As he turns the corner, I am prepared to help my son get ready for picture day. I have the gel, the comb, and my newly formed knowledge of faux-hawks ready to go… just like we planned.
Instead of a happy, excited tween in a handsome shirt and dress pants, I am met with an angry and grumpy kid in a battered and worn Cubs t-shirt.
“Hey buddy. Where’s your handsome shirt?” I ask innocently.
Only to be met with the grumpiest and shortest of answers… “I dunno.”
“Remember, it’s picture day. I watched a bunch of youtube videos just to learn how to make that faux-hawk you wanted”
“I don’t care. I”ll just wear this.”
Suddenly, I’m staring at my normally happy, go lucky, wants to please everyone tween with my jaw on the floor, completely baffled by what he needs or wants from me.
This was not the plan.
This was not what we talked about the night before.
Have you ever had a morning that just seemed like one tiny fight after another.
Arguments over which shirt to wear for picture day lead into eye-rolls over what to have for breakfast, which then turn into pouty, sullen kids with furrowed eyebrows.
Lets just all admit it, mornings with tweens can be downright dreadful.
The arguments seem so dumb and simple and so unnecessary.
I’m pretty sure during this 30 minute delicate dance each morning, I gain at least 10 to 50 new gray hairs.
This morning was one of those mornings, and there was one thing that got me through it without yelling and screaming and arguing with my kid before I send him off to school.
In my head, mornings are supposed to be beautiful and magical.
I’m supposed to go wake my son up, give him kisses and say, “Honey time to get ready for school.”
Then with a smile on his face, he will get out of bed, put on his clothes, brush his teeth, have breakfast, and do everything that needs to happen. Our morning should end with this great embrace and, “Have a great day Honey.”
That would be the perfect morning, right?
In my new book, I have an entire chapter on how to have a successful morning with your kids, and while those things make the mornings so much easier, it doesn’t mean my family and my tween are somehow immune to rough mornings.
You see, it happens at any age, but as children get older and closer to those tween and teen years, they are searching for their autonomy.
They are searching for their independence.
They want to make decisions about their day and about their life, and they want it to be the right decision no matter what. The only problem is that they are still developing. They are still growing and learning and changing every day.
They lack the ability to problem solve.
That means, which shirt to wear for picture day turns into a battle, which breakfast turns into an argument everything turns into a push and a pull, that is, if we let it.
The Problem Grown-Ups Have With Tween Independence
This is a hard one because, as grownups, we can see a couple steps ahead of where our children are going.
- We can see if they wear a certain shirt, they’re not gonna be comfortable in a couple of hours.
- We can tell that if they have a certain breakfast, they’re not gonna have enough energy in 30 more minutes.
- We know if they sit down and take an extra 30 minutes to do something in the morning, they are going to be late for school.
We don’t know all of these things because we’re some magical fortune teller.
No, we know these things because of our experiences, our experiences that our teens and tweens have not yet had.
We know these things because we were once teens and tweens just like them, fighting and pushing and pulling for our own independence.
We want nothing more, as their grownups now, than to protect them and keep them from the mistakes that we’ve made.
We get stuck in the mindset that we know better.
We’ve been there, we’ve done that.
“Just listen to us.”
When what we really should be doing is listening to our children.
So when I get stuck in these really rough mornings, this push and pull tug-of-war with my tween, I have to remind myself to stop, wait, and listen.
That’s what I did this morning when my son came down in his baseball shirt.
My instinct was to tell him to go change. “Go get dressed up, you’re supposed to wear your best for picture day.” In fact, that was the first thing that came out of my mouth, and it was immediately met with a fight.
I paused and caught myself.
I thought in my head…
- Is this fight worth it?
- Is it dangerous?
- Will it hurt him,?
- Will it make him, somehow, unsafe?
The One Thing That Gets Me Through Rough Mornings With My Tween
When the answer was no, I knew what I needed to do.
I stopped, took a deep breath, waited and listened.
I turned the tables back on him.
“I know you told me you wanted to wear your dress up shirt, I see you’re wearing your t-shirt, once you get to school, you won’t be able to change your mind. Have you thought about taking both shirts to school and changing after picture day?”
I’d like to tell you this magically fixed everything and he smiled, ran off, and got his shirt and put it in his backpack, and we were smiling and happy and hugging again.
That would be a lie.
You see he hadn’t processed everything yet. He hadn’t problem solved for himself yet, so he was still stuck in a really bad attitude.
Again, it was my instinct to say, “I gave you a choice, come on let’s go, you’re going to be late.”, but I learned last time that wasn’t gonna work.
Instead, I stopped, took a deep breath, waited, and listened.
I said, “I see that you are still upset, that makes me think that you need help with something. I’m going to wait right over here until you are ready for my help. Just let me know what I can do. I’m here for you.”
We did this dance about three for four times this morning.
It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t magical, but it did get us through our morning without any yelling, any screaming, any arguing, any fighting, any hurt feelings.
The Magic of Listening to Our Tweens
And you know what happened?
Five minutes before we were supposed to walk out the door, my son turned to me and he said, “Can you help me? I wanna wear this shirt, but it’s not fitting. I went to bed last night thinking this was the shirt I was going to wear, but it doesn’t feel good. Can you please help me find a different one?”
And you know what?
It kinda did feel magical in that moment. On his own time, in his own way, he let me help him. He let me problem solve with him, but at the same time, he felt ownership.
It made the next request so much easier for him.
Since this dance had taken quite a bit of our morning, he turned to me and said, “I think I’m gonna be late for school, can you drive me instead of walking?”, and because he didn’t yell at me, scream at me, demand something from me…
I took the opportunity to stop, wait, and listen to what my son was needing from me.
I took his cue, I did not remind him that we were late because he did this fight with me. It wasn’t necessary.
Instead, I said, “sure, I’d love to, let me get my keys.”, and with that, I sent him off to school in the shirt he wanted to wear, with a smile on his face, and the confidence to know that we’ve got this.
We’re gonna make it through together.
And some mornings that is all the reminder I need. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
What gets you through rough mornings with your tween? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook!
Thanks for being part of the Lemon Lime Adventures community. For those of you that are new here, I want you to know you are not alone. Loving children that don’t fit in a nice pretty box comes with ups and downs, twists and turns, but together… we’ve got this. I invite you to join me on Facebook or in the Superkids Movement, where we are challenging ourselves to see our children’s behaviors as a cry for help and we are building a toolbox and language to build them up and create a lasting relationship. In my new best-selling book, The Superkids Activity Guide to Conquering Every Day, I have created a toolbox written for you and your child to change their inner language and the way the world sees our children.
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