All posts in Teens & Tweens

Life with Tweeners

I love tweeners. Always have. There is something about this awkward, geeky, confusing, overwhelming, mysterious time that both excites and scares me at the same time. As the mother of 5, who has successfully negotiated her way through the tweener stage, I am appreciative of those still in it.

When we take the time to invite our children into their lives from the earliest possible days, we provide an environment rich in support, encouragement and faith.

As a result, we have kids who enter the world of tweenerdom who exhibit a sort of swagger and confidence that comes from KNOWING that they can handle what comes their way. They are more deeply embedded in their lives and as a result, are happy with themselves and with those around them.

So if you are experiencing the first pangs of what I call “push back” from your tweeners, it could be that they aren’t feeling as confident about their lives as they might.

Enjoy this video and remember, rebellion IS NOT the natural state of these amazing tweeners.

A Guide to the “Tweener” Years

Yes, the tweener years can be a bit scary, if not downright terrifying. After all, the shift from skinned knees, broken arms, hurt feelings, the crazy play-date and rude manners to relentless demands for freedom, grunts from under the iPod headphones, endless text messages to friends, staying out past curfew, and the occasional extreme mood-swing can be overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be.

Have you ever read the book by Dr. Seuss, “Are You My Mother?” If so, replace the bird in that story with a tweener. And replace the question “Are You My Mother?” with “Do You Know Who I Am?”

Brings a smile to your face doesn’t it?

Imagine, YOUR tweener asking that very question dozens of times each day. It might seem as if they are asking the world for an answer, but in truth, it is a question they ask themselves over and over again in every situation. They ask it as they explore music, clothing, friends, interests, and left to their own devices, eventually, like the bird in Dr. Seuss’s story, they would find the answer to “who” they are all on their own.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to be “helpful,” parents insert themselves into the story and begin answering the question for their tweener.

“No, that’s not you. You love school, and you are a 4.0 student.”

“No, that’s not you. You love sports, and you are a great athlete.”

“No, that’s not you. You are you kind and patient, and you like your siblings.”

As parents, it is not our job to answer these questions for our kids. When we do, we create friction in the relationship that can make the tweener years all the more difficult for everyone. Our job is to help our children see all the possibilities. Because HOW they answer this question creates a bridge from tweener to adulthood.

So let’s go back to the question, which is really this: “How do I know that I have a place in this world? And let’s look at one way parents can stay in the conversation without taking over the story.

After years in the trenches, and five teens who still like me and, more importantly, like themselves, here are four things I did and continue to do on a regular basis.

Encourage your children to manage their lives by training them when they are young. Why, because confidence develops in kids when they know how to manage their own lives. This confidence spills over into the tweener years, which makes them easier for everyone.

  1. Encourage your kids to make mistakes, take risks and solve problems. Don’t worry about the outcome; their willingness to participate in life will keep them moving forward with confidence and enthusiasm.
  2. Encourage your kids to take responsibility for their choices when the stakes are low, so they are willing to take responsibility when the stakes are high. Confidence comes from not only making choices and decisions, but knowing you can handle the outcome.
  3. Most important, encourage your children’s personal preferences before they ever reach the tweener stage. You can’t imagine how many fights you won’t have to have by letting five-year-olds:
  • Pick their own hair style.
  • Pick their own clothes.
  • Pick their own lunch.
  • Help create menus.
  • Choose what sports they want to play or interests they want to pursue.
  • Listen to their favorite music—get an iPod if you can’t stand their choices.
  • Solve problems in a way that supports who THEY are, not who YOU are.

All in all, the tweeners were some of my favorite years. I saw uncertain, wobbly children turn into confident, happy, excited young adults. And as the first of them leave my home, I am filled with inspiration and hope for my children, for myself and for the world.

More information on encouraging your children and inviting them to participate in their own lives can be found in the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.

Bullying – What’s a Parent’s Role?

Bullying...School started just over a month ago and, already, I’ve gotten questions from parents about “bullying.” What can a parent do about a child that is being bullied, witnessing the bullying or is even being a bully him or herself? Parents are worried and looking for answers, and the “experts” seem to have thrown their hands in the air because they don’t know what to do.

I know… scary stuff, right?

I think the reason others have not come up with an answer to the problem of bullying is because there is no “quick fix.” There is no one sentence, slogan or catch phrase that will just make it all go away overnight.

Instead of a quick fix, and we know those really just amount to a whole lot of false hope, I can offer you a REAL solution – one that starts with a powerful new perspective.

Rather than asking, “How do I get rid of the bullying quickly?” try asking, “How do I deal with bullying?” Yes, it’s a small change, but an important one because from this new perspective we can begin to tackle this problem realistically.

My answer to our new question, “How do I deal with bullying?” is to change the climate, first at home, so that changes at school can follow.

For the child that’s being bullied

It can be helpful to start by asking, “Why is my child being bullied?” Now, it may be that there is some form of bullying going at home which is contributing to the problem. Remember, we’re coming at this from a whole new perspective, so let’s just take a deep breath and look at this together.

Demanding, dictating, telling, making decisions, thinking your way is the only way… or the only “right” way… all of that can feel a lot like bullying to a young child. And, by the way, it doesn’t matter if you have a sweet, syrupy voice. If it is your way or nothing, and if your kids can’t challenge you or stand up to you, how are they supposed to learn how to challenge or stand up to anyone else?

When these kids go out into the world without having practiced the fine art of non-physical, self-defense, the “Bullies” can spot them a mile away. Mind you, there are varying degrees of bullying and it can come from a variety of sources – from peers to adults, basically anyone looking to influence or intimidate impressionable kids. And these ill-equipped kids are easy for them to spot – they look scared, don’t know how to say NO or to say YES, cannot or choose not to articulate their preferences, or stand up for what they believe, and this makes them easy targets.

Bottom line? Protecting your child from bullying starts at home, and it is well within your power to start making a difference today!

And what about the child that may become the bully?

Now, back to that same child, the one who experiences what is, in effect, bullying… though you as the parent may feel you’re just “looking out of their best interests” or “making things easier” by making the “right” decisions. Imagine that this child decides that no one else is EVER going to push them around, so they decide to become the bully… just to make sure they have the power and, therefore, cannot lose. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, and I imagine some of us could look back and find instances where we’ve done exactly the same thing. In this scenario, the child doesn’t really choose the bully position – they actually choose NOT TO BE BULLIED by taking that powerful position for themselves. And, based on their experience, they think they’re faced with an Either/Or proposition – with no options available for them in the middle.

Okay. My eyes are open. Now what?

In order for your kids to have the confidence to stand up for themselves, look people in the eye, walk and talk with confidence, express their opinion, support other people’s opinions, walk away from fights, and stand up when necessary, they are going to have to practice – you guessed it – in your home.
And, of course, the parents… yes, that’s you… have to be fully on board to help make it happen.

For help changing the climate in your home to facilitate and support the development of these important life skills, check out our downloadable Parenting On Track™MP3 – Parenting Styles. This audio will help you to immediately change the climate just by learning a little bit about what your parenting style is, and how you can make positive adjustments to it. If you like what you hear, the Parenting On Track™Multi-Media Home Program can help you make even greater changes – changes that can significantly improve the health of your family today and long into the future.

I know bullying is a tough topic, and some of you may have strong opinions you’d like to share. I invite and encourage you to share your thoughts right here using the blog comment forum below. Thanks again for visit and your continued support. Parenting On Track™ is… OK, OK, I say it… on track to reach more families in 2008 than ever before!