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A Parents' Guide to the Middle School Years

© 2009, Ten Speed Press, A Random House Subsidiary


"I could have used this book with my first one. I'm glad to have it now. So much has changed in the last few years with the online world. Great answers to my most frequent questions." ~ Carol, two-time middle school parent

“Selective memory probably vaporized the details of your sixth to eighth grade experience. To parent effectively through these years you need to understand twenty-first century middle school reality--the academic challenges, packed schedules, social stressors, and nonstop intrusion of digital media. You’ll also need the terrific twenty-first century coaching techniques provided in this book.” ~ Annie Fox, author of Too Stressed to Think? and the Middle School Confidential™ series

"This book is full of valuable information concerning today's kids as they take that major step into middle school. From dealing with bullying to organizing their lockers - to adjusting to changing classes and teachers several times a day, entering Middle School can be overwhelming for many kids. If you have a child that is entering Middle School this fall - this is a must read for you - great summer reading! Being prepared is the first step to helping your child have a successful academic year." ~ Sue Scheff, author of Wit's End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen

“Bruzzese’s perspective into the teen years is dead-on! He covers all of the hard-hitting topics and brings up many new issues that parents need to be aware of. Bruzzese gives advice not only to help ease the transition into middle school, but also to help families tackle the teen years with great success--awesome!” ~ Vanessa Van Petten, teen author of You’re Grounded! and creator of OnTeensToday.com

"Impressive! You really nailed it. From building a binder to organizing your homework. I feel your book should be required reading for all middle school parents." ~ Kay Penn, former middle school teacher

Schools and organizations may purchase books with a purchase order. Please contact Joe either by email (joe@MiddleSchoolYears.com) or by phone (805-889-2142) for more information about sending in your purchase order.

176 pages.
Price: $12.00 discount price (Regularly $15.00)

About the Author:

Throughout the past 20 years Joe Bruzzese has successfully guided children, parents and educators through the challenges of the childhood years. As a nationally recognized author and speaker Joe brings innovation, energy, recognition and high standards to both his presentations and his instructional practice.

Joe’s work has been reported across numerous media outlets, including the nationally syndicated television morning shows and a collection of print and online parenting publications including Momster.com where he is the featured Dad on the popular parenting site created by Family Circle and Parents Magazine.

His background as a teacher and coach paved the way to his first book title, A Parents’ Guide to the Middle School Years, (Ten Speed Press 2009), and two DVDs, “50 Days and 50 Ways to Thrive During the Middle School Years” and “Confident, Connected and Challenged – The 3 C’s to Thriving During the Middle School Years”. His energetic, content-rich presentations draw interest from schools and conferences around the nation.

Joe’s background in education includes a Master’s degree in addition to his former tenure as teacher in the middle school grades. Joe brings years of educational theory and practical experience to his work with families.

In addition to the speaking events and seminars he facilitates, Joe instructs future teachers in the Graduate School of Education, at UC Santa Barbara and at Azusa Pacific University where he teaches courses focused on the development of relationships among children, parents and schools.


Book Overview:

With over 40 million kids passing through middle school over the next decade, the ability to build confidence, maintain a connection and manage challenge with your child has never been more important for parents.

After significant effort, a few years of writing and the contributions of hundreds, my book, A Parents' Guide to the Middle School Years, is now available for purchase through Amazon.com. Think forward to the end of the school year for those friends and colleagues who are approaching the middle school years and buy them a copy or two. The folks who have read the manuscript seem to agree that my ideas help to pave the way for kids and parents who want to thrive in the years ahead.

Ten Speed Press of Berkeley, California found me and took an interest in bringing the book to print. Here's a preview.

Whether your child starts middle school or junior high in 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th grade the transition to middle school will mark a significant change in your family. Thriving throughout the middle school years doesn’t happen by accident. Kids and parents who find fulfillment during these years do so because it is their intention and vision to do so. This book lays the groundwork for building a vision that takes parents into, through and beyond the challenges and changes of the middle school years including what parents now consider to be one of the top issues--bullying. The logistics of navigating a heavy course load at school and finding the ideal organization system, although important, comprise only a small slice of the pie that families are expected to consume during these years. Finding friends while overcoming frienship challenges like cliques and bullies can be a daily challenge.

Taken at its roots, this book is a conversation about three ideas: confidence, connection and challenge. Parents looking for a book filled with band-aids and the quick fixes will be disappointed. However, reading from beginning to end will reward the parent who is committed to taking action not just today, but everyday as their child tackles middle school and teen years to come.

