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# 99 Parenting Modern Tweens: Sephora, Sass, and Self-discovery

Season #2


Hey there, wonderful parents, and welcome back to the 3D Parent Podcast! Joining me today is Natasha, a supermom raising two incredible girls, ages seven and eleven.

Natasha kicks off our session by sharing her concerns about her tween daughters' growing fascination with trends, brands, and materialistic values. She's noticing shifts in her behavior, from sweetness to occasional sassiness, and she's feeling the strain on their once-close relationship. Natasha also wonders about finding the delicate balance between offering support and letting her daughters navigate their own paths as they grow up. These are common challenges many parents face as their children transition from childhood to adolescence.

Here are the burning topics what we'll cover:

Trend-Oriented Culture: We'll explore how to navigate the materialistic trends that seem to dominate tween culture and discuss ways to instill deeper values beyond brand names.

Managing Sass and Sensitivity: Natasha's facing the challenge of balancing her daughter's sweet, sensitive side with those moments of unexpected rudeness. We'll share some practical tips for maintaining a strong, respectful relationship during this “rollercoaster” phase.

How Much to Intervene vs. Empower Independent Problem Solving: We'll delve into the delicate art of knowing when to step in and when to step back, offering insights on providing support without smothering independence as our tweens navigate the ups and downs of life.

The emotional rollercoaster of tweenhood can sometimes lead to unexpected behavior, leaving us parents wondering how to handle those off-cuff rude moments without losing the precious bond we share with our child. Throughout this episode, we'll explore how to strike a delicate balance between setting boundaries and maintaining a strong, supportive relationship with our tweens.


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Let me introduce you to our guest, Natasha. Natasha is a super mom, raising two incredible girls—one almost seven and the other newly 11. As a fellow mom and friend, Natasha and I often find ourselves deep in conversation about the joys and struggles of parenting tweens. And today, we're inviting you to join in on the conversation as we tackle some of the challenges Natasha is facing.

Let's address Natasha's concerns, one by one. First up, the trend-oriented nature of today's youth. It's no secret that tweens are heavily influenced by trends, from fashion to technology to social media. But how do we navigate this trend-centric culture without losing sight of what truly matters?

Next, we'll tackle the rollercoaster of emotions that come with tweenhood. Natasha's concern about her oldest daughter's sudden mood swings is one that many parents can relate to. We'll discuss ways to navigate these hormonal changes with empathy and understanding, maintaining a strong parent-child bond even in the face of off-cuff rude moments.

And finally, the age-old question: when to step back and when to step in? As our tweens grow older, it can be challenging to find the balance between independence and support. We'll explore strategies for knowing when to give our tweens space to navigate challenges on their own and when to offer a helping hand, whether it's in navigating friendships, schoolwork, or other areas of their lives.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of tween development, let's take a moment to reflect on a simple yet powerful approach to addressing parenting challenges. When faced with any issue, whether it's with our kids or within ourselves, it's helpful to ask three fundamental questions:

  1. Is it my child?
  2. Is it me?
  3. Is it us?

As we explore the questions Natasha raised, it becomes clear that the challenges she's facing are multifaceted and deeply rooted in her daughter's developmental stage. So, let's roll up our sleeves and dig deeper into understanding the complexities of tweenhood together.

At the heart of Natasha's concerns lies the developmental stage her daughter is currently navigating: early adolescence. At the age of 11, tweens, like Natasha's daughter, are embarking on a journey of self-discovery marked by significant changes in brain development.

During this phase, the brain undergoes what can be described as "renovations." Neural pathways are pruned and restructured, particularly in the prefrontal cortex—the region responsible for impulse control, risk assessment, and emotional regulation. However, this remodeling process doesn't reach completion until the mid-20s, leaving tweens and teens with a brain that's still a work in progress.

One key takeaway from this is understanding the challenges tweens face in regulating their emotions. Unlike adults, tweens struggle to hold multiple feelings in mind simultaneously. Instead, they often react impulsively to strong emotional impulses, much like their preschool selves. This limitation in emotional regulation is not a sign of defiance or disrespect but rather a reflection of their brain's developmental stage.

Parenting modern tweens is challenging, but  let's take a moment to reflect on the pivotal role you play in your tween's life. As we guide our tweens through the ups and downs of adolescence, it's essential to embody a “S.P.A.A.,” that’s an acronym I created to represent a parent who is a Supportive, Pleasant, Approachable Adult—a S.P.A.A.

So, what exactly does it take to be a S.P.A.A.? Let's break it down:

  • Don't Take Moodiness Personally: Tweens and teens are notorious for their mood swings, but remember, it's not about you. As a S.P.A.A., refrain from taking their moodiness personally and instead approach them with empathy and understanding.
  • Avoid Making Them Feel Responsible: Your child's feelings, reactions, and mistakes are their own. As a S.P.A.A., resist the urge to burden them with your emotions or make them feel responsible for your reactions.
  • Respect Their Space: Understand that your tween may not always want to talk, and that's okay. Be present, but don't pressure them to open up. Make yourself available when they're ready to share, without bombarding them with questions.
  • Be Curious, Not Judgmental: When your child makes decisions or declarations that may not align with your preferences, approach it with curiosity rather than judgment. Show genuine interest in their perspective and respect their autonomy.
  • Offer Support Without Being Overbearing: As a S.P.A.A., refrain from constantly offering suggestions or trying to fix every problem. Instead, be a supportive presence and offer guidance only when explicitly asked or consented to.
  • Embrace Imperfection: Mistakes and failures are part of the learning process. Encourage your tween to view setbacks as opportunities for growth, rather than expecting perfection.
  • Encourage Their Ideas: Avoid dismissing your tween's ideas as unrealistic or idealistic. Instead, validate their creativity and encourage them to explore their interests and passions.
  • Avoid Threats and Punishments: Developmentally normal behaviors such as moodiness or mistakes should not be met with threats or punishments. As a S.P.A.A., focus on constructive communication and problem-solving.
  • Be a Listener: Finally, prioritize listening over lecturing. Your tween doesn't need a world-class lecturer—they need a supportive and attentive listener who validates their feelings and experiences.

