Eye-rolling tweener driving me crazy

Posted by David Beard, Globe Staff  December 15, 2008 09:53 PM

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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.
FRUSTRATED MOM

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.

Agree with Barbara's advice? Want to fine-tune it with some advice of your own? Let us know in our comments section -- and check out the advice and the comment boards on the following posts:

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7 comments so far...
  1. I did the same thing with the eye-rolling as I did with the temper tantrums. I critiqued the technique. "Hmm, hun, I think it would have been more effective if you had rolled your eyes a little slower." Or, I behaved as if I were trying to elicit the eye roll "Yes! I got an eye roll. I feel so effective as a parent."

    Then I would follow it with a short, "It is much more clear if you use your words."

    Posted by knottedin85 December 16, 08 09:29 AM
  1. With teens, above all, keep a sense of humor.

    Posted by arhus December 16, 08 09:30 AM
  1. My 13 year old is already sick of hearing "if you can't do your basic chores that are on a posted list, how can I trust you to take the bus to the square", but that is what he continues to hear, and what works. I ignore the eye-rolling, and point out that I don't necessarily like MY chores either, but I do them because being a grown up means doing them. I also point out what would happen to him if I stopped doing his laundry, making his lunch, etc. and I have followed through on that (then he spontaneously started doing his laundry on his own ... which I rewarded)

    In our household, responsibility and privileges have been intertwined for a very long time. Show me you can be responsible, and you will get discretion and time on your own. Act irresponsibly, and you will lose those privileges - many of which his friends don't even get! The eyes roll, but the message gets through.

    I also get the "its not fair that he gets to" business from my 11 year old, but then I point out that the 13 year old has more responsibilities (not just that he is simply older) ... so far, so good

    Posted by Infoferret December 16, 08 09:43 AM
  1. Hold it, is she actually breaking the rules, or is she following the rules and merely not beaming with joy when she follows them? If the latter, ask yourself this: have you ever not appeared thrilled when you did something you had to do? Did she see you do that?

    Posted by Leslie December 16, 08 10:07 AM
  1. welcome to the lazy preteen "ME" years! where her life will revolve around her and her social abilities. Where you become a source of income and a source of pain to them. Just be calm, I have a 2 teenagers, boys. I took a drastic step with the door slamming, I removed the door until they came down and appolgized and signed a pact with me never to slam a door in my house again. They will roll thier eyes, get discusted with you, but when they need something, they then show thier deeper truer side and are quite civil. I never raise my voice but the look of suprise on thier face when they turn on a light in thier room and the power is shut off, hey cant turn lights off when your done, you loose the right to power. At 12 and above, they understand that just fine.
    You are spot on with the computer and such until they have completed the tasks at hand. Dont argue with them, simply point out all the time they are loosing by not simply doing as asked. They quickly learn 45 min of complaining and eye rolling stalling tactics is 45 min less of IM time on aol, phone time, out time with friends. A social life to them is very important at this stage moving forward. Impact that and you will be amazed at how quickly things get done with out asking.

    Posted by quantemlp December 16, 08 12:00 PM
  1. An interesting response. When I was 12, if I dared roll my eyes at my mother, rest assured, she would have attempted to make sure they stayed permanently pointed towards the back of my head. It just wasn't tolerated - you did what you were told to do when you were told to do it - that's it. Life could be much worse than having to pick up your own underwear. No matter what age or developmental stage, this behavior is plain disrespectful and this response doesn't address that fact at all. A kid doesn't have to LIKE what they're being told to do, but they DO have to be respectful in the way they respond to it. And I'm not one of these people with no children and no experience - I haev two of my own.

    Posted by Jbee December 16, 08 12:45 PM
  1. Let's not forget that the kid should be told that her behavior is not polite and is rude. I think American kids exhibit this sort of rude behavior far more than kids from Europe for example. I don't think we should keep telling ourselves hat this sort of rude behaviour is perfectly normally. It is only normal if most parents let their kids behave this way, and/or allow their kids to watch TV shows where kids behave this way.

