Tween behavior can be overwhelming for parents
Sometimes I have to laugh. I must be much older than I think I am. I remember rolling my eyes, cracking one liners and completely ignoring my mother like it was yesterday! So how is it that I am now on the other side of the fence, with an active tween doing this to me?
Well, for starters, let me first admit this is NOT fun now! She was so darling, innocent and well behaved…then she woke up one morning different. I’ve been rubbing my head trying to figure out where this came from and when I will get my little angel back! By all accounts, I think she won’t return until she has her own children and calls to apologize to me like I did my mom when she was not quite a year old.
That leaves me between a rock and hard place. I must manage through this and direct it as best I can without killing her. (some days are easier than others). I want to yell out “your eyes are going to lock up like that”, but we all know that’s not true. I want and need to be a little more effective. In observing her world lately I’ve noticed a few things I’ll call “major influences”. First, the media world is wired to teach them these things. TV sitcoms (esp on kids’ program channels) are packed full of smart aleck kids talking back to parents and teachers, mean girl spirits, and secret lives of tweens that mom and dad are too dumb to know about. Secondly, her friends are seeing the same things and trying their limits too. Third, boys are becoming of interest! And lastly…whether I want to admit it or not, I cannot keep her sheltered from the world around her forever! Sure…I could say no TV, video games, no friends, I’m sending you to boarding school, and you cannot play contact sports…..but! How realistic is that? I would then raise a kid who can’t socialize or worse, one who would later rebel in all forms I can’t stand the thought of! There’s a big part of me who wants to keep my little girl. Then the rational side appears and I begin to realize this is part of growing up. Remember the cliché, ‘Seek first to understand then be understood’ ? It’s not a cliché in my house anymore, it’s a daily challenge. NOW I’m really testing my parenting skills….
I first had to change my mental program in 2 ways.
1) She’s not a mini-adult, she’s a kid. This is a phase, and one that is very well a healthy part of growing up! and
2) She deserves to grow up, state her individuality and have this experience.
Ok, done! Now what? Well, as her mom, I cannot let her tryout profanity, one liners, eye rolling and over all temper tantrums without interrupting! I must guide her and discipline her so that someday she is a responsible adult. I have to set limits. I have a quiet rule, she knows nothing about…I set my limits one step above what “everyone else” gets to do. If her friends are wearing shorts 2″ longs, her must be 4″. If her friends have data lines on cell phones and can be on them all night long, mine must give me the phone in off position at 8:30. (you get the idea). I refuse to be run over by a 10-year-old and her buddies!
Here’s a few tricks I’ve come up with to help curve this growing appetite of independence she has. I hope that some of these will help you too.
- Set a curfew for coming inside, turning off gadgets and going to bed. Each separately, and adjust it for a little more time on weekends. Don’t give in to the 5 more minutes plea!
- Allow her the opportunity to try new things and explore her individuality in her fashion statements and quirky trends, within reason.
- I made a chore chart. These things need to be done this week. Now she has a little more control over when they’re done. The daily argument is over, and it’s her responsibility. (She also has a few things on that chart to be done everyday)
- Her allowance is tied to that chart….and a few things are done for “free” (the price of family life is what I tell her!)
- I don’t reward bad behavior. If she wants a friend to spend the night or go someplace special this weekend. Great! as long as she’s not rude and in trouble all week. If she blows it, then I don’t give in on Friday night. She needs to experience disappointment sometimes too in order to learn from it!
- I constantly praise my kid! Every day there is something you can praise a kid about…they need to hear it !!
- I keep an open mind and tell her if she wants to know something, I’m willing to answer it. I’ve gone so far as to say to her that sometimes it’s awkward talking to mom about some things, but I would rather be awkward for 3 minutes while she asks then have her learn from someone else who may not really know.
- I reward her accomplishments and celebrate everything! (Team winning, her grades, small holidays, things at work for mom and dad, baby sisters’ first experience, her doing something on her own for the first time!) I truly believe home is where it all starts. A happy home she’s comfortable in will make her stronger and more confident.
- I encourage her to learn new things. She’s recently been “promoted” to advanced studies at school (OMG! I just thought she knew everything before that! her parents are complete morons now!). Nevertheless, when she’s working on something and asks for help, I engage her in that conversation and we explore wherever that conversation may lead to. (last night she needed climate numbers in a state for her project. Before you know it, we’re looking up the average daily temperature at Mt Everest…Good for her for having that inquiring mind! It’s my responsibility to encourage it!)
- Invest your time in your kid! It’s easy to think that they’re now old enough that they don’t need you every second. They go to their room and you get some free time, although that’s true to a certain extent, I’ve learned she needs my time now more than ever. Every night I encourage her to come out of that girl cave! * Hey, come see this!, did you read this?, want to help me do_______, Let’s play basketball, hey let’s watch this movie…….whatever works! HINT: it works every time!
- Laugh with them, Alot!
- I’m lucky, she’s a doll at school and out in public. Never gets in trouble with any adult anywhere. I make sure I tell her how much this means to me and how important it is for her to continue caring herself in such a classy manner.
- Don’t strive over the little things. I try not to constantly nag her about every little thing.
- KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) a rule no mom should go without–don’t make unrealistic goals for kids or yourself.
- Don’t lose your temper or act crazy when something’s not right for you. Kids are watching you 24/7!
- Understand that kids experience stress too. Tests, homework, peers, chores, activities can all be stressful for them. Getting everything done in a day can be too. It seems easy to be a tween now that we’re adults, but remember what it was for you then. I give her time to unwind after school. I also try very hard to give her time that is free of chores and scheduled activities during the week. Kids act out under stress. Having this quality time to themselves can really help settle them down.
I don’t think any of this is fool-proof. I’m certainly not an expert in the field of child development. I’m sharing this blog post as an honest account of my daily dilemma as being the best mom I can be. Trying to help her grow and mature in her own right, while balancing what is and isn’t acceptable to me. Tween’s can be difficult to understand, if we lose site of being there once ourselves. I hope some of these items are helpful, and I welcome any suggestions you have as well.