Two years ago when Colby entered the sixth grade along came a horrendous attitude. I thought to myself where did this come from and where is my child? The attitude came along with the back talking, the refusal to help, and a list and mile long of other things that we got to deal with. We felt at the time the best thing to do was to be more strict and show him that we were in charge and that he needed to be respectful to us… Needless to say this technique did not work. We thought to ourselves this must just be our child going through a rough patch and that we obviously were failing as parents… But now two years later we are faced with the exact same challenges with Chase. We now refer to this stage as the “sixth grade curse”.
In our house we refer to this as the sixth grade curse because as soon as the kids hit sixth grade no becomes their favorite word again and listening becomes optional. Along with that the back talking begins, the refusing to help, and the blatant disrespect. We all think that something is wrong with our child, but it is not; this is caused by our child’s development. You see our kids are growing faster than the brains can develop which causes these types of behaviors because they are unable to adapt to the growing body and mind. There development is telling them they are older, but they are not capable of dealing with all the changes. Will kids overcome this? Yes. And we have discovered things that word to help us all deal with the situation a little bit better.
Don’t Rule with an Iron Fist. When we went through the curse the first time our initial reaction was to rule harder and be more direct with it; I think that is most people’s first reaction… This just caused more contention and more rebellion. Doing this just makes things worse.
Show them an increase of love. I know this seems a little hypercritical. Why would I show my child more love when they are treating me like this and causing me so much anger? But here’s the thing, they are acting out and they don’t really know how to control it. They need your love, they need your attention, and so it might as well be positive attention through love! Every night no matter how “awesome” Chase is at bed time he still wants to be tucked in, stuffed animals (yes, don’t tell anyone) with a hug and a kiss and if we forget any of it… He let’s us know. J
Listen More. When Colby went through the curse there were days where we would ask him something and he would just stare at us as if we had rocks in our head. Again, we were irritated and mad, but over time we just learned to ignore it because we didn’t know what else we could do because disciplining him didn’t solve the problem and it just made my husband and I have a miserable for the rest of the night. One day he came out and said it, “Mom, why do you guys ask dumb questions? Why do you ask things you already know the answers too?” Right then and there we realized he wasn’t answering us because he felt like what we were asking was dumb. Was it disrespectful for him to not answer us? Yes… but in his mind he felt like he shouldn’t have to answer because we already knew the answer to what we were asking. We listened to him and readjusted what we talked about and he began answering us 100% of the time.
Connect more I am not a huge go out in the yard and play football, basketball, or baseball kind of girl, but the boys love this. Ty is not a big fan of video games either, but you know what? I go in the yard and play with the boys and he goes upstairs and plays Madden. Why do we do this? To connect with the kids. The more we connect, the more the attitudes disappear and turn towards love.
One on One time Some of the best chats I have with the kids are when it’s just one of them with me while driving somewhere. This is when they open up and really talk. When these talks happen they are happy and “normal” again and when we get home there mood is better and we lose a little bit of the six-grade curse. Kids need to feel special and we allow this to happen through time just with them.
Be Present and have them Present When we are going through this phase being around each other is crucial, even though it may be hard. They might want to escape and play on their electronic devices or play video games by themselves, don’t let them do this all the time. Be present, have them play on these devices in the living room so you can chat and interact. Moms and Dads, this also goes for you… When we are constantly connected to the digital world are we as present as we should be? Are we tuning out our kids when they need us most? Are we giving them the “uh huh” answers to let them think we are listening? If we are we should probably readjust.
Say yes more often. Yes, I know. You’re jaw probably dropped a little when you read this, but it is true. Our kids are getting older, they want to do things with friends, they want to ride their bike around the neighborhood, are you saying yes to these things that cause no harm? Or are you saying no just because? My kids have asked numerous times to do things that I have said no to when I should have said yes. Over time I have tried to let them do more by saying yes to good things they want to do. Was leaving 5 minutes earlier for practice going to kill me? No. Was having milk at dinner a huge problem? No, and we had plenty… The more we say yes, the more meaningful those no’s will be, so when we actually say no they will no it is a solid no, rather than negotiable by pushing my buttons.
Through these ideas we have managed to get through the sixth grade curse with our first and we are getting through it with the second. Do these ideas immediately solve the problem? No, they don’t but they help us get through the problem and help us connect more with our child and help them overcome this difficult life stage they are going through.
Have you dealt with the “Sixth grade curse”? How did you handle it? What have you found that works?