So my eldest child is now in middle school, and as someone who did not go through the American system for that span but who does have a husband who thinks it’s the most formative experience of a child’s life, it has been a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least, to watch my little fledgling fly. We try to rear him well at home but, let’s face it, navigating tricky middle school relationships, fueled by hormones and kids’ experimentation with social dynamics, is stuff we can’t guard against, and for the most part shouldn’t. As this book reminds us, learning how to handle complicated relationships as a teenager sets you up, hopefully successfully, for adulthood.
But who couldn’t use a guidebook in that endeavor? Enter the American Psychological Association and their newest series of books aimed at middle schoolers (and only coincidentally their parents.) The first in the series is the very relevant How To Master Your Social Power In Middle School. Written in a lively conversational style, with a hybrid pictorial format a la my eldest’s favorite Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series, this is an easy-to-read self-help book for kids struggling to understand why other kids are suddenly so mean to them in middle school and, most importantly, what to do about it.
The book is formatted clearly, from an explanation of what social power is, what good and bad examples of it are, then steps for dealing with the problem of being on the receiving end of social imbalance. It assumes, ofc, that the reader is not the one being the colossal jerkface, and outlines not only how to stand up for yourself but also how to rehearse for such (in a very cute chapter about role-play that I can totally get behind.) It encourages confidence and self-belief, and instils not only the seeds of assertiveness and proactivity but also the knowledge that you don’t have to be friends with kids who are terrible.
And I love all that. I escaped my adolescent years with my self-esteem intact, in large part because I believed in facing my fears and not giving in to self-doubt or peer pressure. I truly want that for my kids. As a way to stand up to kids who aren’t exactly bullies but are definitely on the meaner side of the relationship spectrum, this book is an invaluable resource.
What I didn’t love were the weird metrics for self-control casually inserted into the text. Like, kids who have a good locus of control are more likely to grow up to be adults who aren’t overweight or depressed, as asserted here? Um. I imagine that the studies used for these were carefully controlled for other factors, but that just seems like bad science to me. It honestly made me a little uncomfortable, this intimation that depression or weight gain are tied to self-control and not the chemical changes that many of us can’t help as we age.
Anyway, that was my only critique of this otherwise helpful handbook to navigating the socially treacherous world of middle school. I enjoyed reading it a lot, and my eldest peeked into it from time to time, tho he hasn’t yet had reason to worry about experiencing the contents yet. I’m just glad that I’ll have a valuable tool for helping him out should the need arise!
How To Master Your SOCIAL POWER In Middle School: Kid Confident Book 1 by Bonnie Zucker & DeAndra Hodge was published August 30 2022 by Magination Press and is available from all good booksellers, including