Our 11-year old daughter has gone from a shy, sweet little girl to a know-it-all. "MU-ther!!!!” is her disparaging response to almost everything I say, whether it's about the weather forecast, and she needs to dress warmer, or that the floor of her room is so covered with clothes and games that walking in there isn't safe.
And God forbid I should suggest she fold laundry or set the table! You would think I had recommended that she give up the beach in the summer, it's so unthinkable!
Neither her father nor I know how to cope with her, and we're terribly worried. We'd welcome your suggestions,
Worried parents, and feeling dumb
Dear Worried parents,
I understand that you're concerned about your abilities to negotiate activities that "ought" to come naturally in a family with your 11-year old daughter, and your sense that you are actually dumb. But you're not. What you also are not is 11!
She knows that, and you know that. But do you have any memory and understanding of what that means to a person? She's pre-everything pretty much, and that's a brutal experience! Think about it: pre-adolescent, pre-teen, pre-puberty, pre-middle school perhaps, pre-menstrual. Almost everything she believes to be of value and importance is out there somewhere, just beyond her reach. That is SO frustrating. And out of her control, too. So 10-12-year old girls are engaged in vicious battles with time and nature, and parents get caught up in the battle as if you are their representatives. Ugly stage? Yes. But not permanent. She will outgrown this stage, and you all will survive it.
What can you do in the meantime? Compassion mixed with clarity and consistency work well together. I like family meetings on Sunday evenings, in which each member of the family talks about what the week holds for them--school, after-school activities, birthday parties, sports events or practices, household responsibilities, parent travels, meetings, medical appointments, work things, etc. At the beginning of the month, you might start assigning new household responsibilities, and I like to use the phrase, "I think you've gotten old enough to be allowed to…”—set the table, sort the laundry, whatever you'd like her to do. And then consider the appropriate reward for taking on a share of household responsibility: e.g, “You can have an extra hour of television (or computer) on Friday if you've done a good job of that all week.”
Guide her to see her actual value in the family and her changing role as you encourage her to increase her independence but still have rules you expect her to follow. None of the parenting you'll be doing should be spur of the moment. Consider what most needs to change, and how to do that; then you've got your starting place.
Oh, and remember that the person who's in charge is--the grownups!