Oh, the wonderful middle school years. I use the word “wonderful” with all sincerity. However, “wonderfully challenging” might be a more accurate description. While most of our middle school children experience the challenges of finding their identity through social and physical awkwardness, we parents have the opportunity to teach them and lead them during some of their most important and impressionable years.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:3–4 NLT)

In my parenting experience, the middle school years are some of the most integral for laying a spiritual foundation for our children to build upon for a lifetime of success. As their bodies grow and their voices crack, their minds are often wondering, who am I and where do I fit in? From music styles, to hair styles, clothing styles, and even communication styles, they are searching for their place to fit in like never before, and they are paying attention to things like never before. If your pre-teens are anything like mine, their self-awareness is increasing while their servant-heartedness is inherently decreasing. As parents, it is our job to enlighten our children and to encourage them to take their eyes off of themselves and to focus on the needs of others.

Some of the challenges our middle school children are encountering for the first time are the same challenges they will continue to face over their lifetime. Whether 12 or 62, we all want to fit in somewhere, we want to be accepted, and we want to be successful. In stark contrast to the selfish ways of the world, Jesus shows us a better way to live—through serving. We have the opportunity to teach our children and give them an example to follow like Jesus did for us. Jesus taught His disciples that if they wanted to be great, they needed to learn to be servants. Jesus also led by example as He washed His disciples’ feet. This was unnatural to them. Serving does not come naturally for most of us and so it must be taught, and it must be learned.

As parents, we get to help our children experience the joy of serving along with its importance and significance. We may need to help them find opportunities to serve, while also modeling being servants ourselves. I encourage you to serve at church and in your community; find a way to include your children whenever possible. An immediate way to teach serving is to have your children serve their siblings or a close relative. Serving someone can even be as simple as a compliment or a kind word of encouragement. So let’s be humble servants like Christ, and inspire our middle school kids to serve. They will soon discover that serving others brings true happiness while serving ourselves does not. We were made to serve!

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NLT)