Tweens - a season for moulding

TWEENS is a term coined for a child aged approximately between eight to 13, also known as preteens or preadolescents. As a mother of two tweens, I have my fair share of experiences to help me take a harder look at raising kids of this age group. During this ‘season’, parents complain that their tweens start to lose their cuteness and spontaneity for self-consciousness, demand for personal space and perceived independence. While able to articulate their needs and demonstrate their demands, tweens are still subject to parental manipulation, influence and control – which they hate, says my son. Given the parental power over this age group, most of us tend to overlook their feelings and the wondrous opportunities to mould as oppose to ‘saturating’ them with loads of enrichment programmes during their pre-school years. In this regard, I ‘lost’ quite a bit of opportunity with my elder boy. As a working mum then, I was challenged by the lack of time needed to discover and shape his growing years. Much of our time was spent together over school work which, in my opinion, was unhealthy since he predominantly associated mum to loads of assignments. Fortunately, I took the decision to leave the ‘rat’ race about a year ago to catch up for lost time and journey with my children as they transit from childhood to the teen years. During this period, I have witnessed their hurriedness to grow up in all areas, constantly struggling between wanting to reduce their dependence on their parents and yet much in need of parents’ affection, supervision and support.

Stay engaged
Many parents would agree with me that the tween years constitute an important period that stages the child for adolescence and adulthood. Unlike the pre-schoolers, tweens are aware yet unable to discern, impressionable hence easily moulded into habitual animals, and sufficiently media savvy to qualify as victims of consumerism. As parents who have spent years minding children from infancy to pre-school, we tend to take a back seat breathing out a sigh of relief in celebration of our new-found personal space when our little ones start to demonstrate signs of competence in their daily routines. The usual catch phrase, “the kids are independent now so they really don’t need much of me” signals a possible danger of neglect when we start to assume a more passive role in engaging them, eg through text messaging via the mobile.

The challenging teen need not arrive
In the tweens, we can effectively see the future of our society taking shape. If left to their own devices along with absentee parents and pressure from the glitzy media-driven marketplace, tweens will be forced to determine their own course of development independently. This will gradually but undoubtedly undermine parental authority hence resulting in challenging teenage years when parents often struggle to ascertain what did indeed go wrong!

The answer – they had missed the critical years from eight to 13 when they could have participated actively to help set the stage for the moulded teen to take shape.

The manner in which a child is raised during their critical tween years, and our approach in this period to dealing with issues will determine their ability to manage their emotions and relationships, as well as to guide them to develop healthy perspectives of their environment. This will help to serve as the platform to manage the challenging teenage years, and provide them with a good foundation to become responsible adults.

Invest your time not endless courses
Following are some goals one could adopt when parenting tweens:
  • Establish with your tween, clearly and consistently, the values of the family which will set the parameters for their actions and behaviour for all situations.
  • Create a support network which you can rely on to communicate and share common values with your tweens. Usually made up of relatives, family friends or teachers, this network is exceptionally helpful when you face a challenge with your tweens.
  • When misconduct occurs and punishment (minimise spanking, resort instead to withdrawal of privileges) is essential, tell the child the exact reasons for the punishment and inform them how you would intensify the level of punishment if they persist with misconduct. When my son was caught lying, we grounded him a week from using his mobile phone. If he was to lie again, it would be a 2-week grounding or removal of PC privileges, etc.
  • Involve in and learn about your tween’s lifestyle to strengthen bonding and encourage willingness to approach you for advice and help. We tell our tweens, “the more we know, the more we will support your activities.” Do strike a balance between being kept in the loop as opposed to invasion of space.
  • Encourage your tween to vocalise their feelings and articulate their opinions with an open mind. Follow through by teaching them to manage their moods and situations in a healthy and appropriate way as opposed to insisting that they solve the ‘problems’ quickly.
  • Create talking points about events and happenings observed in the surroundings. This is to hear your tween’s perspectives on them which will help you ascertain their train of thoughts, values, level of maturity and readiness to take up more responsibilities. To keep a dialogue session going, avoid asking questions that can be answered with “umm”, "yes" or "no".
  • Rope your tween into family decision making sessions which will give them a sense of recognition, ownership and promotes buy-in to major activities undertaken by the family. By exposing your tween to the processes involved before arriving at a decision, it allows them to better appreciate the need to offer due consideration to others – an important attribute to undertaking responsibilities.
  • Introduce your tween to small responsibilities and increase them as they are successfully performed. This will demonstrate to them the early days of cultivating and earning trust. Should they fail to deliver, do not reprimand rather let them experience the process which will encourage accountability – an attribute much needed as they traverse into the teenage years.
  • Continue with playful moments with your tween - wrestle, cuddle, tease and laugh with them often, and get involved with their toys, games and TV programmes. Engage in common leisure activities. Ours are cycling, bowling and water sports. Such fun moments are especially memorable that will be remembered long after. These have the potential of helping to soften harsh moments in later life.
Relax, have fun
Enjoy your tween and do not be pre-occupied by their grades in school. With all this caring guidance and formation, they will become adults of grace and polish, and be bountifully blessed. Invest in them, not just by pouring into their life endless courses but also your time to love, share and bond. This will be preciously remembered that will see them through both your and their lifetime.