How to be a perfect parent to your tween?
This is what I want to know. I so desperately would like a mentor to come alongside me and tell me how to do this. I’ve wanted this for years: during preschool, homeschooling. Why in the world wouldn’t anyone tell me how to do these things?! I knew one thing; when I had a couple years under my belt, I would share the wealth that would be my great knowledge.
I now have one teenager and three (no, four!) tweens. I figure I should be ready now. So here is what I can tell you about parenting tweens:
About the only thing I’ve learned is that I have no idea what I am doing! Really, this will be much less of a “how to” post than a head nodding commiseration.
So, a tween is classified as a person between the ages of 8 and 12. They are not teens yet, but they’re not little kids either. They are starting to think for themselves; have opinions and ideas of their own.
During the younger tween years, this can really be lovely. Your child may want to have real conversations with you about real things. These are the years that you will be able to talk about interesting topics while baking cookies and not think to yourself afterwards, “Why do I bake with kids?”
Something happens as they move through the tween years though.
These later years will be characterized by eye rolling and knowing everything. They will develop their own personal style. But whatever it is, if you buy it or like it or look in it’s general direction, it will be so uncool. Also, you will be completely not cool. There is a direct correlation between your tween’s coolness and your uncoolness. Tweens possess the unique ability to change their likes and dislikes on a whim. Yesterday, pizza was their favorite. Today, it’s so gross. So not cool. And the fact that you didn’t innately know that, just proves your uncoolness.
Also, you will be guaranteed to know someone who has a lovely tween. Someone who dresses like a Gap mannequin, is helpful and doesn’t think their mom is the leader of the uncool. This is not because the lovely tween has a cool mom who knows how to parent while you are in fact an uncool bad parent. I promise you. Also, lovely tween is not perfect either. Ask their cool mom.
All that is to say, that these are hard years. And we can’t talk about it like we did when they were toddlers and we asked each other on facebook if it was normal that they hadn’t pooped in 4 days. But now. Oh, no! Part of our job is to protect them, which can come at the cost of the comradery…
We need to get through it.
Find a trusted group of friends that you can confide in. Even as adults, this can be hard. Keep at it. It will be worth it to find someone you can comiserate with. It might not be your cool kid’s best bud’s mom. This will bother them because it may mean that on occasion you invite their arch nemesis over and they have to, like, actually, speak to someone. It will also mean that your friendships aren’t affected by your kids friendships.
Keep having the hard conversation. Whenever they want to talk, make it happen. Listen, I get it. I”ve got seven other kids vying for attention at any given time. I’ve got one teen and four tweens. I can’t be in two places at once. Sometimes I have to say, “I want to hear more about this. Can we talk once the other kids are in bed?” or “This sounds important, why don’t you come with me when I run out to get milk and we can talk more about it?” To clarify, I fail at this regularly and say something like, “I really want to talk to you but there is just too much happening right now!” in my most frustrated voice. Apologize and try again next time.
Keep pointing them toward Jesus. You don’t have to be preachy to do this. Live the gospel. During these older tween years, as your child starts to assert their independence and find acceptance among peers, they will struggle with their worth, with what the truth really is. Take these moments to point them to Jesus. They need to hear that His love is unconditional. They never need to be cool enough or good enough for Jesus, they only need to accept His love for them.
Keep telling them you love them, no matter how uncool that is. They need to know your love is unconditional too, no matter how bad they mess up.
…And find a better spot for your chocolate stash!