The following question came in a Boston.com reader Q&A with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:
Question:Hi Barbara, I have a 12-year-old daughter and am at the beginning of the adolescent years ( I have 2 more to follow). How do I respond to her eye rolling and heavy sighing when I ask her to do a simple task like pick up her underwear? It seems no matter what I ask her, it's like I've asked her to cut off one of her fingers.
I try to set up expectations like, no computer until such and such is done and even though she knows that is the rule, she still acts openly disgusted. I try not to take it personally, but it is very hard not to get frustrated by her frustration. I have to admit, I do not like her like this and am afraid our relationship will suffer.
I do not feel like I am asking too much, but apparently she does. I have read some books, but I feel I need one about everyday frustrations. Any advice would be much appreciated as I have 2 more coming and I am dreading at least 10 years of door slamming and eye rolling.
Barbara Meltz: Dear Frustrated Mom, Welcome to parenting an adolescent. You've already made some great inroads ...and you are 100 percent right: you can't take any of this personally.
My take on this stage (I give a whole talk on this subject to parent groups) is that it's as if a light switch gets flipped. Kids go from being lovable and communicative to wanting privacy, rolling eyes, all the things you describe.
It's a healthy stage of development! And it's not that she hates you, it's that she hates the idea of you. She wants to believe that she is capable of being independent of you but deep down she knows she's not. Your very presence is a constant reminder to her of that.
Preteens want a voice in decisions, they want to be consulted and they want to feel respected. Almost like you have a toddler all over again. So you may need to parent differently, in a way that conveys to her that you know she is changing, that you aren't going anywhere no matter how much she rolls her eyes at you, that you still love her, and that you are willing to give her more of an appropriate voice in life.
If chores are a problem, ask her, "You know, you've been doing the same chores for 3 years. Would you like to have different ones that reflect who you are now?" Another line that will help, when she wants to do something new: "This is a big step. Let's try it and see how it goes." The more you are able to negotiate and give her a say in things without relinquishing your parental authority, the better. It's tricky, but it's doable.
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