Q&A What’s Up With My Air-Headed 8th Grader?
Nicole asks on our page, “I am looking for some practical ways to deal with my, for true lack of a better word, air-headed 8th grade man-child. I thought we were coming out of this stage, but lately if I tell him to clean the living room and vacuum, he will clean the living room and an hour later, I realize he hasn’t vacuumed. I remind him, he vacuums, then leaves the vacuum in the middle of the living room.
Everything is like this! We are getting ready to start our homeschool back and I am just not up for babysitting him anymore. It is high time for him to figure out completion, and time management. No matter how many times I say when we are walking out the door, it always comes as a surprise to him. It’s like he’s listening to a song in his head that no one else hears.”
You are not alone! This is very common during the middle school years.
During puberty, the area of the brain that controls the executive functions (focus, priority-setting, problem-solving, etc) literally unravels before it reforms into the adult version. Kids this age are by nature addle-headed and distractible, which is massively frustrating when they could handle those things better a couple of years ago.
Here are some things that might help:
Give him a list. Boys like having something to conquer and like having a set ending to their task. Mine often say, “Just tell me what you expect,” because they want to put their shoulder down and get it out of the way.
Remind him. Again. He really probably doesn’t remember you told him. I know that’s hard to imagine, but it’s true and that brings us to the next part…
Be patient. He honestly has a very real struggle with this stuff – it’s not just laziness or lack of caring. His brain isn’t working the same way it did a couple of years ago. It is annoying, though!
It really is normal and survivable. At thirteen, you sometimes wonder if he’ll ever learn enough to fill out an application to flip hamburgers, much less ever live on his own. At seventeen, sometimes you’ll look at him in wonder that God allowed you to give birth to such an amazing young man. Really.
This is something we talk about in the first session of Boot Camp 9-12, an online series for parents of preteens. It’s really, seriously, a life-saver. I sure wish we’d known these things when our oldest kids were that age! Come join us.
Hal & Melanie