Monica Malpass' Parenting Perspective
March 16, 2010 (WPVI) -- This week we are learning what 12-year-olds typically act like around their parents, at school and with their friends. Is it normal for them to seem lost and confused? Should you worry if they act bored, disengaged or challenge your authority? Chip Wood from YARDSTICKS: CHILDREN IN THE CLASSROOM AGES 4 TO 14 has some answers and strategies for parents of pre-teens.
First, the answer to the two questions posed is yes, confusion is normal for 12-year-olds and no, you shouldn't worry if they're bored or questioning everything you say. Twelve-year-olds are caught in a world of changing classes, trying to impress their friends and finding their independence from their parents. There is no perfect environment to meet all their needs. But experts say something between summer camp action-packed high-energy activities and plenty of group time with their peers is essential. Parents and teachers have to work together to handle the developmental chaos your 12-year-old is encountering.
It boils down to this question: Am I a child or not a child? Your youngster is struggling to find solid, strong relationships. So their greatest need is to hang with their friends. Parents and teachers traditionally take a backseat to peers. Don't be surprised if your 12-year-old hangs out in front of the mirror, chats on the computer and talks or texts on the phone incessantly. This is how they start defining themselves. They want to be on the cutting edge of movies, TV, sports, the latest fashion, hairstyles, music and all things pop culture.
Twelve-year-olds also like challenging school work&reports with skits about famous people, illustrations, costumes, 3-dimension maps, science models, and all kinds of art or research projects. Twelves make great tutors to younger kids and can help raise money, manage school papers, organize projects for needy families, etc. They are great on student councils, planning a spring field trip or organizing school social events.
But the bad news is they aren't usually great at mundane, daily responsibilities, like keeping their rooms clean, keeping up with homework or books and papers. (Neither of these issues is worth a fight with your 12-year-old.) That is because emotionally, 12s are unpredictable, rude, changeable, introverted and moody. The best you may be able to do to keep up with your child's learning, responsibilities and progress is to get close to his or her teacher and keep an open dialogue.
Obviously, much of this moodiness is driven by growth spurts and puberty. Boys and girls need much more food, exercise and sleep than before. Physical exercise helps your 12-year-old refocus and do better academically. It can also take the edge off their mood. If you have a non-athlete, try getting your pre-teen to join a computer or chess club, a scout group or a service organization.
Don't be fooled. Your 12-year-old still treasures routines, rituals and ceremonies&like athletic banquets, honor assemblies, confirmations or bar/bat mitzvahs. They like tangible recognition from adults that they are changing and becoming adults in the community. So the great news is they are capable of self-awareness, insight and empathy. !2s are more reasonable and tolerant than 11-year-olds. They enjoy conversation with adults and can start to see both sides of an argument. They are both more playful and more serious, and have the beginnings of great leadership qualities.
They also need to talk to important adults besides their parents and teachers, especially on the tricky topics of drugs, alcohol, sex, AIDS, violence and family problems. Try to see if your child will talk to church Sunday School teachers, coaches, a trusted adult friend or a different relative to get a similar perspective as yours but one that will come from a fresh mouthpiece.
Favorite themes for kids this age are History, Racism, Current events, politics, fundraising, science, economics and computers.
Don't give up on your 12-year-old. They want you and need you in different ways, so you have to learn to roll with their moods and still provide a framework of love, understanding and discipline.
monica malpass parenting reports, parenting, monica malpass
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