The Art of Raising Modern Tween Daughters

It just so happens that I was blessed with this pretty cool little human.

She is funny, creative, and wicked smart.

Aside from that, she’s a genuinely kind, respectful and well-behaved little human. I like to think I have a little something to do that.

Before I had her 11 years ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about the type of parent I wanted to be. The mistakes of my parents that I’d avoid, the friendships I would create with my future kids, and the adventures that we’d share. When I found out I was pregnant, I planned even more. I was the mom-to-be that read every baby book on the market, took the classes, watched videos, joined websites and every other thing a first-time mommy could possibly do.

None of it fully prepared me.

Granted, I did learn the technical side of new baby care. I became a master at diaper rash tips, tackling bath times, and the art of the perfect swaddle. If that was parenting, I’d be an expert now.

Truth be told, there was so much more to it than I ever could have imagined. But somehow, just like all the other moms before me, I managed.

I now have a healthy and fully-functioning tween, which comes with all sorts of new challenges. Sometimes emotions are like a land mine in my house, and I tread carefully afraid to trigger surly attitudes or tears. I’d be lying if I said I don’t lose sleep over some of the decisions I make when it comes to her. Single parenthood comes with its own additional challenges since I don’t truly have a sounding board for making tough parenting decisions.

I read a lot about what it takes to raise a daughter in the modern world. With the pressures of social media and technology in general, parents are now more challenged than ever before. Kids are empowered with Google and instant access to friends, all but eliminating the “Mother knows best!” decree. Kids these days can now fact-check some of the outlandish claims past parents used to get away with.

This slight power shift has given way to a whole generation of strong-willed kids. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who feels it. I’ve always encouraged her to share her opinions and have always asked her perspective on things – dinner choices, weekend activities, news articles, etc. And now that she’s a preteen, that slight freedom to which she has grown accustomed can sometimes pose a challenge.

So I’ve had to alternate my parenting style a few times throughout her life to mold to the natural changes and phases that she goes through.  Here are a few things that have managed to work for us thus far in the new phase called “tweendom”:

  1. Take every opportunity to talk  The car ride to and from school, doing chores, or just watching TV, I always take the opportunity to strike up conversation. Its easy with her because she’s quite loquacious, but when she’s not feeling chatty, I encourage her by asking about her friends, something we saw on TV, or her ideas on random topics.
  2. Let the kiddo help you with a problem Yes, we as the parents are usually tasked to solve the problems, but its such an ego boost for our kids when we ask their opinion for an issue at work or another age-appropriate challenge we are trying to overcome. Its also great practice at decision-making and helps grow the trust between the two of you.
  3. Be empathetic I struggle with this sometimes and have to constantly stop myself from feeling like she is being over-dramatic or cares too much about a situation. Yes their problems may seem small to us, but to them they are huge, potentially life-ending crises.
  4. Social media only when she is old enough to handle it Tween girls have enough issues to deal with at school with their peers without adding the pressure of social media. Body image and self-worth can all be skewed through the lens of social media. When she is old enough and mature enough, be sure to lay down some guidelines.
  5. Establish phone boundaries This is a big conflict in my house because my daughter (much to her dismay) isn’t allowed to text yet. But I think in general phone time should be limited and monitored. You should definitely be in-tune with what she’s doing on her phone and with whom she converses.
  6. Don’t obsess over discipline– This is a time when she will want to spend more time with her friends and flex her independence. Its natural for her to start pulling away from you a bit. Fight to hang onto the relationship, instead of fighting with her on all the other tiny details of life. Choose your battles and note that everything is not worth the fight or the relationship strain.

Parenting is a lot of work and I feel like this is the toughest on us both emotionally. There are plenty of times when I have to walk away and take a breather to avoid doing or saying something too harsh. But I wouldn’t trade a day with her for anything. Her relationship with me will hopefully pave the way for lots of great relationships for her later in life.

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