Complete Guide to Self-Management for Middle Schoolers

With organized self-management techniques, middle schoolers and their adults can learn how to self-regulate their emotions and manage their issues.

Middle school students between the ages of 11 and 14 often have issues managing their emotions, stress, and behavior. Often, they struggle with self-management because they do not have the tools to help themselves. 

Fortunately, self-management plans exist to help middle schoolers learn to regulate their behavior, achieve their goals, and get things done. 

What Is a Self-Management Plan?

Middle schoolers can use self-management strategies to manage their behavior before problems begin. Rather than acting out and needing behavioral corrections, middle schoolers can rely on their plan to act with self-discipline and independence. 

With practice, middle schoolers can internalize their self-management plan and access the tools whenever needed. Children, adults, and teachers can customize the components to meet their needs, but most plans include the same components. 

Goal Setting

Young teens and adults can set small goals together. The goals should be reachable, like “I can put my dirty clothes in the hamper each night” or “I can read for 20 minutes every day.” Eventually, the goals can grow to more significant tasks like “I can turn in my homework.” 

Middle schoolers should participate in creating their goals. Usually, the goals involve doing tasks that students don’t necessarily like. 


To avoid having meltdowns and other problematic behaviors, middle schoolers need to learn to self-monitor. They observe and record using self-awareness skills in a journal by identifying their emotions in certain situations. As they build their behavior record, they start to notice behavior patterns, and they can see where they have strengths and weaknesses. 

Eventually, they begin to recognize behaviors they like or don’t like, and eventually, they respond appropriately without the need for their journals. They become confident in their responses as they learn more self-control. 

Rewards for Positive Behavior

As middle schoolers learn about their behaviors, they should reward themselves when they reach a goal. When middle schoolers receive rewards, they are likely to repeat the positive behavior. 

Parents, teachers, and middle schoolers should talk about rewards. The rewards should match the desired behaviors to reinforce self-monitoring and self-management. For example, kids who turn in their homework for a week could get extra time on the video game console. 

Reflection Time

After a series of rewards, middle schoolers need time to reflect. Adults can ask questions like

  • What inspired you to reach your goal? 
  • What got in your way or slowed you down in reaching your goal?
  • Did the reward help?
  • What can you do differently next time?
  • What emotions helped you or held you back from success?
  • How do you feel after your success?
  • Did you experience any failures? What did you do? How did you respond?

After talking about the questions, look for more ways to improve while talking about success and encouraging more of it. Middle schoolers need to know that failures happen frequently and that they shouldn’t let the failures slow them down. 

Tools You Can Use with Middle Schoolers

Middle schoolers want to be independent, so giving them tools helps them achieve their goals. Without useful little tools, adults find it challenging to teach self-management to middle school kids. 

Time Logs

With paper and pencil or smartphone apps, middle schoolers can record how they spend their time each day. The most useful way to organize a time log is by breaking it down into hours. Some time logs have checklists so that kids can record daily activities quickly. If you use paper and pencil, keep the logs in a binder in a handy location, like the kitchen or family room. 


Checklists create to-do lists for middle schoolers. Each checkmark shows that the middle schooler accomplished a task and is getting closer to completing a goal. 

If they are supposed to feed the dog every morning, that item needs to be on the checklist. Eventually, your middle schooler won’t need a reminder to feed the dog, thus accomplishing the goal and earning a reward. 

Reflective Ratings

Another valuable tool for middle schoolers learning self-management is a reflective rating scale. Self-reflection is a useful tool for learning how to self-regulate. Middle schoolers can use a chart, like a feelings thermometer or a Likert scale, to gauge and measure their emotions. They could also use stickers, like colored stars, to record their experiences. 

Contracts with Themselves

Middle schoolers and their adults can develop contracts about goals, tasks, and behaviors. After writing the agreement, put it in a handy location, like the folder with the time charts and checklists. They can also put them on the refrigerator or another spot they use frequently. 

Once they achieve the goal in the contract, students reflect on the experience and build a new objective. Eventually, they won’t need contracts because they’ll understand how to manage their goals in their minds. 

Wrap up

The middle school years are challenging those caught in the midst of it. With organized self-management techniques, middle schoolers and their adults can learn how to self-regulate their emotions and manage their issues. With daily work and encouragement, middle schoolers can learn self-management tools that help them now and into the future. 


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