The chapters flow in a rhythmic way allowing for simultaneous thought and action throughout the book rather than waiting until the end to spur a reader’s call to action. The opening chapter highlights the benefits of positive peer relationships and the destructive power that bullying can bring to a child’s life. Building a team, one the book’s key points, will serve to support a child’s continued growth and self confidence during the social transition that kids make as they enter middle school. Central to the idea of a team are a child’s teachers. On any given day a middle school student will interact with five to seven teachers who add another level of support and challenge to a child’s life. Building a strong bond with this incredible group of individuals strengthens a child’s ability to overcome challenge and thrive.

Beyond the classroom, the book explores topics central to the middle school years. Extracurricular activities become a prominent part of the day for many kids. Managing an increasing course load while trying to meet the expectations of a full afterschool schedule can leave both kids and parents feeling frazzled. We will look at ways to manage the madness on route to a stress-free year.

Although intriguing for kids, the internet has left parents at a loss for how to best support their child’s safe and appropriate use of the online world. Social networking giants, MySpace and Facebook garner significant media attention for their connection to abductions, predators and cyberbullying incidents. Although the media highlights the danger kids face we will present an accurate picture of the peril currently present online as well as strategies for staying connected with your web-savvy child.

Whereas most books attempt to provide answers this book prompts questions; questions that lead to conversations, which in turn, build relationships. The book wouldn’t be complete without the addition of a selected number of tips and strategies so I’ve included the nuts and bolts of getting organized, managing time and meeting the expectations of teachers across a seven period schedule. My intention in bringing this book to the nearly 40 million parents starting middle school is to provide a solid foundation for thriving in the years ahead.

Schools and organizations may purchase books with a purchase order. Please contact Joe either by email (joe@MiddleSchoolYears.com) or by phone (805-889-2142) for more information about sending in your purchase order.

176 pages.
Price: $12.00 discount



DVDs: Currently we are offering two DVDs for online purchase or by purchase order from schools and organizations.

“50 Days and 50 Ways to Thrive”  

Fans of the 5-minute daily show can now have 50 of the top shows on DVD. Expert advice for navigating the middle school years with your child for $39.99.

As children struggle to achieve independence and a unique identity, parents meet an equally daunting task.

Staying connected with your child, while staying supportive requires a new set of parenting skills. In his DVD, "50 Days and 50 Ways to Thrive" author Joe Bruzzese shares proven strategies for helping kids and parents thrive.

Through a series of short, focused videos Joe tackles tough parenting challenges with practical ideas for guiding kids and parents through the middle school years.

Parents who watch the 5-minute daily show say:

"I am in tears, thanks so much for that, I felt like it was speaking directly at me"

"Joe, This is by far my favorite message from you. The delivery is even better than the message. Keep up the good work!

"The topic was definitely good. And clearly we have to lay foundation early. Self confidence, definitely a good point to emphasize, too."

"Love this! Timely topics with practical ideas for helping our kids."

Great Show Joe! I'd like to start by thanking you for your show and the many great ideas you share with all of us! Thank You!

50 Days and 50 Ways to Thrive DVD features timely topics like:

  • Inspiring passion in your child
  • Bringing bullying and cyberbullying to an end
  • Dealing with drugs and alcohol
  • Minimizing stress
  • Growing responsible kids
  • Building positive parent-teacher relationships
  • Tools for communicating with your changing adolescent
  • Avoiding an overscheduled afterschool schedule
  • Building confidence at home and in school

Watch one show a day for the next 50 days or watch them all at once; it's up to you.

The promise: within 50 days your child will be happy and on a path to thriving during the middle school years.

Schools and organizations may purchase DVDs with a purchase order. Please contact Joe either by email (joe@MiddleSchoolYears.com) or by phone (805-889-2142) for more information about sending in your purchase order.

Buy it here. Buy it now:

Get your DVD for $39.99


“Confident, Connected, Challenged”
The 3 C’s to Thriving During the Middle School Years


Joe presents the three core strategies for a smooth transition into, through and beyond the middle school years. His genuine passion for helping parents and kids thrive, creates a wonderful opportunity for growth in anyone actively engaged in raising an adolescent. This unique coaching course guides parents through the gauntlet of the middle school years with the promise of inspiring a confident and connected child who approaches challenge with energy and enthusiasm.

