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Thursday, December 4th, 2014
My daughter is 12—still seven months away from her birthday—yet acquaintances have been going out of their way to warn me about the teen years. Elizabeth Lauten’s now famous-Facebook post that criticized the appearance and behavior of the First Daughters also took a swipe at all teens. You might recall that her rant started out as, “I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but…”
I’m not so foolish to think that teaching my daughter how to drive, dealing the pressure of the SATs and college application letters, or helping her navigate boyfriend drama won’t be stressful. But come to think of it so were potty-training, separation anxiety, and the science fair. As for behavior, I’ll take eye-rolling over throwing herself on the ground in the middle of Target any day. And while I likely won’t prefer everything she wears and watches (Miranda Sings, you know who you are!), I didn’t when she was five either.
In the midst of thinking about all this, I ran across an interesting article today in my newsfeed about the teenage brain. Researchers from three major U.S. universities studied 40 kids ages 11 to 17. In the study, the kids listened to an audio clip of their own mothers saying, “One thing that bothers me about you is that you get upset over minor issues. I could tell you to take your shoes from downstairs. You’ll get mad that you have to pick them up and actually walk upstairs and put them in your room.” During criticism and for little while afterwards, researchers found that the pre-teens and teens had reduced activity in the areas relating emotional control and empathy. In other words, their brain starts shutting down, which helps explain why they tend to be maddeningly unresponsive while you’re being critical. So maybe it’s biological…not defiance.
Whether that’s the case or not, I have no intention of going into the teen years with dread. Won’t you join me? Parents of teens or soon-to-be teens, weigh in!
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Saturday, August 23rd, 2014
I used to think that babies and toddlers were the hardest to parent, with all the sleep deprivation, bodily fluids and baby proofing that come with that age range. It felt like my children were trying really hard to get themselves killed, and we spent our waking hours standing sentinel and worrying that all that stood between my daughters and certain doom was a flimsy plastic cabinet lock. Those were the days of guacamole in the hair and 3 a.m. wakeup calls, but at least we got nap time to recover and get our groove back.
Now that I’m the mom of a tween and an almost tween, I find myself dreaming of those days. Because while the really physical days of parenting are done—no more bending in half and hunching my back for hours over a struggling-to-walk-toddler—parenting an older kid requires tremendous mental fortitude. And I’m not sure I have the skills necessary to survive the next few years. Here’s where I’m falling short:
Scheduling Prowess I need military-level precision to keep track of all the school projects, teacher meetings and extracurriculars—something a girl once voted most disorganized by a jury of her peers simply can’t muster. I used to be horrified when I read stories of moms using their minivan as a traveling office/dinner table/living room, until my daughters began to fill every day with their various extracurricular passions. And now, my car comes stocked with paper towels, an array of snacks (and used wrappers), and is my regular conference call spot (thank God for Bluetooth!).
Mind Reader My daughter has developed a split personality, as she straddles the precarious line between childhood and adulthood. One minute, she’s begging me to let her watch The Fault in Our Stars—the next, she’s saying that she’s not too old for Sophia the First. And I’m never quite sure whether I’m talking to the grownup or the kiddo, which makes it hard to determine whether any suggestion I make is going to be greeted with a dramatic eye roll and sigh or excited exuberance. It’s hard to find that happy medium, where I’m allowing her to learn and grow, but not learn too much, too fast. So, despite the fact that I hear that every other parent in the fifth grade lets their children Snapchat on cell phones and watch Walking Dead marathons, we’re sticking by our guns.
Peace Maker I simply don’t have the negotiation skills necessary to get my girls to stop the battles and bickering and actually be the loving sisters I know they are, deep, deep (deep) down inside. I’d love to just tell my children to work it out themselves, but that often leads to tears and pain (and not just for me).
Book Smarts I was a straight A student when I was in school, but apparently I killed a lot of brain cells between then and now, or they decided to rewrite the curriculum just to make me look like the village idiot. Either way, there were things in fourth grade math that had me stumped, and I’m frankly a bit nervous about what comes next. I hope my daughters can teach me.
I’ve talked a bit about my struggles with tween parenting with my mom, and she just chuckles. “Wait until they hit the teens,” she says, ominously. “That’s when parenting really gets tough.” I hope I can survive it.
