What Do I Do with A Pre-Tween?

by Risa Green


Life was much easier when I had toddlers. Toddlers are simple and predictable. Yes, they have tantrums about nothing, but ooh! – look at that sparkly thing over there! – and it’s over. Also, toddlers still nap. And the world of a toddler is under your control. As a parent, you decide what and who your child knows and does not know. And you know everything that they know. But best of all, toddlers have a name: toddlers. They’re defined. They’re specific. And when you’re having a problem with them, they’re so easy to Google.


It’s much harder with kids who are in grade school. “Grade schooler” could include any kid from six to eleven. The older grade schoolers have their own name – tweens – but the younger ones, the seven, eight and nine year olds, what are they? Pre-tweens? Not a lot comes up when you Google that. And yet…these pre-tweens, they have their issues, too. Except there’s doesn’t seem to be anyone out there telling me how to handle them. There’s no Pre-Tween Whisperer. There’s no Chicken Soup for the Pre-Tween’s Soul. It’s as if these years are a no-man’s land of parenting advice. And I, for one, am freaking out over here.


Unlike in the toddler years, a pre-tween’s life is suddenly his or her own. I mean, I have no idea what my kids do at school all day. I assume that they learn things and play with their friends, but when I ask, I’m told that they did nothing. Or that they can’t remember. Or that they played with nobody. But they must be doing something and playing with someone, because they seem to know all kinds of stuff that I didn’t teach them. Like what an earth worm eats, or how to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, or that Miley Cyrus used to date one of the Jonas Brothers. Suddenly, they know that they’ll get teased if they appear to like princesses/Thomas or own anything with princesses/Thomas on them. Somehow, they know that everyone gets their backpacks at Pottery Barn Kids, and that it’s not cool to wear socks with butterflies/Power Rangers on them anymore. Shockingly, they would rather freeze than wear a sweater that doesn’t match the dress they’re wearing, or be caught dead in anything but a Lakers jersey.


For my kids (especially my daughter), this self-consciousness seems to have set in almost overnight. One day she didn’t care if we sang outside at the top of her lungs, and the next day, she refused to do it because she was afraid that people might laugh at her. One day, she liked picking out crazy outfits and being different from everyone else, and the next day, she only wanted to wear things from the Gap so that people wouldn’t think she was weird. One day, she was my innocent little girl who only cared about what I thought of her, and the next day, I mattered for nothing, and she was a worldly pre-tween under the delusion that everyone is staring at and judging her at all times. I would tell her that strangers aren’t paying any attention to whether her sweater matches her dress, and that even if they did, they wouldn’t care, except that I matter for nothing, and therefore I am always Wrong.



What a sigh of relief!! I'm not the only one going through this with my daughter. She turned 8 this August. I saw 1 show of I-Carly and will not allow her to see it. My husband agrees the shows 'intended' for her age are much more mature than we prefer. She asks me daily about when she can see it,"When I'm in fifth grade will you let me?" She asks. She also demands to have clothing, shoes, accessories, etc..like so and so. I'm close to sending her to private school just so she can wear a uniform and we won't argue about what she wears each morning to school. I am terrified to think of what her actual tween and teens will be like. Her Dad was upset with her and told her - when you have your kids you will tell them what to wear so for now she would have to listen to us -until you're 69. (he just threw that number out there)She told him not when I'm 69, that's too old to have kids, I'll have them in H.S., she said. I was dumb-founded. Her Father snapped at her and told her not to talk about that. What is she thinking? I hate not knowing who she talks to at school, I hate not knowing what she does at school. I am at a loss for words and completely terrified!!


My daughter is 12 going on 32. I think for me one of the funnier moments of realizing I in strange new territory, occurred one night last Spring. I was working in my office and playing something a little louder than usual and very age appropriate for me (think Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones) when my 12 year old daughter opened the door and said rather curtly --"could you keep it down in there!" and closed the door. Also the moments, shortly after sixth grade started (at a new school) and she requested that we turn off the music in the car two blocks from school (lest anyone of her school buddies actually hear what we listened to on the way to school). I think of it all as funny, tragic, painful, inevitable and "like thanksgiving and thunderstorms, something we all have to go through together!"

