The Calvin & Hobbes comic strip does a great job capturing the human condition (particularly with kids and parents) in a variety of ways.

This one highlights the oscillation for teenagers, especially middle school students, in an effort to fit in, blend in, or stand out (which ever action they want to either get noticed, or intentionally NOT get noticed).

It’s funny, because in their quest to figure out the “right” way for them, they do things that are often against their very nature. In this instance, Calvin would rather be bored and look cool, than be his true self and goof off!

While my pointing this out might sound critical it isn’t. It is informational (and funny because we were all there at some point). This action isn’t inherently bad. Middle school students particularly are experimenting or trying out various modes of being in an effort to find out what fits them best. We as parents and mentors need to wisely guide them through these various social experiments, all the while remembering that we were just like this and we not only needed encouragement and wisdom through the tumultuous adolescent years, but also space to try things out.

What I’ve learned as a parent of toddlers is: it’s important to laugh at the silly things my kids do in private with my wife and not in front of them. I’m not talking about silly things they say that are meant to be silly and goofy. I’m talking about things that they do that we giggle about as parents and only another adult will understand.

So laugh at your “cool” teenager (in private), while you give them space to experiment and offer encouragement and wisdom through the process!