Preteen Woes

What Would Debbie Do? Preteen Woes Dear Debbie, I have an 11-year-old girl that I swear I cannot get through to. She was doing so well in school at the beginning of the year, and now her grades have slipped. I have e-mailed teachers to find out what is going on, and they all say […]

What Would Debbie Do?

Preteen Woes

Dear Debbie,

I have an 11-year-old girl that I swear I cannot get through to. She was doing so well in school at the beginning of the year, and now her grades have slipped. I have e-mailed teachers to find out what is going on, and they all say that she is too sociable and is not paying attention to what she should be doing during school. When she gets home I have a chore chart for her but the chores rarely get done without someone telling her to do them. We have had several family meetings letting her know that she must live by the house rules, etc. She thinks I am the meanest mother in town! What to do?

           —Natalie

Dear Natalie,

Oh the woes of dealing with a preteen girl. Your daughter sounds like a dozen little girls I know, who find social activities more interesting than school work, family life and most certainly, their mother! While I could bore you with “it’s normal” or “she’ll grow out of it,” I really want to tell you to continue what you’re doing, but with a new attitude. It’s not our role as parents to be liked, it’s our role to set rules, parameters, and more importantly, boundaries. Consistency is the hallmark of a good parent, and continuing to enforce solid, realistic rules on our children develops young adults with a sense of right and wrong. That being said, it’s time to evaluate how you’re communicating with your daughter to get the necessary results that are best for her and your family.

I believe that a little reverse psychology is what’s needed sometimes to get through to our kids. Hammering them with rules is one thing, communicating fair and reasonable practices is another. I think it’s time you sit down with your daughter and listen to her complaints with an open mind. Show empathy to indicate you understand her plight, then figure out compromises that show you care about what’s important to her. When you approach a young person from a perspective of understanding, they will often work with you. When you beat them into submission, they’ll dig their heels in deep. So I say review your style of communicating, come up with something new–what you’re doing now isn’t working–and try again. I’m sure your rules are fair and designed to provide safety and security for your daughter, but delivery is everything. Give it another go.


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