One of the most offensive yet decent words in the English language is the word “change.” The mention of change has the ability to turn a good day into a bad one. Most people don’t like change because it causes discomfort. Adults faced with change can experience a roller coaster of emotions that include anxiety and frustration. I mean, seriously, who wants to learn a whole new way of doing things when the old way seemed perfect? Luckily, major changes don’t frequently occur in most adults’ lives. However, the same can’t be said of middle school boys.
The life of a middle school boy is change personified. From sixth to eighth grade, boys are changing physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually at an advanced rate. Generally, each middle school boy, no matter what grade he is in, will experience the following:
*Becoming more socially aware and expansive
*Expressing less affection for parents
*Changing of friends due to new schools and change of affinity groups
*Transition from concrete to abstract thinking
*Attachment to cell phone
*Periods of sadness, depression, and desperation which can lead to poor coping habits
*More concern for body image
*Struggling with rejection and fear of being a loner
*The desire to question or disagree with his parents’ beliefs
*Major concern for how God can help him in his daily life
*A struggle to see the relevance of the Bible in his daily life
*A shallow commitment of faith
*Feelings of awkwardness and clumsiness
In sixth grade, boys start to transition from childhood to adolescence; they are hit with a hormone cocktail that initiates puberty and prepares the body to begin the process of adulthood. Wild mood swings are a possible (delightful) consequence to the fluctuating increase in hormones.
In the seventh grade, boys start comparing themselves to other boys who are developing faster than they are. As brand new teenagers, they try on different identities to discover who they are going to be. A desire and need for privacy arises, as do emotional extremes. Acne and other skin-related issues can appear during this time, as well. An increasing curiosity develops within seventh graders; at times, this is expressed through interest in the opposite sex.
Most boys in eighth grade are saying goodbye to puberty issues and hello to the quest for freedom from parents and childlike things. Major changes occur during this year. Sexual desires awaken. Adult personalities become more evident, and students ignore adult lectures, feeling they know better than the adult does. In an effort to discover identity, students progress from curiosity to trying new things. This can be very dangerous, since they are becoming increasingly willing to exhibit impulsive behavior with friends and peers.
So what does all this mean? Simply put, middle school boys are in the process of becoming biological men. They are experiencing a physical and cerebral change that can trigger feelings of anxiety and frustration, just like in an adult. For the middle school boy, change is as frequent as the rising of the sun. They are developing their own beliefs, and they are becoming more concerned about being accepted by their peers. For these boys, the pendulum has swung from being told who they are to trying to discover who they are.
Parents play a huge role during this season of change. Even though most middle school boys become less affectionate and feel like they know everything, they still need parental guidance. If they don’t receive this, then it will be their peers and the world that has the most influence on their development. First and foremost, parents need to be in constant prayer for their boys and their decisions. Place your concerns in God’s hands. Parents need to be okay with defending their faith with their boy, and allow him to feel okay with asking questions. This may be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary.
If you are a parent, make sure there’s more than one godly male influence in your boy’s life to help show how God and His word are relevant. Set and enforce rules and consequences; mood swings may be a result of biological change, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have consequences attached to them. Monitor privacy and cell phone usage. Teach and model selflessness—we have enough narcissistic boys in the world. Make sure you know your boy’s friends, and if you disapprove of one, or some of them, let him know why and end the friendship if needed. No matter what, you as a parent have the most influence on your children. So during this time of discovering identity, if it is your heart’s desire that your boy finds his identity in Christ, make sure your identity is found in Christ, as well.
Brandon Fletcher serves as the Associate Pastor of Preteen Boys at Stonebriar Community Church. He has two years of vocational ministry experience, five years of volunteer ministry experience, and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. Brandon has a huge passion for the family. He believes that all ministries dealing with youth or children should serve as a supplement and not a substitute for biblical parenting, where the option is present.