Three Ways to Help Your Middle Schooler Make Good Decisions

Emily Roman
Over the past few months, the Middle School has been emphasizing academic honesty and C.L.E.A.R decision making as part of our advisory program. Students have had the chance to discuss these topics and process them through role playing. In the coming weeks, students will create their own scenarios that demonstrate C.L.E.A.R. decision making. These “virtue plays” will be filmed and shared with the whole student body.
Academic honesty starts to get tricky during the middle school years, as academic and peer pressures both increase. Also, as pre-adolescents, middle school students are still waiting for their frontal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for decision making) to develop. All of us are often pulled to act only according to how we feel in the moment, even if it is not the best long-term decision. For this reason, our Middle School faculty and staff have been working in various ways to give students tools to make good decisions based on the example of Jesus Christ.

What is C.L.E.A.R. decision making?

This is an acronym used to help students remember the steps to making a good decision:
  • Clarify the decision to be made: Do I let my friend copy my homework?
  • List your options: a) Give them my homework, b) tell them no, c) help them to learn the topic so that they can do the work themselves
  • Evaluate each option: a) I would be helping them to be dishonest, but they would be happy with me, b) I would be honest, but they would be unhappy with me, c) I would be helping them to be honest; they may not be excited about it now, but they will thank me in the long run
  • Act on the best option: I choose option C
  • Re-evaluate your decision to see what you can do better next time: While my friend was irritated that I wouldn't give them my homework, they got to understand the lesson better and did well on the next quiz... and I was honest.

Here are a few ways you can help your child make C.L.E.A.R. decisions:
  1. Help your child reflect on their thinking. Ask your child questions about how they came to certain conclusions or why they feel a certain way about something they told you.
  2. Time Management Coaching. When your child comes home from school, ask him how he plans to spend the afternoon and evening given his various responsibilities (chores, homework, sports, practicing his musical instrument) and what he would like to do (spend time on social media, watch a favorite show, etc). Help him weigh the various ways he could organize his time, encourage him to stick to his decision, and then ask him afterwards how it worked for him. HINT: He probably won't get it right the first time, but it's good to let him fail.
  3. Formative Discipline. Talk to your child about her choices of behavior. If you see her displaying behavior that you are proud of, let her know and ask her how she decided to act that way. If you see her displaying behavior contrary to what you have taught her, help her reflect on why her choice of behavior was disappointing to you. Help her to also to learn that actions have consequences, not merely by explanation, but also by ensuring that a consequence you may give your child (positive or negative) matches the decision that was made.

The middle school years can be challenging for both parents and students, but with the right guidance, they can be a wonderfully formative time. C.L.E.A.R. decisions made during these pivotal years can set them up for success as they move on to high school.

Emily Roman is a consecrated member of Regnum Christi and is a campus minister for the Middle School at Pinecrest Academy.
Pinecrest Academy is a private PreK3-12 Catholic school located in Cumming, South Forsyth, just minutes from Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton and Suwanee. We serve families of all faiths seeking a Christian education for their children. To learn more about our unique educational philosophy, visit our Welcome page.

The mission of Pinecrest Academy is reflected in the word Integer, which is Latin for “whole,” or “entire,” and reflects our goal of forming the whole child as an authentic “Person in Christ.” The school slogan Semper Altius, means “Always Higher,” and challenges our students, parents, staff and faculty to strive for excellence in all areas of Integral Formation® - intellectual, spiritual, human and apostolic.