Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pre-teens, The New Frontier. . .Blog Day #14

I have never been sassed so much in one day as I have been sassed today. I don't mean the toddler-take-a-time-out-until-you-calm-down kind of sass.  I'm talking about legit sass. The kind that makes your blood boil and incites an automatic response of harsh words at diarrhea pace.

It is true that L had spent the night with her bff (seriously, they've been best buds since infant-hood) and probably didn't sleep very much. So tiredness was a factor in the dirty looks and argumentative statements. But with the swings from tears and remorse to anger and accusations, I think I got a preview of what's to come.

L is on the second half of 9 years old. She is the oldest of 5. She has started a brand new phase that the others have not. This phase is lovingly known as the pre-teen phase. Just the thought of it makes me shudder. I believe it to be worse than the teen phase.

Here's why: Teens are maturing and becoming more adept, if directed correctly, at how to deal with themselves and the situations around them. I tell my kids that when they are teens, they are practicing being grown-up. They still have to listen and obey, but they are able to make certain decisions on their own under the guidance of us, their parents. It's the final training phase before leaving the nest to be on their own.

Tweens, however, are just at that beginning phase of flying the coop. They are transitioning from a phase of taking in information and storing it in their blossoming minds. Faith and ideas start becoming their own. They start making connections between life, history and information. Along with these newly found ways of looking at the world, there comes an attitude and posture of having everything right in their eyes. Their opinions are suddenly stronger and forceful, especially when they think they are in the right. And more often than not, they think they are right. You could say that they are the overconfident rookies of late childhood.

Overconfident rookie + Emotional unpredictability = Tween girl

When I had babies, I thought the sleep training was hard. Then I realized that the terrible twos were, well, terrible. Then came toilet training. Definitely not easy. But infants, toddlers, potty training-- I'm an expert now. I'm about to potty train my 5th child, and I'm not even batting an eyelash.

I could write a book on pregnancy, birthing, diapering, sleep training, baby signs, toddler tantrums, homeschooling with toddlers, teaching manners to the young child, etc. . ..

But now, I'm in new territory. . .I have a brand new young lady to take care of. . .

I knew when I bought her the certain training undergarment last year, things would change. But I thought it would take longer. Today, though, has really opened my eyes to how quickly kids change.

She would look at me, after I would tell her something, with those angry eyes and spiteful words would come out about how, "I didn't blah blah" or "No, that's not blah blah" or "She's always blah blah"
My first instinct is to always push back, fight, and make sure she knows that I am in charge.

That works for toddlers, but not for big kids.

So after catching myself starting to yell, I simply looked her in the eyes and said gently but firmly, "You have been talking to me like that all day and I do not like it. You are going to stay in your room until Grandma comes tonight, and you are not going to talk back or be rude like that again today."

Her face softened a bit, and after a few minutes, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I'm sorry for being rude."

Wow. I have never seen her with such humble remorse. I might have found one of the many perks of having a big kid.

Well, she did spend time in her room. But as soon as she came out there were more episodes, happening just like earlier in the day.

Which led me to think, "I've really got to have that conversation with her."  You know, THE conversation. The one that includes the topic of moodiness and over-sensitivity.  And I have been procrastinating like it's a 10 page term paper.

I'm not afraid so much of the talk about that thing between a married man and women. There's already an understanding that there are appropriate things for marriage that, when outside of marriage, become inappropriate. Plus we have age-catered books on the subject of where babies come from. Plus, they already know all the correct names for the various anatomical parts involved.

It's more the changes one goes through when reaching adulthood.  According to what I've read, I have about a year before the cycling starts. Ack! I'm a little freaked out about it. To explain what to do, the emotional turmoil that comes along with it, the talk about being chaste, the implementation of our courting policies.. . It's all new to me. I've never done this. She's halfway to a grown-up.

Tweens: way beyond just controlling the tone of my voice and re-directing rude and sometimes vicious comments. I am now guiding a young one who is transforming into a woman.

Thus, a new journey into a new frontier is beginning.

And I thought toilet training was hard.

For more resources, check out Bren and Stan Jones' God's Design for Sex series and How and When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex.

For more reading on tween girls, I like
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliott
Lies Young Women Believe: and the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh Moss and Dannah Gresh
Lies Women Believe: and the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy Moss (for you)
Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge (I haven't read this, but plan to)
Captivating by John & Staci Eldredge (for you)
The Princess & the Kiss: A Story of God's Gift of Purity by Jennie Bishop
Bringing up Girls by James Dobson (for you)

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