Want to help your sixth-grader with their responsible decision-making skills? Here are some tips that experts suggest.
Define safe and smart choices with your middle-schooler
For example, talk to them about their physical health and the consequences of making irresponsible decisions like smoking cigarettes. Tell them about the impact on their health, like how it would affect their soccer skills or singing ability. Also, talk through alternatives to negative choices. For instance, explain to them that they can always call you or other family members for a ride home instead of getting into a car with someone who has been drinking or using drugs.
Support your middle-schooler's decisions
Support your child when they make decisions you don’t agree with. It is bound to happen in every parent-child relationship. Even if you knew it was a bad decision, take the opportunity to talk with them about it. Try not to lecture; instead, ask what your child learned from the choice, and how they’ll handle a similar situation in the future. If your sixth-grader hurt you or someone else, give them the opportunity to make amends and ask for forgiveness. It’s important to show your adolescent that even if you don’t agree, you will still love him and be there to talk with them. For example, instead of saying, “I told you it was a bad idea to skip studying for that test,” say “Do you think you’ll skip studying next time? What would have been a better choice?”
Bring your middle-schooler into discussions about family issues
By allowing your sixth-grader into discussions like which movie to see or what to have for dinner—as well as more important matters, such as how to deal with issues affecting younger siblings—you’re giving them the opportunity to have their opinions heard. This shows that their opinions matter and that you’re open to hearing about their ideas. This may encourage them to share decisions they have to make about school or friends with you as well.
To learn more about decision-making for your child, check out our sixth-grade decision-making page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.