell in love with middle schoolers, spendin' all this time. But one of the things about spirituality, when we talked to the kids about spiritual and moral values, they talked more about that than they did a lot of other topics even.

Jim: Interesting.

Cynthia: Because for one thing, they don't feel like they can talk to their parents about it, 'cause they don't want to freak their parents out, you know.

Jim: So, they don't want to be honest.

Cynthia: Right, well, they're thinking, they don't even know why. Many of them said, I'm having doubts about my faith and I don't really know why. And one thing that Sue will tell them, tell them what you say when they are worried about telling their parents about their doubts on their faith.

Sue: Well, I tell them that God gave them that brain. He gave them the power of reasoning and He gave them the intellect. And He's certainly smarter than they are and big enough to handle all of their doubts and questions. So, it's okay to come to God and say, "I don't get this. Why should I do this? I'm angry about this." Because our God is big enough to deal with all of that.

Jim: And it's a real—

Cynthia: Isn't that great.

Jim: --honest answer.

Cynthia: Yeah and they're so relieved. God doesn't worry about you simply because you have doubts. And they're seeking all these ways to kind of personalize their faith. And they ask her these questions and they even asked us when we were together. Why is there God? What if there is no God? And why do we go to this church? And what if I want to go to a different church?

And if a parent is highly defensive and all worried that, oh, no, what have I done wrong, then they're not gonna talk to you about it

Jim: Cynthia and Sue, I mean, we have scratched the surface. There is so much here that we can go into. I want to talk next time maybe about deeper things that are going on, the issues that these middle schoolers are facing. It could be cutting. It can be the emotional distress that you see. Let's incorporate that next time. Can you stick with us?

Sue: Absolutely.

Cynthia: Sure, we'd love to.

Jim: All right, let's do it.


John: Aren't the middle school years complex and increasingly so, it seems as time ticks along? And if you've been intrigued by what our guests have presented, if you found it helpful, you might want to pick up their book, Middle School: The Inside Story: What Kids Tell Us, But Don't Tell You. As Cynthia and Sue have shared, it's very practical and you'll learn to more effectively communicate with your child and turn that conflict into cooperation. Isn't that a good goal? Get a copy of that book at

And let me share a comment we recently received from a young woman named Jasmine. She told us that Focus on the Family had changed her life.


Jasmine: Focus has been a really big part of my life because my parents were divorced when I was in middle school, going into high school. And I found a lot of strength and courage from listening to the broadcast and also finding resources through Focus and in calling them and seeking help. So, it was something that really restored my hope in marriage and family. And it gave me just a biblical worldview and picture for what life should look like, even though I felt like my family life was deteriorating, but I also felt hope because of the work of Focus on the Family.

End of Clip

John: Well, what a great story and when you give to the work of Focus on the Family, you're helping us to come alongside folks like Jasmine and provide biblical advice and hope really. So, please consider making a generous donation today and help us reach more and more people worldwide, through this radio program, our websites, DVD curriculum and so much more. And when you call or go online and make a contribution of any amount, we'll send a copy of Middle School: The Inside Story by our guests as our way of saying thank you. You can make a financial gift to this ministry when you call us. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll have more insights from Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuña about your middle schooler, as we once again, have more trusted advice to help your family thrive.

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More Episode Resources


Cynthia Tobias

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For more than 30 years, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias has been teaching people of all ages how to discover and use the strengths of their natural learning style to succeed in virtually any situation. She is an author, speaker, and the founder and CEO of AppLe St. (Applied Learning Styles). Cynthia's latest books include You Can't Make Me! and A Woman of Strength and Purpose, in addition to her classics The Way They Learn, Every Child Can Succeed and Bringing Out the Best in Your Child. She has two grown sons. Learn more about Cynthia by visiting her website,


Sue Acuña

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Sue Acuña is a middle school teacher with more than 20 years experience. She is also a sought-after speaker for parenting workshops and a mentor for parents of middle schoolers. Sue is co-author of the book Middle School: The Inside Story. She and her husband, Paul, have three grown sons.