Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The not-so-obvious needs of a preteen

I'm the mom of two.  My 12 year old is a very obedient, sweet natured and good hearted.  He knows very well that there are times to be quiet and stay still to let mom and dad get their work done.  He respects our wishes, and stays, waits, hurries up to go, reads, writes, cleans, evangelizes, prays, stays up late and wakes up early according to whatever we tell him.  He always has a smile on his face and complies with our wishes with only a little bit of complaining from time to time.  But if he is ignored too much, his behavior will become much less pleasant and not because he is a bad boy, but because he is a growing child whose needs are not being met.

It's easy to assume that once your little ones have grown into big kids and less dependent on you for their every need, they can just be given orders and left on their own.  As long as you provide food on the table, clean clothes, sheets and towels, make sure they do their homework and don't tear up the house, you feel like your work is done.  But you're not even close.  Your job as a mother is not to ensure they can eat and clean up after themselves, or even that they bring home good grades from school.  Their need for you to be interested and involved in their development is as important, and even more so, as before.

Here are some pre-teens parenting tips:

1.  You will frequently find that they love to talk about total nonsense.  Don't just dismiss it as total nonsense!  They are going though a process in which their minds are processing more information and trying to sort it all out as they are beginning to understand more of the adult world.  Let them talk, listen, and comment on their ideas - even when they seem crazy.

2.  Push other duties aside from time to time to focus 100% on them.  You will be richly rewarded. Play a board game, go to a museum together, ride bikes and go out for treats just for fun.  Among the odd things they think and want to talk about, you will find jewels of information about their doubts or fears or ambitions that you can help them understand.  These are bits of information that they would never tell you if you just ask them those ignorant grown-up questions like, "What are your fears?" or, "What are your ambitions?"  Everyone knows the only answer to those dumb questions are, "Idunno."

3.  Laugh with them and enjoy their ridiculous ideas instead of treating them like they're stupid.  (You may never dream of calling your child such a thing, but you can make them feel it by the way you treat them.)  Remember what it was like at their age and how awkward it felt to be in that transition between little child to teenager.  Tell them funny stories of things you did at 12 to show them that you aren't so different.  Bringing up those old memories will help you have more empathy for what they're going through.

4.  By your actions, not just your words, let them know that they can still come to you for anything.  This is invaluable - soon they will be going through changes in their bodies and they'll need to know they can trust you to understand the strange things happening to their thoughts and feelings.  If you have made it clear to them that you think their rambling thoughts are a waste of time, they definitely will not feel confident to tell you how confused they feel as they grow.

5. Treasure this time while they are still talkative and openly dependent on you.  Prepare yourself, because your little one will soon become another creature altogether when puberty hits with all the hormones, mood swings and insecurities about their sudden changes.  Well-adjusted teens grow from well-loved preteens.

Preparing for Adolescence: Caution Changes AheadPreparing For Adolescence: How to Survive the Coming Years of Change


Anonymous said...

I loved this post, I admit that I've made a couple of mistakes with my now teen son and if I had only come to realise what you've written here earlier, I might have gotten him farther than where he is now... I think you're a great mom and I think I've told you that a number of times already, just had to say it one more time :-)

Debora Anjos said...

wow, Mrs E. These were some non-emotional words for talking about their thoughts, that's real advice! Because the truth is that our selfish nature won't want to listen to children during all the time that they demand so much attention.

But like you say, it is through giving them the attention they need that they will respect the parents more, obey, and look up to them, and grow wishing to be like them.

Some of the words made me laugh. The younger the person, the sooner they can start being used by God, they have a pure heart, that is for sure what amazes me the most in kids. It teaches me a lot. They can also take in so much information, no wonder it's said that it's the best age to start learning foreign languages....

The other day I called my brother via phone (he's 5) and when asked if he wanted to talk to me, he said no because he was watching a movie...then my dad asked him to come to the phone and tell me directly. He said "Debora, I don't want to talk right now"! I thought it was so precious! What adult would ever be that honest with someone they know, especially a family member?

Kids definitely need limits but if only parents could encourage the creative, pure-hearted, and honest side of kids, they would grow into much more fulfilled individuals.

Tania - Queens, NY said...

okay, so i'm not a mother yet, but this will help a lot to understanding the children in the Kids Zone and Junior's Group. Sometimes their nonsense tends to "annoy" me, but its just that I forget that one day I was the same and I liked (and still do!) when people let me talk about what's on my mind.

I will apply these very helpful tips for when I am teaching in Kids Zone!

Thank you!

Leeanne said...

Thanks for the advice Mrs.Evelyn,

Although my daughter is not there yet, I know that these tips are most certainly going to help me with her.

Ana Villatoro said...

While a read this post I thought of sharing it with my nice, she has 2 boys and I know this will help her a lot.

Also I thought of my nephew who is sweet, but is very far from the family, I mean from her mother, grandmother and aunts, and I think is because He was not treated the way you explain of how they should be treated.

It is very sad to see youths destroyed because their parents did not have the wisdom to guide them, therefore I will share this post with the people I know.

God bless you Mrs. Evelyn.

Kenia Rivas said...

Hello Mrs.Evelyn,

I have a little brother who is eight, and he loves to talk and talk and is quite creative with many out of the blue comments that end up been quite adorable. I've noticed that most times all little kids need is a time were we can give them our undivided attention, laugh, play, and joke with them. This makes them feel like they can trust us and come to us when they need us. Great Advice, thank you:)

Kenia Rivas

Daylia, London UK said...

Mrs Evelyn I loved this post. I have a son who will be 10 in a few weeks and I can relate to so much of what was said.

My son tends to have moments where he wants to talk about various things that just doesn't interest me at all. I try to listen but just get lost in my own thoughts sometimes but now I realise how important it is for me to give him my 100% attention.

I am going to print a copy of your tips to keep with me so I can refer back to it regularly.

Thank you.

Sarah Dok said...

What I learned form this post is that children need love, attention and guidance. I don't children but someday when I do I'll apply your advice in my life. Thanks Mrs Evelyn.


Divya said...

This is very helpful advice when dealing with my sisters.

Liza said...

Hi Mrs. Evelyn!

As a Teenager, I know what the teenager's facing. This post was a very inspiring. I believe that you are a great Mom!

Thank you!


i love it mrs evelyn your really a blessing also to us..
thank you for inspiring us,
your a great mom..

Raquel Parras said...

These tips are really important, sometimes parents simply give their childre all the material when they need to share more time with them...***