Raising Preteens: Realizing How Uncool You Have Become
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The more you try to control a child, the more rebellion you'll have on your hands. Listen and guide (when asked-resisting the temptation to lecture) and you will have better results.
Who Is This Child of Mine?
One of the things that will shock you deeply when your child hits the preteen years is how much her personality suddenly differs from yours. You may swear that no child of yours will ever listen to heavy metal rock and roll, and of course that's all she'll want to listen to. For years you may have forbidden him to watch horror films, and suddenly that's the only kind of movie he likes.
It is really difficult to accept that your child has an entire personality of her own and that you really can't influence it that much anymore. You can limit or forbid certain things, but you can't change what interests her.
Shifting Your Mothering-Style Gears
In the preteen years, your best bet is to recognize that you can't rely on force of will, or on the blanket “do it because I told you to” approach. You're better off concentrating on reinforcing the sense that you believe in your children and trust them to make good decisions.
As the mother of a preteen today, you're going to find that you have to make new rules for coping—your own mom's way of doing things often just won't work. You can't control all the influences he's exposed to, and you can't take him out to the woodshed with a switch when he misbehaves. You want to teach him to respect you and to respect himself enough to live up to healthy standards and resist peer pressure to get into trouble. By encouraging individuality and a strong self, you will give him the courage to refuse to go along with the crowd.
As parents feel a child begin to pull away and form a separate personality, the temptation is to resist by imposing restraints. It's best to strike a balance: Set reasonable limits, but at the same time loosen the reins a little.
Staying Close, but Not Too Close
Be around for your preteen. Even though it appears your child can have more independence and can even spend time alone at home, try to make sure he is supervised after school. Those after-school hours between three and six are the hours during which kids are more likely to get into trouble. At this age you know your child is pretty capable—you know, for example, that he can use a microwave on his own, so he won't starve if he wants a snack when you're not there. But a preteen is still a child, and it's best if you can be there when he comes home from school. If you can't, at least try to have someone a little older there for him—someone who can offer support and supervision.
The preteen years are challenging but can also be the time when you do the most real mothering: When a child is young, hugs and kisses are enough to solve most problems—your simple loving presence is usually enough. It's when your child is a preteen that you can create a special bond that can grow over your lifetime. As your child begins to develop her own personality, separate from you, a new bond forms between you that ultimately will be transformed into mother and friend.
Your Child Is Changing, and So Are You
Just as your child is just beginning to discover his or her own identity, you also are going to go through many changes during your child's preteen years. You will be reevaluating your role as a mother as you adjust to your child's changing needs. At times you may feel very unappreciated. And, if your child is like most preteens, she's probably is driving you a little bit crazy right now. Don't worry about it—all it really means is that you're doing your job—you've given your child enough confidence to try things on her own, and enough security to dare to sometimes even challenge your judgment. Congratulate yourself for that.
You can have a good relationship with your preteen. As with any stage in your child's life, you want to stay emotionally involved. Let yourself love your child and cherish even the most difficult of days. You really will laugh at them someday. Just make sure to take pictures to use as bribes in later years. Catch a few candid mirror shots. They are worth a bundle, especially if you catch some with pimples or a bad haircut.
More on: Teen Behavior and Discipline
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.
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