When you gaze at your offspring and lovingly ask them about their day, only to be met by an eye roll followed by a grumpy silence or a monosyllabic “Fine,” you know that you are in the next phase of parenting. Or perhaps you try to hold your beloved’s hand down the street and they quickly remove themselves from your grasp. Sob. The worst is when you offer some perfectly useful advice and they act like you are some sort of thicko who knows nothing. Sigh. These are all signs that your child could be in the midst or on the cusp of the tween years. That murky period between being a little child and a teenager. It’s not always plain sailing and can come as quite a shock to the poor, unsuspecting parent.
Tweens, preteens, tweenies (or whatever you want to call them) range between the ages of nine and twelve. They are inbeTWEEN being a child and an adolescent and are no longer the cutesy, cuddly, wide-eyed little dumplings they once were. Nope. Far from it. Cue the moody, gobby, defiant little person who thinks they know it all. They still have their moments of cuteness, but generally these are replaced by irritability and backchat. It’s a beautiful time. No one ever said.
Flump is in the throes of tweendom. She talks to me like I’m the child and repeatedly tells me to “Calm down,” or “Stop it, Mummy,” with an air of exaggerated superiority. Sometimes I find it mildly amusing, a lot of the time I don’t. She will argue with me over every single possible thing in an articulate and bold way. The next minute she will have the mother of all meltdowns, as a stark reminder to me that she is still only a child. It’s all a bit of a conundrum. Tweens act like they are reasonable, rational little people one moment, and like deranged toddlers the next.
So how should we parent these odd, prickly, preteen creatures? Here are my tips:
- Have minimal interaction with them
- Ignore them for a few years
- Threaten to embarrass them publicly
- Shout them down.
Okay, perhaps these aren’t realistic options. A more sensible approach would be to:
- Acknowledge this is a period of emotional and physical change for your child (talk to them about these changes)
- Listen to their views and respect their choices (they may not want to play piano/violin/ do gym/football anymore. Privately lament the thousands of pounds spent on them)
- Give them more independence (don’t micromanage their time or homework, for example)
- Don’t baby them (note to self; do not cling to them like a needy leech)
- Don’t argue with them (good luck with this one!)
- Continue to give them kisses and cuddles if they want them (unlikely to be in public)
- Continue to give love and support
- Creep into their bedroom at night to gaze at them adoringly as they sleep (so as not to incur their wrath).
If the above tips don’t help then you’re on your own, buddy. But you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that it is a transitional stage and a natural part of your child’s development. A bit like metamorphosis, when the hungry caterpillar transforms into a beautiful, radiant butterfly. Except that it’s not. It’s more the converse; when your beautiful, rosy cheeked cherub transforms into a grumpy, cantankerous teenager. That being said, I hear it gets better once they’re eighteen.