Let me start off by saying that I am not a a child psychologist or any other type of psychologist. What I’m about to tell you is what I’ve come to realize and what many may already know. Communicating with your tween can be an Olympic sport, if you let it.
As you may know, a tween is an individual between the ages of 8 and 12. They don’t consider themselves children and they are not yet teenagers. It’s kind of like being middle-aged. You’re too old to be young and too young to be old. I’m stuck right there right now. Anyway, here is what I learned from my years of experience dealing with children as a mother, aunt, sister, daughter and godmother. All of this was brought home by an interaction with a mother and daughter duo I met with the other day.
Oftentimes, we as parents believe that we are properly communicating with our tweens but in fact we are not. We are communicating to our tweens, which is totally different. Sometimes we have a vision as to how we want something to go that includes our tweens. Perhaps they say, “Okay.” You may think that you are collaborating with your tween, but you’re really not.
What you are doing is telling them what they should do without asking them. Okay, there are times when you have to make decisions for them but not all the time. This is especially true for things that are supposed to be fun. When you are planning something for them that you want them to enjoy, don’t you think you should include them in the planning and perhaps ask them what they want?
In addition to asking them what they want, encourage your tween to express themselves. If they aren’t in agreement, let them know that it’s okay for them to say that. Many tweens may believe that they always have to agree with what their parents want them to do. In other cases, they may feel that they must also agree with what all adults or figures of authority tell them to do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that is a good strategy.
The reason I bring this up is because parents don’t always look at situations from their tween’s perspective. We make assumptions as to what they would or wouldn’t like. We also make plans for them thinking that’s what they want. Hey, just because they enjoyed Legos when they were 8 doesn’t mean they will still enjoy them when they are 10.
Basically, there needs to be communication on both ends. Parents need to find out what their tweens enjoy. You can still make suggestions on things you think they might like but in the end, they need to make that decision. On the flip side, tweens need to speak up for themselves. If their parents want to do something nice for them, they should at least let the parents know if they are or are not wasting their time and/or money.
“Communication works for those who work at it.” ~ John Powell