    Posted by SomewhatStrictMom December 16, 08 02:27 PM
 
7 comments so far...
  1. I did the same thing with the eye-rolling as I did with the temper tantrums. I critiqued the technique. "Hmm, hun, I think it would have been more effective if you had rolled your eyes a little slower." Or, I behaved as if I were trying to elicit the eye roll "Yes! I got an eye roll. I feel so effective as a parent."

    Then I would follow it with a short, "It is much more clear if you use your words."

    Posted by knottedin85 December 16, 08 09:29 AM
  1. With teens, above all, keep a sense of humor.

    Posted by arhus December 16, 08 09:30 AM
  1. My 13 year old is already sick of hearing "if you can't do your basic chores that are on a posted list, how can I trust you to take the bus to the square", but that is what he continues to hear, and what works. I ignore the eye-rolling, and point out that I don't necessarily like MY chores either, but I do them because being a grown up means doing them. I also point out what would happen to him if I stopped doing his laundry, making his lunch, etc. and I have followed through on that (then he spontaneously started doing his laundry on his own ... which I rewarded)

    In our household, responsibility and privileges have been intertwined for a very long time. Show me you can be responsible, and you will get discretion and time on your own. Act irresponsibly, and you will lose those privileges - many of which his friends don't even get! The eyes roll, but the message gets through.

    I also get the "its not fair that he gets to" business from my 11 year old, but then I point out that the 13 year old has more responsibilities (not just that he is simply older) ... so far, so good

    Posted by Infoferret December 16, 08 09:43 AM
  1. Hold it, is she actually breaking the rules, or is she following the rules and merely not beaming with joy when she follows them? If the latter, ask yourself this: have you ever not appeared thrilled when you did something you had to do? Did she see you do that?

    Posted by Leslie December 16, 08 10:07 AM
  1. welcome to the lazy preteen "ME" years! where her life will revolve around her and her social abilities. Where you become a source of income and a source of pain to them. Just be calm, I have a 2 teenagers, boys. I took a drastic step with the door slamming, I removed the door until they came down and appolgized and signed a pact with me never to slam a door in my house again. They will roll thier eyes, get discusted with you, but when they need something, they then show thier deeper truer side and are quite civil. I never raise my voice but the look of suprise on thier face when they turn on a light in thier room and the power is shut off, hey cant turn lights off when your done, you loose the right to power. At 12 and above, they understand that just fine.
    You are spot on with the computer and such until they have completed the tasks at hand. Dont argue with them, simply point out all the time they are loosing by not simply doing as asked. They quickly learn 45 min of complaining and eye rolling stalling tactics is 45 min less of IM time on aol, phone time, out time with friends. A social life to them is very important at this stage moving forward. Impact that and you will be amazed at how quickly things get done with out asking.

    Posted by quantemlp December 16, 08 12:00 PM
  1. An interesting response. When I was 12, if I dared roll my eyes at my mother, rest assured, she would have attempted to make sure they stayed permanently pointed towards the back of my head. It just wasn't tolerated - you did what you were told to do when you were told to do it - that's it. Life could be much worse than having to pick up your own underwear. No matter what age or developmental stage, this behavior is plain disrespectful and this response doesn't address that fact at all. A kid doesn't have to LIKE what they're being told to do, but they DO have to be respectful in the way they respond to it. And I'm not one of these people with no children and no experience - I haev two of my own.

    Posted by Jbee December 16, 08 12:45 PM
  1. Let's not forget that the kid should be told that her behavior is not polite and is rude. I think American kids exhibit this sort of rude behavior far more than kids from Europe for example. I don't think we should keep telling ourselves hat this sort of rude behaviour is perfectly normally. It is only normal if most parents let their kids behave this way, and/or allow their kids to watch TV shows where kids behave this way.

    Posted by SomewhatStrictMom December 16, 08 02:27 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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