I worked with middle school students for 10 years and have seen it all. Most of the time, people want to run from these kids because we just don’t know what to do with them.

Middle schoolers are growing spiritually, mentally, and physically. In this growth, they learn things that will shape their identity as adults. They’re ready for childhood milestones.

They explore who they are. This is part of adolescent development and it’s normal. Parents can help shape kids by encouraging and equipping them before adolescence hits. Here are 3 must-do childhood milestones for boys to do before middle school.

1. Pressure Test

As men, we grow tremendously when we are put under pressure. We either will face it and succeed, leaving us more confident and experienced, or we will fall under pressure, leaving us with lessons learned. Boys need to feel some pressure and the weight of responsibility.

A few months ago, I built a treehouse with my oldest son. In the middle of the project, I made it clear that he would drill every screw on the decking. He was nervous at first, but once he realized he could handle it and actually do a good job, his confidence grew. It was hard work with a reward at the end. He is proud of himself and tells every person who comes over that he did it. Boys need a good pressure test before middle school. It provides an example to look back on. Use it later to remind your son of how he made it through. You must find the right test for your boy, set him up for a win, and watch his chest stick out a little further.

2. Independence Try-Out

Independence is a product of trust. The more trust you have for your son, the more independence you allow him to have. And in middle school, boys want independence. They want the freedom to explore but also still want a safety net at home. One of the must-do childhood milestones is giving our boys opportunities to earn trust before middle school. This way, when they ask for independence, you’ve already established the trust you’ll need to give them some. If you wait until middle school, you will find yourselves in conflict. I let my 8-year-old ride his bike to a friend’s house by himself two blocks away….

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Bobby Cooley
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