Tactical Parenting: Encouraging Tweens
Tweens: The tween phase is marked by outside influences forcing parents to change their minds about accepting the way their child thinks. Home life is as non-disruptive as good parenting prepares toddlers to value home life over all else. It is as disruptive as parents don’t enable their toddler’s to succeed in self-development and compound their consequent good feelings about themselves into loyalty to home and family.
But that’s enough about what parents should have done. Now, what can they do? (Numbered only for easy reference.)
- Abandon nurturing as the primary technique of connecting. To the greatest extent possible, use leadership by example. Tweens are through listening; they want to choose their paths alone except as they seek guidance over unexpected humps.
- Mom’s expressions of love such as hugs and kisses are expected but losing their importance. Respect, trust, and admiration carry much more convincing weight with tweens.
- Both parents demonstrate how to live up to something bigger that themselves—God, principles, standards, predictability, dependability, peaceful accord, loving one another, family. Always something bigger than personal opinion, feelings, or anger-stirred insistence. It enables and legitimizes parents to take the heat off of competition caused by child putting peers in the middle against parents.
- Keep the home friendly and familiar, a refuge. Outsiders are not the enemy, but they are less important except to tweens.
- Dependably and daily show interest by inquiring about accomplishments and spotlighting success from purposely doing things that contribute to development toward maturity and adulthood rather than getting along, building popularity, etc.
- Show trust by not getting excited about undesirable peer influence. As a matter of fact, the less parents get upset, the more easily kids learn that parents are both legitimate and worthy of being listened to.
- Spotlight tween’s ability to recognize right and wrong, fair and unfair, desirable and undesirable for the long term, what’s right for them. Encourage them to think more than feel.
- Without finding fault, encourage tweens to weigh options and decide what is greater success outside the home and how to get there. Be patient, it takes a while for kids to bridge the gap and learn to keep parents happy and peers friendly.
- Don’t find fault in peers, find fault in their values, standards, and expectations that differ from those taught the toddler and upheld for the tween.
- Find ways to enable boys to find satisfaction with themselves through accomplishments. School work is best. Having a job is great. Helping mom at home is essential. Make sure they have responsibility to match their maturity and they learn to fulfill it without animosity. If boys find satisfaction in what they are doing that has parental blessing, parents should not worry much.
- Find ways to enable girls to make themselves feel important in school, home, and to parents in the hope that their importance relating with others will not overtake family relations. If girls find self-importance in what they are doing that has parental blessing, parents should not worry much. A girl’s relations makes her feel good, but what she accomplishes develops her self-image and sense of self-worth.
- Teach that authority figures may not always be right, but they must be obeyed. If the child doesn’t like it, they can do differently when they are adults and have the authority to judge as appropriate for time, place, and incident. (To undercut authority figures is to also undercut parental authority. Whatever the parental good intentions, elevating child over authority figure teaches them to depend on others from which they also learn to plot, play, and manipulate parents against teachers and others.)
- Aspirations and ambitions to duplicate heroes energize children too. As toddler, heroes are found in parents. Tween boys especially look elsewhere for new heroes. Girls are not so adventurous to look elsewhere unless their current relations leave much to be desired.
- Heroes inspire ambitions to be a better person, which promotes mature growth. Celebrity worship highlights aspirations to have what someone else has and inspires envy and jealousy. Find ways as parent to be more admirable, hopefully hero-like as a mature adult, and don’t let children see celebrity worship in the home.
- When parents admire celebrities and tend to worship them, children see parents as admitting inadequacy. Subliminally the message settles into their hearts that they too must be inadequate. They don’t have enough. They easily mistake celebrities for heroes against whom they measure their own inadequacies and seek satisfaction in celebrity worship. Tweens are very vulnerable to making such a mistake, especially when parents set the example of it.
- Isolate boys and girls as objects of distinctly different characteristics, interest, respect, and trust. Reinforce the differences in every way practicable. The more they are NOT treated as distinctively different, the more mixed up sexually the girls will be both sooner and later in life.
- Females can’t have what politics promises relative to males and their nature tells them what’s right. The two are mutually exclusive. (The subject is too complex for here, but it has been described in articles titled Dark Side of Feminism and elsewhere throughout the blog.)
- Don’t nurture boys except to help recover from bad physical hurt, and then only minimally to show trust that he can handle whatever happened. Boys develop more manly when they convince themselves of their ability to meet all challenges and overcome or recover.
- Nurture girls in early tweens and morph away from it as time passes. They are slower than boys to develop self-confidence and independence for handling and acting on their feelings. (Boys act with little regard for feelings and so they learn from trial and error more quickly than girls.)
- Lead by example. Self-developing kids want to become adults and do best when they figure out how by following examples they select, which means they respect the models they use.
- Don’t aim at raising good kids; they become poor adults. Try to aim them at becoming good adults, and they will become at least acceptable and perhaps better-than-average kids.
- Kids more than parents have to keep up with their peers. The more that children hear parents talk enviously or jealously about what other adults do—e.g., keeping up with the Jones—the more deliberately that kids want to follow suit with peers.
Parental preparation for the tweens—i.e., raising toddlers—largely determines how children pass from first grade to puberty. The biggest challenge in the tween years is the child learning to play peers against parents. Unless inculcated with significant respect, trust, and dependence on parents to feel good about themselves, tween loyalty morphs predominantly into peer loyalty. They learn to succeed and feel good by heeding and duplicating peers to prove their worth outside the home. Unfortunately, too many and too easily find it more to their liking, which symbolizes less than ideal upbringing as toddler.
P.S. Her Majesty Grace had specific expressions she used in private with each of three sons. Her oldest and most precious. Her middlest and most precious. And her youngest and most precious. At that moment they were her most precious. And, it gave her an acceptable and endearing way to close every nurturing or counseling session. It has humored our family ever since it was disclosed to the boys in their forties.