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Establishing Boundaries and Following Through With Your Middle School Child

Teenage girl in trouble with parents
Written by Maria


    Lately I have seen many images on the internet of parents who are trying to discipline their children by shaming them publicly on social media.  In this new age of technology, parents are turning to these platforms to publicize their children’s bad behavior in the hope that shaming them publicly will deter them from continuing to engage in these acts.

    One image depicted a young lady, standing in a mall parking lot, holding a sign that stated that she had lied to her father.  Her father stood by her and looked on as mall patrons passed her by on the way to their cars.  Another image depicts a 12 year old girl holding up a sign stating that she posted pictures holding alcohol on social media and therefore would be taking a hiatus from posting as a punishment.  Obviously, the acts of these young people merited some kind of intervention on behalf of their parents, the question becomes whether humiliating them in public will have its desired effect.

    As an educator, specifically one who works with adolescents in Middle School, I have very mixed feelings about using public humiliation as a disciplining technique.  Although I greatly believe in creating teachable moments when young people engage in inappropriate acts, I caution parents of the dangers of walking this fine line between discipline and abuse.  Being embarrassed is the worst thing that could possibly happen in the life of a teenager.  They prioritize not being embarrassed even above academics and even their own families and friends.  This is just another harsh reality of the difficulties of adolescence.

    In these current times, it is difficult for parents to monitor every single aspect of their Middle School children’s lives.  The internet and advances in technology have made this task even more daunting for parents.  As a result, it is understandable that they are looking for different ways to parent and get their point across to their kids.  However, shaming them publicly is not the way to go.

    When adolescents are embarrassed or made to feel ashamed, it can have a very negative impact on their self-confidence and behavior.  Some children will go into a depressed state and withdraw even further from their parents and family.  Other children will act out in order to disguise feelings of hurt that arise from being humiliated publicly.  Another unfortunate outcome might be that they then become targets for bullies at school or ridicule from their classmates.

    The best way to deal with bad behavior from Middle School students is to maintain open communication with your child at all times.  You must demonstrate to your child that they can come to talk to you about anything, including controversial topics or issues.  As a parent, you are not going to like or agree with everything that your child tells you but, at least they will be talking to you.

    If your child engages in activities that you do not approve of it is important that you discuss with them why you are concerned and establish boundaries for what you will and will not put up with.  Lastly, create clear consequences for crossing these boundaries and be consistent by following through.  If you need to take electronics away to prove your point, do so.  Taking away privileges is a great way to establish boundaries with your children and they will respect you a lot more in the long-run.  Remember, this is a difficult time for your child as well and it’s important that they feel your love and acceptance not your disappointment and anger.



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About the author


Maria Castro es la propietaria y editora del blog en el que ella documenta sus experiencias como madre de dos niños, esposa y maestra de escuela intermedia en la ciudad de Nueva York durante más de 10 años.

  • jenna tomaszewski

    Love the picture on the Spanish link to this article. How appropriate as many adults have felt like its a loosing battle with their preteens and teens. I understand the parents view completely and I have  a hard time thinking its okay to tell parents how to raise their children. Who knows the parents you mentioned may have been at the end of their ropes with their child. If that works for them then maybe it can prevent further occurrences. Hopefully if you raise your children with open communication from the start the hard times won’t have to be so hard. 

  • Vera

    Sometimes you feel powerless when it comes to properly setting boundaries for your preteen kids but I believe that keeping a cool head is the best way to set accurate consequences for their actions, frustration is hard to manage and thanks for sharing this great insight, i believe it helps us all, even if you have younger kids you can be ready for the future.