My oldest daughter was a joy from the time she was born. She was always strong-willed, yet rational and easy to parent.
Until she turned 11 and suddenly wasn’t.
Almost overnight she turned from the child I just described into a sobbing, raging, hormonal preteen. Some days I didn’t recognize her; days I could not believe the child who yelling and throwing things was my sweet first-born. That strong will had turned from a blessing to something I dreaded to greet every morning. There were days I threatened to send her to school. There were days I threatened to run away from home.
Over the course of 18 months, we struggled and we cried, but we survived. And in the midst of it all, we thrived and learned so much about each other.
I’ve found over the last couple of years that many moms struggle more with the preteen years – or as a dear friend calls it, the “ten-age” years- than they ever do with teens. If you have a preteen, perhaps you are struggling with some questions of your own. “Who is this child and where did my sweet baby go?” “Can I do this?” “Will we survive this?”
I suggest asking yourself these things:
What are your goals?
What are your expectations?
Are you expecting enough? Too much?
Is your child getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food?
Are you building up or tearing down?
One of the most important things, I think, is to find people who have been where you are. I strongly suggest finding other parents who share similar beliefs and have made it through the same struggles. There will be times when you simply cannot handle what is going on with your child and your family, and having someone to turn to who has been through the fire will be invaluable. You must recognize when to seek professional counseling. Enlist the help of your church, your child’s pediatrician, or a local counseling center. This is not a failure. This is helping your family be the best it can be.
Realize that the problems you are facing are not a product of homeschooling. They are a product, most often, of hormones. On the other hand, do not expect homeschooling to cure bad attitudes in your children—or you. Being a parent is hard. Adding homeschooling to that will not automatically make everything easier. Home education will present its own unique set of challenges. It is hard to separate your parenting role from your role as teacher. Be sure to set aside time each day to focus on your tween as your child and not as your student. Take school out of the equation as much as possible so that you can face the root cause.
Do not fight with your child. I’m a fighter by nature and grew up in a “yelling” household. I never wanted that for my family. Unfortunately, we ended up there. Some of the best advice I ever received was “Do not engage!” When she realized I would no longer engage in warfare, my daughter de-escalated much faster.
Let your child talk. What they are going through right now is a BIG deal to them. It might seem silly to you. You might be able, as a 40 year old mother, to look back on your preteen/teen years and see that your attitudes and actions “back then” were silly, but your child is living it now. Let them live it. Talk them through it. It’s okay to tell them “This too shall pass,” but do let them know you are listening and that their feelings are important.
Have clear boundaries/rules. Good parents know that children thrive with healthy boundaries, and preteens are no different. They will sometimes hate every limit you give them. It’s okay stick to them. It’s also okay to sit down with the child and look at those boundaries (rules) and sometimes recognize that one is too tight or rigid. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can discuss and adjust and watch what happens when you do.
Know when to apologize. That might be the hardest part of this whole parenting gig. I’ve yet to meet anyone who liked to admit being wrong, especially to someone under their authority. But we must show our children that we are human. Let them see you recognize your errors and apologize when necessary. A heartfelt apology will earn respect, and it teaches your child how to do the same.
Let your child make some decisions about school. I found that when I gave some of the control to my daughter, things went so much better. For instance, I printed off blank lesson planning sheets and let her fill them in. She knew what she needed to do each week, but with a little help from me, she was able to schedule it in daily plans. I let her pick whether she would start her day with math or science. This gave her a sense of responsibility and made her feel like I wasn’t treating her “like a child” anymore. Another example might be letting your child pick a topic of study. My daughter loves horses, so I let her do a unit study from Beautiful Feet on the history of the horse. She loved it, and it gave her a sense of ownership since she had picked herself. Developing autonomy was not an overnight process, and we are still working on it.
As a Christian, I believe my greatest help is my faith. I never before spent so much time in prayer as I have as a mother. The thing I prayed over and over as we worked our way through my daughter’s preteen years (and still now that she’s a teen) was, “God, I know her personality is not a mistake. She will do great things in Your name.” I believe that with all of my heart. I encourage you to lean on the Lord and pray blessings over your child! Speak encouragement to them and about them!
Now my second daughter is a “ten-ager,” and I have one more right behind her. I’ll be printing off this post and hanging it on my fridge to remind myself that we made it through once and we can do it again.
Nakia–Nakia is a Southern girl, born and raised in North Carolina. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is in her 9th year of homeschooling her three wonderful daughters. She works part time as a nurse and loves photography, thrift shopping, baking, and autumn in the mountains.