It is a time of life I think of as sweet, tragic, funny, painful, annoying, frustrating and right up in there in terms of "present reality" (which changes every day along with the moods".


LOL. I love that MarcomMom! Pre-Tween Sass Academy!

My son recently turned 13, but I feel he's still in that entitled phase of development. The other day he told me, "Mom. I really need an iPhone. I need to be able to IM my friends from my phone." Completely straight face!

He gets $13 for his weekly allowance, so we're getting him this MP3 player (http://www.shop.com/The+Sharper+Image+MP3+Video+Player-190000407-p+.xhtm...) when he can saves up for half. He has a hard enough time not spending his allowance on gum, baseball cards, etc. just to get to half of $39. I can't imagine how he think he can pay for an iPhone or the hefty bill that comes with it!


I am so greatful to read this article. Not only has this topic been a discussion under friends & co-workers but it's so great to read about it. And as much as this article got some giggles out of me, it's so serious. My older daughter just turned 7 last saturday and I think that ever since she passed 5 she just went from my little girl to that teen in a pre-teen body. I try to hold on & influence her as much as I can to enjoy her childhood as a younger kid but instead of enjoying princess movies with her, all she is interested in are the Jonas Brothers, Hannah, Selena Gomez, I Carly, etc. All that seems to matter are these shows and what seems to me teenage topics and related things. The newest funky sneakers (which totally appolled my husband). Anyway, I could go on and on. I'm kind of thankful to hear that I'm not the only mom who feels this way but I'm also horrified at how all this is influencing my two year old girl, looking up to her sister. She already sings Hannah songs and loves to keep up with her big sister.


As a mom of a six year old I think I'm on the beginning end of what you write about. I've definitely started getting some of the "Mom, if you do _____ you'll embarrass me" type of stuff. I've been meaning to ask my mom when I started such things to see if this is just the normal age of if I'm getting it early. You're right that it seems like there should be some kind of book out there to let us know what's coming and how to deal with it. Until then, I have to say the way I've found is to confess the behavior and my reaction over on truuconfessions and then gauge how right/wrong I was based on the 'meetoos' and 'OMGs' I receive, lol.


I am glad I found this site. I have boys, ages 11 and 13. They know I watch "Weeds"......No, they don't watch with me. ( I'm a bad mom, I guess) Well, I objected to my 11 years old's choice of programs, and he retorted, "Mom! you watch a show about DRUG Dealers." I couldn't get mad, really, because he was right. I ended up letting him watch the "Seinfeld" rerun he wanted to watch.


My 12 y.o. son has all of a sudden become mortified that he has parents. He does not want us to be near him at school less something think those 2 embarrassing people are his parents


My little girl is about to turn 6 and she already tells me some of the same things! I'll ask her, "Who did you play with today?" She says, "Nobody." Hmm...oh, so familiar. What does our future hold?
I, too, have banned Hannah Montana, but it's not just the TV, it's the computer too. Even though she doesn't watch the show, she'll try to play the games online. I've started just shutting off the TV and computer. She complains at first, but then adjusts and finds something else to do.


This is just what I needed to read - I live in this same strange place too. MarcomMom, I'm so glad to hear that you have the same sass problem with the tween shows, I was beginning to think it was just in my house. Most of what comes on Nick or Disney after 7:30 or so is just not appropriate for a huge group of kids that are up and watching tv at that time. I had to ban most of it. I may be totally uncool, but at least I know I'm uncool in good company!


I am so with you, Risa. My nine-year-old told me today that it's embarrassing when I stick around for a minute after dropping her at art class. I am working hard and about to achieve the all-time uncoolest Mom award for not letting her watch "Hannah Montana" or ANY tween shows for more than an hour a day because I don't like the way her attitude has changed since she began watching them. Those shows are like a Pre-Tween Sass Academy. And I do wonder about the hormones in the beef and chicken, but think the media has more to do with this than anything.