Tell us: Which age was the toughest for you as a parent? Why was that? Keep up with your kiddo through every age and stage through our Parents.com newsletters.
Image: Busy mom by Angela Waye/Shutterstock.com
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Friday, September 27th, 2013
It wasn’t that long ago that I took a hard look at my Facebook page and I didn’t like what I saw. After hours of slashing through pictures of my freshman year of high school, notes titled “25 things you should know about me,” and random groups I joined (e.g. I hate my study hall teacher), I finally whittled my page down to something presentable. Now imagine the damage I could have done if I had the same technology at 9-years-old.
But now that it’s 2013, easy access to smartphone technology is what kids and parents are dealing with. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog, “Is a Smartphone a Dumb Idea for a Small Child?” Catherine Pearlman writes about her friend’s pre-tween daughter using an iPod Touch, which works like a smartphone when Wi-Fi is available, to text her friends. This got me thinking, if kids can use iPhones to text, couldn’t they just as easily use apps like Instagram and Facebook? According to Pearlman, most kids are obsessed with their friends during the tween and teen years; they’re insecure, desperate to fit in, impulsive, and forgetful. This sounds like the worst possible time to introduce smartphone technology that instantly lets kids post public, non-erasable information about themselves online.
Today, my friend’s 11-year-old sister takes “duck-face” selfies along with Instagram videos of herself singing, and she shares them with her 175 followers. I wonder how well she knows her followers. I’m not even sure I knew 175 people when I was 11, let alone 175 people I would want to share videos of myself with. During my middle school days, I also didn’t know what a flatiron was, I had braces, and I was not allowed to wear makeup. Would this have been the ideal time to take selfies? I think not. Though the idea of a 6th grader with an Instagram profile is scary, she did figure out how to make her account private, which could prevent anyone and everyone viewing her page. This is something I hope all kids do until they learn impulse control.
While it’s frightening to think that any public information could also be accessed and used by child predators, it’s more likely that the images and posts could sabotage kids’ chances of getting into a great college or being hired for a dream job later on. Plus, pre-tween posts might simply lead to future embarrassment.
Now that I’m older, I’m glad that my childhood memories are safely hid away in scrapbooks and on home videos. I just hope that parents today think about how social media apps leave digital footprints and can affect their kid’s reputations and identities in the future.
Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock
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Friday, August 16th, 2013
As the proud big sister to a teenage brother, I was mortified to hear the results of recent research on teen “hookup culture.”Researchers interviewed 1,000 students and found that boys my brother’s age and younger were sending sexually graphic messages to girls as a means of “flirting or goofing around.” Without getting too detailed, these messages sent via Facebook, Twitter, or text typically asked if the girls (some of which they had never spoken to) would be interested in doing sexual things with them. Gross.
I asked my brother if his friends would ever do something like this to get a girl’s attention. He said, “I know one would, but everyone else thinks that it would be way too forward and would be a bad first impression.” Phew.
Researchers for the book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age think that social media and texting are partially to blame for kids taking “flirty” messages too far. They claim that it’s harder for kids, especially boys, to learn social cues and the polite ways to talk to the opposite sex since they can’t see the other person’s facial reaction).. While I do think that these platforms enable some kids to send creepy messages to unsuspecting girls, it’s hard for me to believe that social media and texting are the only ways tweens and teenagers are speaking to each other. It’s true that technology has evolved since I was in high school but the last time I checked, school dances, football games, and extracurricular activities are still going strong.
What this problem really comes down to is teaching boys to respect girls. Boys need to know that nice guys don’t always finish last and that you’re more likely to get a girl’s attention by being gentleman than by asking her if she wants to “hookup” with you. I hope that I taught my brother these values while we were still under the same roof.
At the same time, we need to teach girls that it’s okay to stand up to boys who make them feel uncomfortable. I assume that most girls who receive these graphic messages aren’t sure how their reaction will affect how the guys at school perceive them. But they should know that when they make it known that these messages are out of line, it’s not going to make them look un-cool — it’s going to make the sender realize he made a stupid move and, hopefully, stop him from using that pick-up method on girls again.
Image of a little girl via Shutterstock
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