Being a parent is like catering to a constantly changing consumer, an exceptionally demanding one at that. We have to rethink, replan and revise our strategy.
As my kids enter their tweens I find all my old ones falling flat on their face: babying – irritates them, yelling – falls on deaf ears, cold wars – heck, they’re better at it than I am, lecturing – makes them roll their eyes, emotional blackmail – naah!
Nothing seems to work.
This new consumer is a tough one. He is often not even certain of what he wants. He is certain though, that he doesn’t want what you want him to want.
The eye-rolls, the arguments, the back-answering, the door banging – it gets to you. Besides, it’s bad for your hair – you know — because you’re constantly pulling them out in frustration.
It’s enough to make you forget that underneath all of that, lost somewhere, is your very own sweet little girl or boy who, till a year back, missed you if you so much as went to the washroom.
In their defense, I have to add that it’s a confusing phase for them. They’re clamouring to be their own person and fighting to assert themselves even while they’re not quite grown up. My son can set up the PS3 unassisted even while still struggling to tie his shoelaces. See that? It’s the contradiction that gets to them and to us of course.
Come to think of it the traumatic tweens are a lot like the terrible twos. They have the same quest for independence, the struggle to stand on their own feet and do things their way and of course, they’re just as much trouble for the parents.
If you’re a co-traveller with me in this parenting journey here is a list of Don’ts that you might find useful while dealing with your tween. I hope it will ease you out a bit and of course protect whatever remaining hair you have.
Here’s how it goes:
Me (sinking into the sofa after a long busy morning): N Can you get me a glass of water?
N: I’m tired.
Me (firing up): You’re tired? You’ve been watching television all this while. I cleared up your mess, ran to get prints for your school project, ironed clothes, got lunch ready and you’re tired?
Save your breath, N has long since zoned out. Nope, she’s most definitely not interested in how you’ve slogged through the day.
Don’t No. 1: Don’t list out your chores. You aren’t in competition with your tween. Besides, it’s plain boring.
Me: Do you intend to spend the entire day at the iPad?
H (lifting up his head for a millisecond): No, just a few more hours.
Don’t No. 2: Sarcasm doesn’t register. Lose it. A simple “You’ve had enough of the iPad, put it away” might work better. Compliance is of course not guaranteed but you may save a blood vessel from bursting.
H: Chill mom! You suck when you lose it.
Me: What kind of language is that?
H: It’s the English Language!
Don’t No. 3: Rhetorical questions leave room for cheeky answers. Avoid!
Me: Can you please clear the dining table?
H (without looking away from the television): Two minutes.
*After 10 minutes*
Me: Come on clear it up.
N: I’ll do it in the break.
*Another 5 minutes later..*
Me: Both of you clear up and help me lay the table for dinner.
Me: (With voice raised some ten notches higher) GET UP BOTH OF YOU RIGHT NOW AND CLEAR THE TABLE!
Don’t No. 4: Don’t yell. Find the space between pleading and yelling. Be firm and make sure they look right at you when you ask them to do something.
Me: That’s a party dress, you can’t wear it to play. Who wears a frilly flouncy thing on the playground?
N: Ankita does. Her mom always allows her.
Me: Ankita is silly and so are you if you follow her.
Don’t No. 5: Never ever ever criticize a tween’s friend. Bad strategy. It’ll only make her rise to the defence of her dear Ankita and earn you a very black mark. (PS: Did you notice that was a rhetorical question to begin with?)
In the end straight talk works best. Make time for those heart to heart conversations in moments of peace and keep your fingers crossed. I have been assured by the more experienced lot that even if they don’t seem to be listening, things do register somewhere deep in their subconscious.
Tulika is a journalist turned stay-at-home-mum to twins. Freelancer, writer, book lover, fitness junkie, amateur photographer and DIYer. Wannabe cook and gardener. Amidst all of that she finds time to run a fun weekly Book Club for kids. If she had one wish she’d ask for 50 hours in a day. At least. Join her on her parenting journey at www.obsessivemom.blogspot.com or find her sharing her book love at www.beataboutthebook.wordpress.com.