Diplomacy, Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Parenting a Tween
By busyparents on April 11, 2010
Where is Hillary Clinton when you need her?! Right now I need a really good negotiator who can also draw a firm line in the sand. I need her so I don’t go nuclear on my tween!
Okay, that’s not completely true, but sometimes it sure feels that way. The last 2 days have been a barrage of complaints that Mark and I are “too cautious,” that we don’t listen, that we treat her like a little kid, and the list just goes on and on and on. Usually it includes her in tears and raising her voice (something my mom would NEVER have tolerated).
In the past, I have been prone to yelling. But I have worked REALLY hard to stop and in the last 6 months I think I have been pretty successful. I can still do a serious stern, fed-up mommy tone, but I keep it low and controlled these days. Sometimes I break out the firm arm hold and close look in the eyes to get their attention, but the voice level is low.
After one very frustrating exchange, I called my mom and asked why she NEVER yelled at us – and she was a teacher for 40 years! She said she always knew she was loud so she made a conscious effort to keep her voice under control. It was something she thought about and worked on, so that’s what I’ve done.
The frustrating thing about the tween years is that they are constantly trying to push the line. Like Russia, they feel they need more arms, but for the safety of everyone and the balance of powers there need to be limits. As parents, it is our job to set those limits. Like in all negotiations, there are times for diplomacy, there are times for threats and there are times to break out the weapons of mass destruction! But the challenge with tween parenting is that we have to make some shifts in when that occurs. They aren’t so young that we pretty much make all the decisions for them. We have to let them deal with the consequences of their choices, but we still have to protect them from those things that can really harm them. The big ones are easy, it’s the grey areas that make this part of parenting tough for us.
I’d like to say we are clear on where we draw the line, but that would be a lie! This is the problem. We have the examples that our parents set, and good or bad, they were based on the way WE behaved as children. See, no matter how much our parents tell us that our kids are just like we were at their age, they aren’t us. So we can’t do what our parents did. We can learn lessons from those experiences (often more what we shouldn’t do than what we should do) but as parents we have to chart our own course, because our kids ARE NOT US! Hillary can get tips from Bill, but she’s got to do her own thing!
So this is where we are feeling our way in the dark. And I know for me it can be scary. The pediatrician in me worries that if we make a wrong choice it will have lasting effects. But I also know that what I learned was the right way to do things 5 or 10 years ago is not what they’ve discovered is the right thing to do now. That’s why we have to really trust God to guide us.
Sometimes we use diplomacy when everyone can come to the table with a compromise. We will discuss things like bedtime, as long as the times are within reason and their behavior the next day gives an indication that they got a good night’s rest. When she bickers with her brother I have to break out the threats. If you don’t stop, THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES! This mother does not tolerate siblings being mean to each other!
But sometimes I have to draw a line in the sand. I always want my daughter to feel like she can express herself, but it has to be in a respectful way. That’s where the problems usually occur. My daughter feels that as long as she is sharing her feelings it doesn’t matter how she says it as long as it makes sense to her. That’s the thing about tweens, their logic is limited by their years. So when you try to help them understand something that you have learned after living for 40 odd years, they just think you are clueless because they are basing their information on their 10 or so years.
So when it comes to a smart mouth – all discussions stop! I’ll let it go for a little while. I’ll even give a warning. But if the lips keep flapping, and there is any hint of neck roll, all talk ceases and I draw the line in the sand. Punishment is a certainty. I don’t like it and I always feel bad (I don’t know anyone who actually ENJOYS punishing their kids), but I know that it has to be done.
At the end of the day, I cannot impart my 40 odd years of knowledge and experience in her 10-year-old mind. The best I can do is to give her limits that she will not always understand and to teach her that words can work for you or against you.
Just like in any battle, you only use the big guns when there are no other options. But when you use them, you must be sure that you can finish what you started. Otherwise, the collateral damage is more costly than the actual battle itself.
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