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Talking to your tween about tough love
Talking to your tween
As parents it is our job to teach our children everything they need to know for them to grow into happy, healthy, respectable, responsible, productive members of society. It is a hard job, and sometimes we forget that kids, tweens, and even teens don't always understand the lessons we are trying to teach them.
The best way to get through to your tween is to speak in a language he/she understands. They are still at an age where talking about fictional or "other" characters is more effective than focusing on them directly.
Taking the heat out of the "hot seat" when talking about serious or sensitive issues is your best bet for obtaining the retention in your child's mind that you are shooting for.
Explaining why you're hard on them
There are an endless number of ways parents can try to explain to their child why they are so hard on them. Here is one example of how to explain to your tween why you are being harder than they may want you to be:
I sat my girls down in the living room the other day. I had just leaned into them about responsibility and picking up after themselves. One turned on the tears, another the "it's not fair", another tried curling up under a blanket and hiding out... each child reacts differently when faced with a situation he/she would rather not be in.
I sat them all down on the couch in the living room and asked "Does anyone know what happens to a butterfly if you cut it's cocoon?"
The eldest raised her hand "It will die."
"That's right." I replied, "Now, does anyone know why it dies?"
No one knew, so I continued, "The butterfly needs the struggle of breaking free from it's cocoon in order to build it's strength. If someone makes it easy on the butterfly, tries to help it by cutting the cocoon so it doesn't have to fight it's way out; the butterfly is too weak. The easiest path makes you weak. It is the struggles which make us strong. Allowing someone to cut your cocoon kills your spirit, just like it kills the butterfly. You are all my beautiful butterflies. I won't let you take the easy path. I won't cut your cocoon, because I would never want to kill your spirit. I want you all to grow up to be the strong, beautiful butterflies you are. I want you to be strong enough to fly when it's time."
I asked them all if they understood. They all nodded, some cried. I hugged them all and dismissed them from the living room. For the rest of the day they treated everyone around them with greater respect. They followed the rules with little to no reminders.
The talk really affected them. They were able to understand and associate themselves with a butterfly.
Just as important as having an effective "break through" talk with your tween, is the follow up. Now that your child envisions them-self as a beautiful butterfly, take it one step further.
Ask your child when he/she is faced with a difficult decision. "Will it cut your cocoon?"
Encourage them to tell people "Don't cut my cocoon." Give them the tools they need to carry their new found understanding and strength to greater heights. "They might not understand what you mean, but you will. Don't let them cut your cocoon."
Encourage positive changes and behaviors you see "Oh, look at my beautiful butterfly spreading her winds. I think it's great you worked so hard at.... , you did it. You didn't give up, even though it wasn't easy and now look at what you've accomplished!"
Children who are in that in between stage of childhood and adulthood need to hear words of affirmation and encouragement. They feel a strong desire for independence while still looking through a skewed lens. Don't be afraid to tackle the really difficult topics with your tween. The more open and honest you are with them, the more you share; the more they will feel safe and comfortable knowing that you will understand when they feel the urge to talk about something important that may be bothering them.