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When Your Child Becomes a Preteen

Find tips on dealing with your preteen's new attitude.

When Your Child Becomes a Preteen

It happens when you least expect it. Boom! Everything changes. One day your little girl looks at you as though you are the embodiment of a goddess, and the next day she tells you your haircut makes you look like a geezer. You'll get no warning, but one day your happy, tender mother-daughter talks will start sounding like this:

  • Appalled Daughter: “Mom, you are not going to wear that outfit out of the house are you?”
  • Bewildered Mom: “What is wrong with this outfit?”
  • Appalled Daughter: “You look like a grandma.”

Or if you happen to be shopping with your 10- to 12-year-old, your conversation might sound like this:

  • Helpful Mom: “Look at this great outfit, honey. It would look so nice on you.”
  • Aghast Child: “Mom, (the eyes rolling) do you want me to look like a dork?”
  • Helpful Mom: “What's wrong with this outfit?”
  • Aghast Child: You wear it if you like it so much. Don't you know anything about what's in?”

Mommies Should Be Seen and Not Heard

When children hit the double digits something transformational happens to them. And the first place it affects is their mouths. Kids at this age become all attitude. Everything they say is followed with the disclaimer “whatever,” and they have a whole repertoire of comments to indicate that they have now become far too cool to have a mother telling them what to do.

When you are out in public with your preteen, don't even think about showing any outward signs of affection. Unless there's absolutely no possibility of being seen by anyone close to your child's age, do not try to hug her, do not pat her on the shoulder—in fact, it's probably best not to even acknowledge that you actually know who she is.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

I knew times had changed when, while shopping at the mall, my 11-year-old daughter asked to look around without me. I figured she was getting old enough for some controlled independence, so I said OK. Before I let her go I gave her the safety lecture on mall etiquette. I furrowed my brow, looked her in the eyes, and warned her about some gangs that might hang out there. Without blinking an eye she replied, “Don't worry, Mom. I am my own gang.”

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Today's children have a very different experience in middle school than most of us parents can imagine. The good news is they exhibit a confidence and streetwise attitude that is far beyond what most of us had developed by that age. The 10- to 13-year-olds of today seem much older than we did when we were that age. This means that what used to be called a generation gap is now more like the Grand Canyon. As mothers, we are breaking new ground—dealing with problems that our own parents never even dreamed of—but we often feel less adequate than our mothers did when we became prepubescent.

We don't have the hard-and-fast rules anymore: Very few of us have trained our children to obey us blindly. Oh, how we lament this choice at times, but we know it is a much better thing to have thinking children than clueless ones, as many of us felt we were expected to be at that age.

Forging a New Mother-Child Relationship

Children don't necessarily become instant delinquents the minute they hit 12 years of age—although sometimes it certainly seems that way. Their changing behavior can be disconcerting—and even unpleasant at times.

Baby Just Needs a New Pair of Shoes

Don't immediately assume that this new behavior is bad. Part of the problem is ours. It's difficult adjusting to the fact that you have a child one week and a preteen the next. It happens almost that fast.

Remember when your kids had a growth spurt and suddenly the shoes that fit last week became way too small? If you forced them to wear the old shoes, their feet would hurt and maybe even get damaged. Far better to let them wear new shoes that fit, right? Think of the preteen years as another kind of growth spurt. Let your kids try on behaviors that suit their new, more grown-up selves.

Womanly Wisdom

A lot of preteens find it really convenient to have younger brothers and sisters in the family. They can always use them as an excuse for fooling around with kid toys and games. This is especially handy around Halloween.

Transitions to Teen Time

The preteen period is a very interesting time in a child's development. And it can be very funny (but don't ever let your child even imagine that you're laughing—preteens are notoriously unwilling to laugh at themselves). Imagine it: There's your preteen acting totally cool in front of his peers, and then in the privacy of his room, he'll pull out his toys and play with him as he always has.

The preteen time is a transitional one, during which your child is trying on a lot of different behaviors. He may start talking about girls but have no interest in them at all. His hormones haven't kicked in yet, so all this new talk of girls is strictly to impress his friends. In fact, he may be feeling a bit nervous because he doesn't really see what all of the excitement is about.

Preteen girls are curious about sex, but mostly they're prone to crushes. Even with all the messages about sex that children are exposed to, we still expect the preteen years to remain innocent. Unfortunately, many kids are becoming sexually active in the preteen years when, developmentally, they have no concept of what a relationship is or what the consequences of their actions might be.

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