Parenting has changed since my kids entered the tween zone. Our biggest change so far has been discipline. Gone are the days of threatening to take away their dessert if they do not behave. They can just sneak that shit when I am in the shower, on Facebook, or getting the mail. They know all my hiding spots by now and can eat a piece of cake in two bites. But then again, they aren’t old enough to drive, so taking away car privileges won’t work either.
They are in between, and so am I.
While trying to figure out this tween thing, I find myself having to adjust the way I parent to keep their little sassy attitudes in check — which means coming up with some new ways to get them to listen to me and really hear what I am saying.
When disciplining them, I can no longer finish with “or else.” They have figured out that “or else” really means that you have no idea what the punishment will be if they don’t do what they are told, because you can’t think of anything good at the moment. Something that used to work like a dream has gone down the shitter because they now know your secret.
A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of saying “or else” to my 12-year-old, to which he shot back, “Or else what? What does that mean?”
It took me a minute, but in that particular example, “or else” meant he would lose the use of his phone for the rest of the day. That was enough to get him to spring into action pretty fast.
I’ve come up with a few other discipline tricks to get my point across.
1. Dress like them to prove a point.
Why do teenage boys wear their pants so low that it looks like they are wearing a diaper? We worked hard to get them out of those.
I discovered that the trick to getting my son to pull up his pants is to walk around like he does so that he could see how pathetic it looks to have the crotch of your pants sagging around your knees. While in the grocery store one day, I pulled my pants well below my fancy underwear so he could feel the way I do when we all go to a public place together while his pants are hanging 6 inches below his boxers.
He was mortified, especially when the manager spoke to me about indecent exposure. Apparently trying to have a teaching moment with your kids is not reason enough to flash everyone in aisle 5. Lesson learned, huh, kid?
2. Teach important life lessons through music.
Pop music has replaced Disney soundtracks and the Wiggles (hallefuckinglujah) in our house. Lots of tweens enjoy pop music, and I like to know what the hell my kids are listening to. I know they are going to listen to it regardless, especially since devices are allowed at school. So if they are going to hear it, I want it to be with me occasionally, so I can insert my voice into their minds at the same time.
While jamming with them in the car, I take opportunities to teach them why some of the messages in their favorite songs are all wrong. This has proven to be more effective than if I just start spewing from the mouth about certain things like partying all night long or dressing sexy for your man. They’re forced to listen to me since they know that if they say things like, “Yeah, Mom, I know. You already told me that a billion times,” then I’ll switch the station to music from my college days — or as my kids call it, “music from the olden times.” If they are receptive to my lectures, they get to listen to what they want.
Added bonus: This music may actually grow on you and you might find yourself adding certain songs to your playlist. Not that I have ever done that, of course, but you may want to.
3. Snoop around in their phones.
I interrogate my kids like a CIA agent trying to discover some little scraps of information about their day. This is harder than stealing the Hope Diamond. I often long for the days when no detail was left unturned, the days when I was peppered with questions until bedtime, and their biggest struggle of the day was having to wear pants.
Now they have no idea what they did at school, who they ate lunch with, or how they did on the test. I can dig as long as I want, but I get nothing; they know nothing. That is until I start poking around on the cell phones and asking them questions about texts or comments they have made on Instagram. This gets them talking really fast.
4. Tell them to go away.
I no longer have to hide in the bathroom with a cheesecake or lock the door when the kids get to be too much and I need to be away from them for fear of what I might do or say.
It is now acceptable to ask them to excuse themselves for a very long period of time as I reach for the cheesecake and consume the last piece over the kitchen sink instead. When I have to do this, the kiddos usually know it’s because they have pushed me too far and they need to go find something to do that is far away from me.
As kids grow up, the way we parent changes. We still love the shit out of them, we just show it differently. Instead of acting like little assholes sometimes, now they can act like big assholes. As long as we continue to contain that assholery in creative ways, we are good parents and the kids are going to be fine.