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Raising Preteens: Realizing How Uncool You Have Become

Hanging on While Your Child Hangs Out

Your child hates you. At least, that's what she seems to be telling you, several times each week. Preteens are just like that—there are only extremes in their universe. Don't be too concerned about this when your child spews venom at you. Realize that, in the lexicon of preteen-dom, there are no shades of gray.

Communication, Preteen Style
A preteen says: A preteen means:
I hate you!I'm not feeling particularly good about myself right now.
I hate you!The cute guy in homeroom saw me with a zit this morning, and now he'll never talk to me.
I hate you!You're treating me like a child, but I really think I can do this by myself now.
I hate you!I think I'm flunking algebra class.
I hate you!I'm really scared right now and what I want most of all is a hug but I can't ask for it because, after all, I'm almost a teenager.
Womanly Wisdom

Preteens and teenagers will sometimes use conflict simply to force you to interact with them, even though the interaction is negative. Insecurity runs high at this age, and they may feel that this is the only way to engage you in their feelings. Try to tune out the harsh words and listen to what your preteen is really saying.

Coping with Them Fightin' Words

When preteens use extreme language (“I hate…,” “You never…,”) it is a way of expressing anger when more sophisticated tools are unavailable. And it's bad enough when your child talks like this in private. It's even worse when she lashes out in front of others. Even though it's embarrassing when your child says she hates you in front of your dinner guests, don't add fuel to that fire. Just say, “I know you are angry. I love you. We can talk about what is bothering you when you are feeling calmer.”

Your child will use anger at you to express many different things. She may use anger to manipulate you, or she may just be expressing frustration with her life. If you allow your feelings to be hurt every time you hear this phrase, you'll just be prolonging the conflict. It's better to let your child's mood work itself out.

Killing 'em with Kindness

When it seems that you just must react to your preteen's provocative behavior, remember this: There's nothing that will torture your child more than your refusal to respond to her tirades. If you do nothing while she's trying everything she can think of to rattle you, you are going to maintain complete control over the situation. Remember, however—the minute you get involved in a yelling contest, you have lost.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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