20 u Don’t overreact. Middle schoolers often say things for shock value or to “test the waters.” In these situations, it’s best to just listen, stay calm, and not overreact. “So, can you tell me why you want to dye your hair green?” u Have realistic expectations. Children sometimes respond to com- mands or requests in a tone of voice that’s less than pleasant. Chalk this up to middle school moodiness or rebellion. The important thing is that your child does what you say. Expecting a positive attitude is sometimes too much to ask. u Know that your child hears you. Middle schoolers may act like they don’t hear what their parents say, but they do listen. u Don’t be afraid to apologize or to admit you were wrong. Children need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Children also need to learn that it’s important to take responsibility for your actions—and to correct your mistakes when possible. u Be aware of the importance of nonverbal communication. Children aren’t always able to put into words the things they need you to know. It is, therefore, important to pay attention to body language, moods, eat- ing and sleeping patterns, and school performance. These can be good indicators of how things are going at school and with friends. u Offer support. If middle schoolers seem down or upset, often a hug or a few words of encouragement are all they need. If you sense there’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed, let your child know that you’re concerned. If you need help, talk to your child’s counselor or physician. u Don’t embarrass your child. There are cer- tain “unwritten rules” that middle schoolers hope their parents will respect. For example, parents shouldn’t show their children affec- tion or correct them in front of their friends. And when parents are driving a group of kids, they should speak as little as possible. It all boils down to this: Don’t say or do anything that will embarrass your child. u Don’t feel that you need to fix every problem. Often young people just want someone to listen.