Caught: Daughters and Tweendom

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Caught - CatholicMom.com

Although it’s a time zone my oldest daughter currently inhabits, I strongly dislike the word “tween.”  It reminds me of the marketers who have been pushing her to become a teenager from the time she was a toddler.  To what degree and how fast our children should be exposed to the culture at large can be a tricky subject, but we can look for clues as to what direction is healthiest for any given child.

We recently had a play date with a family that is more open to cultural influences.  Their tween daughter is more in tune with the popular culture than ours in her dress, mannerisms, and conversation topics.  When my slightly younger daughter pulled out the Play-Doh, the tween’s response was a snarky “You still play with Play-Doh?”—and then she proceeded to play with it for half an hour, giggling along with the rest of the girls.  This is a girl who would love to slow down but needs the guidance and support to do so.

I think many young girls, given the opportunity, would continue to enjoy the more innocent side of childhood for quite some time after they are culturally pushed to move on—playing in the rain, pretending to be teachers, dressing in costume and putting on skits, etc.  Our daughters are caught between living the cultural expectations of tweenhood and a lingering desire for girlhood.   

Moms of tweens and teenagers:  Do you think we should try to slow the pace of our daughters’ entry into teenage pursuits?  If so, are there any strategies you can share that have helped you do so?  Or do you think it’s more important for girls to stay on pace with modern expectations given that they must learn to live in today’s culture?  Would your answers to these questions be any different if applied to boys?

Copyright 2014, Sharon Rayner

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4 Comments

  1. I have boys, 12, 10, 7 and 2 and a 3 year old girl. Girls these days are awful. My 10 year old never mentions the ones in his class and is horrified if one comes by our house. My 12 year old is afraid of their nasty comments. My daughter gets so excited when she sees one but the ones we met at the playground at church treated her like dirt. It was a horrible experience. I appreciate your insight before me daughter enters school.

  2. Some girls can be nasty, just like some boys can be unkind. It’s certainly not limited to one gender. Girls’ unkindnesses seem more likely to be word-driven.
    I agree that the pressure to grow up is crazy. I have three children – a 7 year old son and two daughters – 6 and 4. In my older daughter’s kindergarten class at our Catholic Elementary School there were definite differences in how much popular culture the girls were exposed to. At these early ages, I take the tactic of being very involved at school and getting to know the kids. I then gently — or not so gently — encourage friendships with kids whose family values are most in line with our own.
    And yes, there has to be a balance because kids who are too sheltered may not be ready to handle things that will come their way as they grow up. The things that come up that don’t match our values are just explained as such.
    I also think “tween” is a term that has come to mean something to be dreaded by parents! New word needed 🙂

  3. I taught middle school for 9 years. Most girls at that age are trying to redefine themselves as they start a new school, and new things are cool and there are older girls and boys who are full-fledged teens to imitate and impress. I think it is most important for girls (and boys too, though I think they hit this at a later age) have a sense of identity and belonging in their own family. This doesn’t just mean parents, but siblings as well forming a family culture of love, acceptance, and trust. Kids who don’t feel like they belong at home at this age are going to go looking for that belonging in other places. Another thing that helps, I think, is helping kids develop interests, skills, talents and activities before this age. There is a strong need for tweens to be special without being WEIRD (I want to be unique like everyone else!) If they can do something well that they enjoy, it helps satisfy this need in a positive way.

  4. Great topic, Sharon! I definitely feel like there is pressure to hurry through childhood and I resist that pressure as much as possible. I’m “THE ONLY” mom who doesn’t allow instagram or xbox or iPhones. But I also know that each child is different – some children are ‘ready’ to grow up quickly and others need ‘permission’ to be a child as long as they choose. I look at the word “tween” not as a definition of the child’s phase, but as the child’s ability to shift beTWEEN two phases as needed – child and young adult. The thing I love most about this age (I’ve got two tweens right now) is that it’s a surprise which one I will see every day – the child or the young adult. I love that they get to be a child when they are scared and need mommy’s love and comfort…and they get to be a young adult when they stand up on stage and recite a poem or sing a song in front of an audience or go out into the community and complete a service project. So when it comes to things like clothes, music, toys, books, movies, video games, phones, privileges, etc., I try my best to consider each child individually and decide which phase is best suited at the moment. I do what you said – look for clues – so I can determine the healthiest choice. Not sure if that makes sense but it’s the way I navigate the middle years.

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