The Secret to Understanding Your Tween
Tweens are a bit of a mystery. Not quite kids, not quite teens, and so easily swayed by outside influences. The secret to dealing with tweens is understanding that they have a deep, emotional need to be accepted as a valuable member of a group. I’m going to share a story about my tween daughter Ashleya. Last week Ash was really upset after school. She said she wasn’t good at sport and didn’t want to attend the sports carnival. I sensed something else was bothering her.
At bed time…
ME: ‘Why don’t you want to go to the sports carnival?
ASH: ‘None of my friends are in my faction. Only ‘the cool girls’ are in my faction and I can tell they don’t like me!’
ME: ‘Did they say they didn’t like you?’
ASH: ‘No. I can just tell by the way they act, that they don’t want to be my friend. They all look the same and I don’t look like them. They all have long hair. My hair is short. They all have Nike shoes and I have Globe shoes. I don’t have the right kind of shoes for the carnival and I can’t run fast! I wish I was one of the cool girls.’
ME: ‘Well you’re a cool girl to me.’
ASH: ‘It’s easy for you to not care what other people think, mum. I wish I could be more like you and not care.’
ME: ‘Well I used to care. It’s a temporary developmental stage when you really want to be accepted by a group between the ages of 10-14. I remember being ashamed of my dorky shoes when I was your age and wishing I could have shoes like the cool kids in my school. I understand how you feel. If it means that much to you, you could always use your $100 from your birthday money early, and buy the shoes you want for the carnival.’
ASH: ‘Thanks mum!’
ME: ‘But I must also warn you that companies know that kids your age really want to fit in, and they try to take advantage and capitalise on that insecurity. When I was in school I learned that Nike paid workers in Asia a really small amount to make the Nike shoes in a factory. Let’s say $1 per day. Then Nike pay celebrities millions of dollars to wear the Nike shoes, so people will think they are ‘cool’ shoes. Then people who want to be cool, buy the Nike shoes for $100. So what do you think about that?’
ASH: ‘I want to be Nike making all that money!’
ME: ‘Just remember, it’s all just a trick. Nike shoes and no name shoes are all made in a similar factory by similar workers all making a small amount of money. It’s a sad reality. It’s just that Nike have paid someone to wear them to make them seem cool. Wearing Nike shoes doesn’t make someone cool; it’s a trick. Now you are free to spend your birthday money as you wish. Choose where your money goes wisely.’
At the shops…
ME: ‘It’s a good idea to decide how much money you want to spend before you go in to the shops, so you don’t overspend.’
ASH: ‘I’ll spend $30 on shoes. I’ll save the other $70 for my lip balm business. My goal is to eventually buy my own car that I can drive on our property, using money from my business! I just want running shoes that have a good grip. My current shoes are more like walking shoes.’
ME: ‘Ash these Nike shoes at the surf shop are only $50 on sale! If you really did want Nike shoes like the girls at school, you could afford these.’
ASH: ‘I know I could afford them. But I don’t want to spend that much on shoes, because I want to save as much as possible for my business.’
ASH: ‘These shoes are in my price range! I’m going to just get these shoes for $25. They feel comfortable and have a good grip, and cost under $30.’
ME: ‘Glad you found shoes you are happy with. Imagine how cool it will be when you are driving your own car on our property that you bought with your own money! Now THAT is cool!’
In this story, I was able to influence my tween more than the ‘cool girls’ at school- I’m calling that a parenting win! Noel Janis-Norton is a learning and behaviour specialist, and in her book, ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Screen Time’, she says: ‘until a few generations ago, the influential group that children and adolescents and young adults wanted to be accepted into was the extended family and the surrounding community of families with similar values and habits.’ Noel goes on to say: ‘Once we understand and accept our childrens’ and teens’ need to be part of a defined group, we can consciously decide to remake our families in to the kinds of groups that our children want to belong to and want to identify themselves with.’
Let your family be the group that your tween is accepted and influenced by. At home we are ALWAYS talking about entrepreneurial ideas and how we can use our five acres to make money so we can take care of ourselves and help the less fortunate. It’s our ‘thing’ and my kids love being a part of it. What is your family’s ‘thing’?
You can also start groups that your tween wants to be a part of with another parent. Ash is a bookworm so my friend and I created a kids book club for our kids. The kids take it in turns to bake something for the group, and this makes them feel like valuable, contributing members of the group.
Your tween is craving to be an accepted member of a group. So let your family BE that group! Do exciting things together! Explore the world together! Give unconditional love! You can create that group your tween wants to be a part of at home! Be the biggest, most positive influence in your tween’s life! It will cost you time, energy, and effort, but it will be so worth it. Do you have any tips for connecting with your tween? Would love to hear your ideas in the comments :)