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Middle Schoolers and the Art of Conversation

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Try to get your middle schoolers to talk nice to each other. I double dare you!

two kids arguing

Lori Curley: My middle schoolers have fallen into the most unbecoming habit of snipping at each other instead of conversing. I suppose this is a normal function of middle school dialogue, but it drives me crazy. "How was your day?" I want them to say, but I hear, "What's on your face?" If one of them does manage to ask, "How was your test?" the other replies, "What's it to you, fool?"

I found my husband's Dale Carnegie handbook and I am preparing to hold a subtle workshop for my kids this afternoon. The trick is to slip the principles in without them realizing that they came from some old man who wrote some old book. The first rule is to "Become a Friendlier Person" and there is a list of 10 ways to achieve this new position. Carnegie suggests "Smile" and "Don't criticize, condemn or complain," "Make the other person feel important -- and do it sincerely." These frighten me. I can imagine my vipers reacting to these platitudes. "What is wrong with you, Mom? Maybe you need to be friendlier!" "Yeah," the other will chime in, "why don't you stop criticizing and complaining?!"

Part two of the handbook gives tips on winning people to your way of thinking. Perhaps "Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view" will work. If I put myself in my middle schooler's shoes, I will understand how ridiculous I seem to them. How weird I must seem when I talk to friends or my husband without saying "Duh!" every few minutes. My kids must think we are too friendly, or too easy on each other. Maybe it is we who should learn from them. Maybe tonight when my husband walks in the door I can say "What's with your hair?"

The next section gives more advice. Carnegie tells us to "Expect ingratitude" and "Do not imitate others." So I guess I should nix the nasty greeting for my husband, not stoop so low as to imitate my children. But this begs the question -- if I take this advice, am I not imitating him? I am confused.

He also suggests "rest before you get tired." I think a nap before they arrive is a good idea.

next: Kids Learn from Our Stumbles
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
PMBenfield February 7, 2010, 11:08 AM

Ahhh! Middle schoolers are precious aren’t they? I enjoyed this article.

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