Moms' Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World
- Thursday, July 29, 2010
Maybe you play the role of peacemaker and never let your kids fight their own battles. Maybe you're basically the maid, and have the occasional bout of furious resentment that sends everybody to their respective corners to wait until you get dinner on the table. Perhaps you're the powerhouse who makes the rules and schedules clear but has no time for somebody breaking the rhythm to have a meltdown.
Could be you are the ultimate positive mom who bolsters everybody up but is quick to brush the negative stuff under the rug. At times, you are probably just plain angry, tired, guilty, and resentful — and you make no bones about the fact that it's everybody else's fault.
Chances are, you have been and will continue to be all of the above at one time or another. So — get over thinking you have to be the flawless parent. This path is about process, not perfection. Neither you nor your daughter is going to move forward without making a myriad of mistakes from which you'll both learn. That is actually where the good stuff happens.
I believe you are first and foremost your daughter's mother. Not her buddy. Not her BFF. You're her maternal ally as she learns to strike out on her own. You're the one who sets boundaries and warns of consequences and, as Carol Burnett once said, loves her enough to let her hate you sometimes. That doesn't mean you can't be close, share girly times, and treasure each other in a relationship like no other. It does mean frequently making decisions for her that she isn't ready to make yet, decisions that evoke "You don't understand!" when in fact you understand all too well.
I think parenting a tween requires as much change in us as in our daughters. Let's face it — some of what qualifies as good parenting of this age group just doesn't come naturally. Cuddling, rocking, feeding, and diaper changing, though exhausting, may have been almost instinctive. Early discipline was pretty cut and dried. Here's what "no" means and here's what happens when you say it. But backing off to let your tween daughter make a choice you know isn't going to end well, or watching other kids tease her because she isn't their clone — those things aren't necessarily in your makeup.
Not only that, but at this point your daughter knows which of your buttons to push because by now they are all clearly marked for her. Add to that the fact that she no longer misses a trick in your behavior. Even if you're just an average gossiper, tell a few white lies, and have the occasional maternal meltdown, you're acting in ways that, by zero tolerance standards, wouldn't be allowed in her school. Again, you can't be perfect, but if you want to be good, some alterations in your default reactions may be required.
You may have to change your image of what a "talk" is too. Yeah, I hate it, but 90 percent of "Because I'm the parent and I said so" is going to have to go if you want decent communication with your tween daughter. The 10 percent is reserved for situations where there's no time for an explanation — she has to get out of the way of the oncoming train, for instance. The rest of the time you're looking at dialogue, not just you holding forth and her listening and obeying. First-time obedience is the goal, but it's going to be more likely if she understands the reasoning behind what you want her to do. That wasn't appropriate when she was a toddler or preschooler. Now that she's developing higher levels of thinking, "Just do it" only works for Nike.
Here's the way I look at it: If you both don't come out of a discussion seeing something in a new way, however small, it wasn't a real conversation. That could mean she sees that you aren't the pushover she assumed you were, and you see that she is a lot savvier than you thought she was. Good things to know for future dialogues. It does not mean you have to repeat the conversation every time that topic comes up. It's perfectly okay for you to say, "I refer you to our agreement on October 5," and expect her to get on with it. You'll save yourself a lot of nagging, lecturing, repeating, and yelling, none of which works any better than "Because I'm the mother." Don't think you have time for dialoguing? What about all those aforementioned hours in the car going to and from everywhere?
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