“Lemme do it, Mom!” whines, Caden, your 10-year old tween, obviously struggling with the screw driver. He is thinking, “Can I do this?” He doesn’t want your help. He resents your assistance with anger and sass. Sometimes he is willfully disobedient. However, he is learning self-confidence as he unscrews the battery cover. Caden is now the boy who can use a screw driver – he puffs with pride. This is a feat to be praised.
Meanwhile, Jilly, your 15 year old, is a complete mystery. She wants to rainbow chalk her hair and paint her shoes just like (fill in name here). She wants to talk NOW not after dinner. She needs a budget half the house payment for iTunes downloads. And suddenly Jilly, your priss, asks if she can mow the grass instead of her brother but, puts on make-up to do it. Huh?
In the course of one conversation you are buddy/buddy- best friends and full of wisdom then you ask a question. Suddenly, the disdain, eye-rolling and disobedience starts. “What happened?” you wonder aloud, only to be answered by exaggerated sighs and more eye-rolling. The most hormonally unpredictable adolescent in the world is living in your house and you feel crazy, right?
Perhaps, but don’t freak out. This isn’t just hormones. You and your children will survive these stages of development essential for healthy adulthood.
Caden is developing self-confidence. Children, ages 6-12, learn to take pride in what they can do. It becomes who they are. They identify themselves with their skills. Moping, he may comment he’ll “never” be able to score a goal like Danny, his older brother. Conversely, he is the master of the screw driver and can’t wait to show dad.
Tweens, 10-12 years old, also notice and start to discuss differences in moral values between him and his friends. Caden will notice his friend calls names. He may wonder why he can’t. This questioning and comparison is more frequent when involved with children outside the home.
Yes, Jilly is dealing with hormones. Moreover, she is dealing with identity of self – who am I and how do I fit in this world? “I’m so embarrassed,” “I don’t know,” and “Leave me alone,” are common phrases. Jilly needs to be cool in front of her friends. She has anxiety over who she is and her future. She thinks you are wrong just because you are her parent. It is trial and error to find her identity. Save your sanity with these 8 tips:
- • Compliment initiative. Recognize attempts to accomplish tasks independently.
- • Identify differences. Explain those which may not be age appropriate – this is especially significant when there is an older sibling in the home.
- • Be patient. It may be easier, faster, and less messy but, remember you are building self-confidence.
- • Praise. Praise. Praise. After a task is finished; praise for completion, praise for things done right and done well. Take the time to ask him what could be improved even if the whole task is a mess. You want better attempts.
- • Give space. Give room to figure it out. You have taught the foundations through example, faith and family interaction. Trust in what is already there.
- • Ask questions. Thought provoking questions, at the right time, are great tools. “What makes you, you?” “Who are you?” “What is different about you?” “What do you like about you?” (Special Note: Today, it is not enough to say I am Christian. We need to help our children understand the qualities, characteristics and behaviors of the kind of person we want them to be. We need to help them answer the question “How are you a Christian?)
- • Don’t judge. When you are screaming inside, remain calm and continue talking.
- • Talk. Talk. Talk. When the urge strikes, make all efforts to stop what you are doing. The moment often passes fast at this age.
You are teaching life skills. The struggle of competence or self-confidence will come again. Identity issues will rise at least once or twice more in their life. Home is the safest environment to learn coping skills. So before your nest is empty, build strong and essential life skills in your children.
Courtenay Gueta, MSW has been working with tweens, teens and families for over 15 years. Her passion is helping people heal through art journaling. She believes a single change can lead you on a new path. Find out more at http://turnoutcreative.com/