Have you wondered why your middle school daughter thinks you’re the greatest one day and then acts like you don’t exist the next? Or, are you scratching your head about why your middle school son is suddenly taking everything you taught him so solidly growing up and throwing it out the window? In short, are you searching for the instruction manual for your middle school youth? Well, I found it, well hidden in the first half of this book:
Middle School Ministry by Mark Oestreicher
Don’t let the title fool you. The first half of the book provides a great summary of the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual development of the middle school youth. And, if you happen to be a youth group leader, Scout leader, or anyone else that works with middle school youth, then you’ll find the second half of the book a pretty good handbook on how to do that better, too.
One approach I find helpful in life is to focus on influence rather than control.
The first step in this approach is realizing that you have a lot less control and a lot more influence than you probably think you have. On one hand, you can hardly control anything or anyone. While we might like to line things up to go a certain way, things just don’t always turn how we planned, because we don’t have control. On the other hand, every time you comfort someone in need or just smile at someone at the street, you are influencing them and potentially having a huge impact on that person and everyone they see.
The second step to this approach is to align your actions accordingly. If you try to control things or other people, then you will often find yourself disappointed. If you are expecting too specific of a result, then you are just setting yourself up for failure. However, if you focus on trying to influence things or other people, then you should find yourself more successful. If you are just looking for a favorable outcome, then you can nudge things this way or that way until you get things going in the desired direction.