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Tweens and Responsibility: Let Them Spread Their Wings

In recent years I've realized that my husband and I have entered the ”golden years” of parenting. The kids are no longer babies, but they haven't yet reached teenage hell. They play independently, they bathe themselves, and they know how to use the toilet. As a result, we get to have intelligent conversations with them, play complex games with them, and even teach them to get their own drinks and snacks. It's a glorious time to be a parent!

Unfortunately, the ”golden years” are not actually years at all. Apparently they only last about eight months or so. That's when you enter the tween years, and your sweet life becomes a roller coaster of tears and hormones.

My daughter is 9 years old, and her transformation from a pretty, pretty princess into a terrifying tween happened quicker than you can say, ”text me.” One day she just woke up with an attitude the size of grizzly bear. It's as if she read and memorized the ”Tween's Guide to Driving Your Parents Crazy.” (Or maybe she's the one who wrote it!) Regardless, our daily interactions with our daughter include a great deal of eye rolls, shrugs, and sighs.

One of the manifestations of her new attitude is an ongoing battle known as I Don't Want to Wear a Coat. I know it sounds silly, and I'll share some of our more vicious battles in future posts, but the coat thing has become a serious power struggle every time we leave the house.

The girl hates wearing a coat. She's warm-blooded by nature, and we call her The Radiator because she sleeps with no covers and still wakes up covered in sweat. Her cheeks are always red because she is usually hot. So whenever I tell her to put on a coat, it turns into World War III. She fusses and fights and stomps and complains and generally just makes my life miserable until I let her take the coat off.

So what's the solution? Do I exercise my parental authority and make her wear a coat? Or do I let her freeze and catch pneumonia in the cold?

I think I've come up with a good alternative: I listened to my daughter. I heard what she was trying to tell me every time she stomped and pouted. She was saying, "I'm old enough to make my own decisions about the clothes I wear. Let me make those choices, even if I'm wrong sometimes. It's the best way for me to learn."

So I did what she asked. Now every morning before we go to the bus stop, she checks the weather report online. If necessary, she walks outside to see how cold it is. Then she decides whether she will wear a heavy coat, a raincoat, a light jacket or nothing at all. And guess what? So far, she has made the right decisions. (Surprise, surprise!)

This small gesture has done wonders for our relationship. She feels more in control of her wardrobe and her body. I feel good about giving her some responsibility. It's a win-win situation. And what happens if she doesn't wear a heavy coat one cold morning? Well, I guess she'll be cold! It's the ultimate natural consequence.

So the next time your tween gives you That Look, and you know the one I'm talking about, take a moment to really hear what she's trying to tell you. She might be telling you she's ready to spread her wings a bit and venture toward becoming a young lady. Let her make some decisions, and let her make some mistakes. It's the best way for her to learn and grow.

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