“Wonderful, wise words of wisdom delivered in a very practical way. I appreciate the survival tips for all!”
~ Colleen, middle school parent, San Francisco, CA

“Thank you so much for being my coach. It has been invaluable and I am so grateful.” 
~ Marianne, middle school parent, San Diego, CA

Confident, Connected, Challenged - The 3 C's to Thriving During the Middle School Years


Most middle schoolers have their confidence challenged on a daily basis. Comments about their physical appearance, peer group and current level of achievement can weigh heavily on a young adolescent’s mind.

Surrounding your child with people who praise, acknowledge and inspire confidence is the first step to thriving in middle school. Building your team of coaches, mentors, and friends creates a vital web of support for you and your child that will extend well into the teen years.


Showing genuine interest in your child’s interests sends a powerful message,
“I acknowledge who you are.”

Acknowledgment equates to recognition.
Your recognition and acknowledgment build a connection.

Friends will begin showing up at your door by the handfuls. Your home phone or your child’s cell phone will ring continuously. These are two indicators that your child’s social network has become priority #1. Building a strong peer connection is equally important to the one your family will strive to maintain. Without friends, middle school can be a lonely place.


Middle school brings new and wonderful opportunities. New friendships, activities, classes and teachers will keep you both spinning for months. Becoming overwhelmed is a frequent side effect of excessive newness. New commitments and friendships require time and effort. Learning how much time and effort to dedicate will be one of your greatest challenges.

Preferably, before the year begins (school year or New Year) think about your ideal vision of the future. Stressed, anxious and overloaded don’t equate with “ideal” for most folks. Consider calm, confident and challenging as an alternate route to “ideal” as you plot a direction for the future.

We all want to be challenged at some level. Middle school however, can easily transform challenges into overwhelming endeavors. Identifying where your child will face challenge is the first step towards realizing your vision. Academics, peers, family commitments and extracurricular activities are among the usual suspects contributing to eventual overload.

DVD Chapter titles

Chapter 1  The Challenge for Parents
Chapter 2  The Three C’s
Chapter 3  Building Confidence
Chapter 4  Maintaining a Connection
Chapter 5  Managing Challenge
Chapter 6  Wrap up and Take Away

“In this day and age it is refreshing to see someone tune into teens other than their parents. All of these woes & worries of our teens of course become the parents as well! Thank you for the life lines!”
~ Cindy, middle school parent, Las Vegas, NV

“Thank you for last night’s meeting "Thinking Forward to Junior High". Joe Bruzzese is an engaging speaker. I enjoyed this presentation, found new tips and even validation on the things that we are already doing! It's so encouraging to know as well that there is practical help & support out there!”
~ Lisa, elementary school parent, Santa Barbara, CA

“We had our first check in meeting last Sunday with my daughter and wife.  Frankly, I wasn't looking forward to it.  It seemed a bit artificial, contrived.  It turns out that it was an overwhelming success. In fact, my daughter wants to do more than one a week.”
~ Jeff, middle school parent, Chicago, IL

Schools and organizations may purchase DVDs with a purchase order. Please contact Joe either by email (joe@MiddleSchoolYears.com) or by phone (805-889-2142) for more information about sending in your purchase order.

Buy it here. Buy it Now:

Get your DVD for $39.99

  Back to School Kit

The first few weeks of middle school bring excitement and anxiety for kids and parents. Skip the anxiety and focus on pure excitement this year with one of our Back to School Starter Kits. Equipped with the right supplies and more importantly, the expertise to use them, your child will hit the ground running on day one.

Each of the three editions below offers a different set of options. Choose the edition that best suits your child's needs for the coming year.

The video provides an overview of each edition and the supplies that are included in the Back to School Starter Kit.

