Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself a pretty adept parent. I believe I have a good relationship with both of my children. I don’t classify myself as having one specific parenting style; I am a marriage of authoritative and free-range as the situation necessitates.
For example, I set realistic rules and boundaries for my children; if those rules and boundaries are not followed, there is a relatable consequence. But, at the same time, I allow my children out into the neighborhood to play with the expectation they’ll return at a designated time. At the park, I allow them to wander off and do their own thing, occasionally checking on them to ensure they’re safe but not interfering with their play.
My children, however, are not the easiest of personalities, and raising them has not been a walk in the park. But I feel I have done my best to be consistent and that they’re growing up to be decent human beings. As a result, I have moments of immense pride in both of them as I watch them grow and accomplish new things at each stage of their lives thus far.
I have always encouraged their individuality. I want them to be their own person with their own interests, style, and passions. I encourage them to dress the way they feel comfortable, to style their hair the way that makes them feel good, and to pursue the hobbies that interest them.
However, all my education and experience dealing with kids goes up to about the age of my youngest, nine. And over the past few years, I’ve watched my recently turned twelve-year-old morph into someone who, I hate to say it, is annoying and frustrating to be around sometimes—namely, a tween.
And now, despite raising my children in as consistent an environment as possible, I am faced with crossing a new frontier. A place I have zero experience in, the land of tweens and teens.
To begin with, nothing is ever his fault; it’s usually mine. Everything I ask him to do is equivalent to asking for the sun to be moved and, probably worst of all, tweens smell. Their rooms smell, their clothes smell, and it doesn’t seem to bother them! Maybe girls are different, but I don’t remember being too much about being a tween.
Even when I say “yes” to things he wants to do, somehow, I’m still wrong. It’s truthfully exasperating. And there is so much eye rolling and huffing of the breath….
I’m reading the tween parenting articles and advice, and I’m using what I know about adolescent development, and I like to think I’m doing it mostly, sort of, kind of, almost right. But I guess only time will tell. So all I can do is stay the course.
And I guess that’s the key. Just like little ones, our tweens and teens need consistency and boundaries. Perhaps more than our little ones, who naturally rely on us and look to us for advice. Tweens and teens are disposed to rebel and argue, but they still secretly want our guidance. Therefore, their need for boundaries and rules is even more crucial.
My boys engaged in less-than-favorable behavior the other day in the care of another adult. I was mortified to hear about it. So my response was that on top of a 30-minute no-electronic session in their room to reflect on their behavior, they were each required to write an apology note as soon as they got home from school.
The younger accepted his fate will very little pushback. The tween? Not so much. There was wailing and gnashing of the teeth and, “This isn’t fair! This is so stupid!” And I guess to a twelve-year-old, it was unfair and stupid. But I hope this experience will contribute to the man he’ll one day become.
I hope he’s learning that apologizing when you’ve behaved poorly is important. I hope he’s gaining the understanding that his actions affect other people. I hope he realizes that life is unfair sometimes but that we can’t take out our negative emotions on other people.
I admit I don’t know what I am doing, and this foreign land is terrifying. But I know the type of person I want my son to become. And more importantly, I realize that the more consistent I am now with rules and boundaries, the more it will pay off later as he ages. I’m only scratching the surface of teen years and know it’s a long, arduous road ahead.
Hopefully, in a few years, I’ll have some sage advice to share with others embarking on the tween/teen journey. But for now, I’m buckling in and prepping for a bumpy ride!