As you work and play and talk with your daughter, she can help teach you how she needs to be parented in this new phase of her life. I can offer you tools and suggestions, but those things can only be used in light of what you know about her and what you allow her to show you about who she really is. Everything you read here should go through your personal filter. I respect that with every word I write, and I'll remind you of it ad nauseam.

If you're not enjoying being her mom at least some of the time, that really bears looking at. It's all right to admit that parenting isn't always a blast. Nobody's crazy about getting reluctant students off to school or reining in the first fits of boy craziness. But we can get so caught up in the frenetic, day-to-day job of, as one tween girl with ten siblings put it in an email to me, "making sure we all survive the day," we can forget to laugh at our daughters' jokes (tween girls think they are hilarious) and revel in their discoveries and delight in their growth. We miss out on just about everything that's worthwhile about being parents if we let that slip away unnoticed.

For all of this you are definitely going to need God. You know the verse where Jesus says it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? That no one has a chance of doing it alone but every chance if he sticks with him? Then surely, it's easier for that same camel to pass through the eye of that identical needle than for the parent of a tween girl to guide her into a healthy, well-adjusted, God-loving adolescence without God right smack in the middle of it. Help for doing that is an inherent part of this book. At the same time, it's wishful thinking to say that a good home life with all the right influences, even being brought up in the church with Jesus all around, guarantees that she will turn out to be a deeply spiritual, highly productive adult. God doesn't promise that. At all. Trust me — I've looked. Even Proverbs 22:6 — "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (NIV)" — isn't the never-fail promise it appears to be at first glance. If you don't train them up in the way they should go, you definitely won't see good results. But we've all known kids whose parents seemed to epitomize this proverb and who still had messy adolescences and messier twenties. And yet . . . at some point they eventually realized they needed to make better choices, and had the foundation on which to build a good life. There is no guarantee, not in this very-changed world. But there is giving them the best chance and praying them through.

A word about Dad before we continue. Parenting is such a team effort, as any mother or father trying to raise a child alone will tell you. That becomes more apparent than ever in your daughter's tween years when she encounters Dad's advice about boys (or his refusal to acknowledge them!) and his unspoken effect on her beauty and self-image. His influence is so important, in fact, that I've devoted an entirely separate book — written with my husband — for the dads of tween girls. You can look for She'll Be Crying in a Minute in the spring of 2011. So while I will refer to Dad from time to time, our focus here is on your special role in your daughter's life. Anything here that rings true for you, by all means share it with him. A united effort is always a stronger one.

What We'll Talk About

My work with tween girls has convinced me beyond a doubt that there are four areas of ultimate concern to them, and we ignore those at our peril and theirs. Having provided a book on each of these for the mini-women themselves, I'm offering you a mom's-eye view on these four ultimate issues: (1) Who am I? (2) Am I pretty enough? (3) What's happening to my body? and (4) Do they like me?

Section One: I Tell Her to Be Herself, But She Doesn't Know Who She Is (Identity)

In this part of the book, there's help for imprinting the concept of authenticity before adolescence comes in and tries to wreak havoc on it. You'll find advice here for helping daughters find and be comfortable with their true selves, including encouragement for letting them make mistakes along the way. As a result of this section you'll be able to let your mini-woman discover herself within the Christian parameters of a kind, loving individual, rather than tell her who she is or who she should be. That reinforces what your tween girl can learn in Everybody Tells Me to Be Myself, But I Don't Know Who I Am.