Back to School Starter Kit – Basic Edition

The basic starter kit comes complete with all of the supplies your middle schooler needs during the first weeks of school. The complete list of supplies appears below. The kit also includes Joe’s book, A Parents’ Guide to the Middle School Years, and a CD featuring a series of

Instructional videos and printable activities that show you how to:

  • Create an organized binder and filing system
  • Use a desktop calendar as a long-term planning tool
  • Create a mind map, outlining goals for the coming year
  • Set up a mobile desktop for efficient homework and study sessions
  • Plan an engaging (but not overwhelming) afterschool schedule
  • Study for middle school tests more effectively
  • Build a supportive team of teachers, coaches and mentors for the years ahead
  • Create an acceptable use plan for safe internet use in your home

School supplies included in the Back to School Starter Kit:

  • 12 pencils
  • 12 pens (either blue or black)
  • 1 ½” heavy duty binder (white)
  • 8, 2-pocket binder dividers
  • 21 ¾” x 17 1/8” Desktop academic calendar (August – July)
  • File crate
  • Box of 25 hanging files
  • 5 highlighters in assorted colors
  • 150 sheets of college ruled filler paper
  • 300 index cards
  • 16 quart plastic container
  • Heavy duty 3-hole punch

Back to School Starter Kit – Basic Edition: $99.95 (Early bird price through August 1st)
$124.95 (price after August 1st)

Back to School Starter Kit – Deluxe Edition

The deluxe edition of the kit includes everything from the basic edition and two hours of phone coaching and unlimited email support during the first six weeks of school. In addition to coaching you through the set up of your materials the coaching hours can be used to answer

Commonly asked questions that often accompany the middle school years:

  • How can I build a positive relationship with my child’s teachers?
  • How can I help my child become more responsible in school and at home?
  • Where is the best place for my child to study?
  • How much responsibility should I take for my child’s academic progress? 
  • How will I stay connected with my child this year?
  • How does the parent/child relationship change in middle school? 
  • When do progress reports arrive?
  • Will the principal talk with me if I have a question?
  • Can I make changes to my child’s class schedule?
  • What can my child do to make a positive first impression in class?


“The strategies you showed our daughter, regarding how to fill in her Agenda and set up her binder, were key techniques in keeping her organized and turning in homework and projects on time." ~ Julie, middle school parent, New York, NY

“We had our first check in meeting last Sunday with my daughter and wife.  Frankly, I wasn't looking forward to it.  It seemed a bit artificial, contrived.  It turns out that it was an overwhelming success. In fact, my daughter wants to do more than one a week.” ~ Jeff, middle school parent, Chicago, IL

“Thank you so much for being my coach. It has been invaluable and I am so grateful.”  ~ Marianne, middle school parent, San Diego, CA

Back to School Starter Kit – Deluxe Edition: $249.95 (Early bird price through August 1st)
$299.95 (price after August 1st)

Back to School Starter Kit – Premier Edition

The premier edition is the complete solution for the middle schooler, small group of friends (up to 6), or as part of a school's orientation program. Hit the ground running on day one with a complete set of supplies and the confidence to tackle the middle school years.

In addition to a full set of back to school supplies for each participant Joe will travel to you as part of a four-day onsite coaching experience.

Middle schoolers will participate in four days of hands-on, small group coaching in organization, time management and study skills geared specifically toward middle school curriculum. Joe will also share specific ideas for building new relationships with teachers and classmates, overcoming common challenges and strategies for building confidence in the year ahead.

In addition, the four day experience includes a one-hour meeting with each participating family (or school site administration) where parents and kids work together with Joe to create a shared vision, mind map and a motivating set of goals and objectives for the coming year.

Back to School Starter Kit – Premier Edition:  $4950 (Early bird price through August 1st)
$5950 (price after August 1st)

Total cost for the Premier Edition does not include travel expenses. Travel expenses based on destination. Groups may elect to split the total cost among the participants.
Contact Joe directly to purchase the Back to School Starter Kit – Premier Edition
Joe@MiddleSchoolYears.com or 805-889-2142

  Online Course for Parents

Self-paced, video-driven online course for middle school parents. Feeling pressed for time and want to do as much as possible for your middle school child? The online course was designed with the busy parent in mind who wants to find out more about help her child, but doesn't have the time to spend a week at a conference.

Log on to the online course as often as you like. The videos and strategies are accessble to you 24/7 for an entire year.

The course was designed by Joe Bruzzese, parent education expert and author of A Parents' Guide to the Middle School Years. Each of the six sections of the course coincides with a chapter of the book. Read the book while you investigate the course online or download all of the course content and take it with you on your ipod.

Take a free tour of the course content for Chapters 1 and 2.

Full registration for the self-paced online course is $49.95. Included in your registration fee is a copy of A Parents' Guide to the Middle School Years.

Register for the course here: www.PGMSY.com

Schools and organizations may purchase a site license to use the online course. Please contact Joe either by email (joe@MiddleSchoolYears.com) or by phone (805-889-2142) for more information about sending in your purchase order.