Navigating a Trend-Oriented Culture with your Tween:

When your tween expresses a desire for the latest trend or brand, it's essential to engage them in a conversation rather than passing judgment. Ask probing questions to understand their motivations better. Why do they want that specific item? What draws them to that brand? By fostering open dialogue, you can gain insight into your tween's mindset without imposing your opinions.

While it's natural to have concerns about materialism and consumerism, it's essential to approach the situation with empathy. Remember, we live in a society inundated with marketing messages and peer influences. Instead of criticizing your tween's choices, use these moments as opportunities for meaningful conversations.

Moreover, when it comes to purchasing high-ticket items like Sephora products or designer clothing, consider the occasion and your budget. If it aligns with your financial means and your tween's desires, there's no harm in indulging them occasionally. After all, birthdays and holidays are times for celebration and joy. However, in between these special occasions, consider implementing an allowance system. By giving your tween a sense of financial responsibility, they'll learn the value of money and understand the cost of their desired items. 

It's easy to view our tweens' fascination with trends and brands through an adult lens, but remember, they're not approaching these things in the same way we do. It's all part of their journey of self-discovery—a process of exploring who they are and expressing themselves in their own unique way. So, let's ditch the judgment and approach their interests with curiosity and understanding.

Responding to Sass/Rudeness while Maintaining a Close Connection:

It's essential to understand that all behavior is communication. When our tweens display sass or rudeness, it's often a sign that they're struggling with their emotions or feeling overwhelmed. As parents, our initial response should be one of empathy and compassion, rather than reacting with frustration or anger.

One valuable mantra to keep in mind when faced with sass is "do no harm." This simple phrase serves as a reminder to pause and reflect before responding. By taking a moment to collect our thoughts, we can avoid escalating the situation and respond with empathy and understanding.

Dr. Ross Green's insight that, "kids do well when they can," offers another perspective on tween behavior. Remembering that our children are doing the best they can in the moment can help us approach their sass with patience and compassion.

It's also essential to recognize that tween sass is often driven by impulse rather than malicious intent. During this stage of development, their brains are undergoing significant changes, leading to increased impulsivity and emotional dysregulation. Understanding this can help us respond with empathy, knowing that our children are struggling to navigate their emotions. Instead of reacting with judgment or shame, we can choose to respond with curiosity and compassion. 

How much to intervene when a tween is struggling?

Assessing Your Tween's Developmental Stage:

As parents of tweens, it's crucial to understand where our children are on the developmental bridge between childhood and adulthood. Just like crossing a physical bridge, at times, our tweens are closer to their wiser, more grown up versions of themselves, while at other times, they may be closer to their younger, more childlike selves. When your tween is struggling with emotional regulation or seems overwhelmed, they might be leaning more towards their younger, less mature side. In these moments, they need extra support and understanding, much like we would provide for a younger child.

Setting Expectations Based on Maturity:

On the flip side, when your tween demonstrates signs of maturity and responsibility, such as handling stress without constant meltdowns, it's essential to adjust our expectations accordingly. For instance, if your tween forgets to clear the table after dinner during a particularly tough day, it might be a sign that they need a bit more grace and understanding. However, if they consistently demonstrate maturity but slip up occasionally, gently reminding them of their responsibilities can be both appropriate and empowering.

Choosing When to Intervene:

One of the most significant challenges of parenting tweens is finding the balance between being a partner and a problem-solver. While we want to be there for our children and provide guidance, it's equally important to allow them space to navigate their challenges independently.

Learning from Mistakes:

Finally, it's essential to recognize that allowing our tweens to make mistakes and learn from them is a vital part of their growth and development. While it may be tempting to swoop in and fix every problem, giving them the opportunity to navigate challenges on their own fosters resilience and self-confidence. Sometimes, stepping back and letting tweens experience the consequences of their actions, can provide the most powerful opportunity for growth.

Parenting tweens in the modern world is no easy feat, but by understanding our children's developmental stages, setting appropriate expectations, and empowering them to navigate challenges, we can help them thrive during this critical period of self-discovery. Remember, it's okay to let go of the wheel sometimes and allow our tweens to find their own course, even if it means they stumble along the way. After all, it's through those bumps and falls that they'll learn and grow into resilient, capable individuals.

So, here's a gentle reminder: make a conscious decision not to let temporary friction turn into something permanent. Your relationship with your child is precious, and it's worth preserving, even during the most challenging times. Let's choose understanding over frustration, empathy over anger, and patience over reactivity.

That's a wrap for today's episode! Join us next time for more insightful discussions on parenting.