WTF happened to my daughter?! (Ten things I’ve learned parenting a tween)

WTF happened to my daughter? This is basically what I say on a daily basis now that I’m parenting a tween. I mean don’t get me wrong, I LOVVVVVE the crap out of her… when she’s actually my daughter and doesn’t resemble Heath Ledger playing the Joker. Tweens are fun, aren’t they?! Yay! FYI, that last bit was written in the sarcastic font.

Anyways, I will be the first person to admit that I don’t know WTF I’m doing and I pretty much feel like I’m failing miserably all the time. Despite that, I have learned a few things so far. Enough to fit on a post-it note. So here goes, here are ten things I’ve learned about parenting a tween:

1. To talk less and listen more. There are two things that happen when I talk too much. A. She doesn’t get to vent her feelings. And B. She starts tuning me out and stops listening to anything I say.

2. To try not to fix her problems all the time. Sometimes all she wants is for me to say, “Yeah, that sucks,” and follow it up with a hug and some ice cream. Well, she doesn’t really want the hug but I give it to her anyway.

3. To go lie on her bed sometimes even if she doesn’t ask for it. Will she complain? A little. But the way I see it, if she doesn’t come to cuddle in our bed anymore, we need to go to hers once in a while.

4. Not to let her rain on everyone else’s parade. She’s allowed to be in a crappy mood. She’s allowed to walk around without a smile on her face. She’s allowed to sulk quietly. But if she’s wailing, or stomping, or biting people’s heads off, she’s ruining their day too, and that’s not okay.

5. To talk about suicide and not avoid the subject. I know it feels like I’m putting the idea in her head, but really I’m just letting her know if the idea ever pops into her head, there’s always a better answer. Plus, having the conversation teaches her it’s not a taboo subject. She’s always allowed to come talk to me about it.

6. To be her punching bag, not her doormat. At the end of a bad day, I am the person she can cry to, vent to, and unload her feelings on. I am there to help absorb her pain. But I am not there to be treated like dirt. If she wants that, I will buy her a doormat.

7. Not to walk on eggshells around her. No matter how fast she’s growing up, I will always be older than her. She doesn’t rule the roost. I do. And if I’m afraid of her, that mean she’s in charge, and that’s not good for anyone.

8. Not to make up problems that aren’t there. If she’s having a problem, by all means I can worry about it. But lying awake at 2am letting my mind spin out of control and making up problems that aren’t even there is a waste of energy. I need to ask myself, is this her problem or MY problem?

9. To apologize to her when I screw up. Like I said, I’m failing miserably all the time. But if I can admit to her when I make a mistake, hopefully she’ll do the same. Whether she’s sorry she yelled at me, or she’s sorry she she spilled nail polish on the carpet, or she’s sorry she tried vaping, or she’s sorry she accidentally got pregnant and needs my help. I hope she can always come to me with her mistakes so we can figure them out together. 

10. To give her space when she needs it. I love sitting alone on the couch, or taking a walk by myself, or reading a magazine in peace, or sitting at the bottom of my closet where no one can find me. I need my alone time to stay mentally happy. And maybe she does too.

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There are 9 comments for this article
  1. Alisha Person at 11:17 am

    Thank you for this article. I am in the throws of parenting a tween; my first. It is all so new and I am constantly thinking I am screwing her up. Love the advice in your article, especially number five.
    I also loved your first book and just pre-ordered the new one! Cannot wait to get it!

  2. Tiffany at 11:54 am

    This is a great post. I have a 16yr old (boy) 14 yr old (boy) 13 yr old (girl) and an 11 yr old (boy) and we are in it! 😅😥😰.

    It’s hard to know what goes on in their world even with constant and open communication. I want to say I have followed the same 10 things, but I am horrible about sticking to #6 and 7. I do walk on eggshells sometimes in hopes there won’t be a blow up of teenage angst, but it’s not fair to let our kids rule us. I am fortunate in that it’s really only been the oldest that has been rough from time to time. My daughter definitely has more moments of hiding in her room though.

    Nice to know we’re never alone in this parenting thing.

  3. Becky at 12:11 pm

    Well said Momma!
    I’m going through the same age as you are but with two girls (one is 14 and the other is about to turn 13). We have plenty of eye rolling to go around here.
    Numbers 2 and 8 are the toughest one for me to remember. I just want to fix it all and I worry too much. I’m certain I project my own adolescent insecurities onto them all the time. There are some things that are just tough to let go.

  4. Melissa at 1:59 pm

    Here is a number 11 for your list lol. It gets worse fortify yourself with wine. LOTS of wine. I have a 16-year-old daughter and let me Telya it has been a journey LOL but every day I am more and more proud of the young woman she is turning into even if sometimes I feel like I had nothing to do with it. Serious number 11 though trust your kids even when sometimes you feel like you shouldn’t. Like when they want to
    Drive lol 😂 I absolutely love your articles and it is nice to know that we are not the only ones going through this on a daily basis. Sometimes being a mom can be really lonely.

  5. Chris at 8:44 pm

    Does Zoey have a smart phone and how does that affect her ? Looking for perspectives as my husband and I enter this realm soon and want to prepare and hear from others. Thanks great post!

  6. Mari Ann at 7:52 am

    This caught my eye because my daughter is right on that “tween” cusp. She turned 10 this past January and it’s like a whole new child has emerged. One that is sassy, and moody and well reminds me of me!! Thank you for this advice and the suggestions. It’s good to know I’m not the only one going through this.

  7. Melly at 9:27 pm

    Sage is 15, will be 16 at the end of June. Her tween stage wasn’t bad, but she was not in a good place when she turned 14. The hormones really kicked in, and suddenly the boys didn’t have cooties anymore. Giving her some space on those moody days really made a difference.

    Now we have to worry about driving! Yikes!!

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