Raising Tweens

I had a chance to observe some interesting parenting behaviours in action the other day. We live close to the largest shopping centre in Europe, so there are many, many people-watching opportunities if you’re so inclined.

I walked past a dad eating lunch, having a full-on, animated conversation with someone in a pram. When I got close enough to check, the baby girl in question was no more than 6 months old, arms and feet waving in delight as she babbled back to her besotted father. It zoomed me straight back to the ‘conversations’ Husband used to have with DD. I hope that father continues talking to his daughter as she gets older, building her confidence and resilience.

GAP was having its summer sale, so I wandered in there, partly lured by the denim, and partly by the music. It was very catchy and I found myself singing along as I browsed the racks for some new jeans. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall, dread-locked man doing the same as me, but definitely louder and with more movement! As he swung around, braids flying, I saw a little curly-haired princess in his arms, squealing with laughter, grabbing his neck, delighted to be ‘dancing’ with her daddy. I swear, my ovaries skipped a beat. I made my purchases and headed to H&M with a bounce in my step.

This is where all my happy bubbles were burst. I was looking through some athletic gear for DD when I overheard a young girl, about the same age as DD, on the other side of the rack, talking to her mother:

Girl: Oh, look, mum, this would work well.

Mum: Don’t be stupid, don’t look at the age. You need to look at the size. LOOK AT YOUR SIZE. Just look at it.

(At this stage, I’m shocked mute and wincing at the venom in the mother’s voice)

Girl: Mum, it’s cut bigger, I think I could fit into this.

Mum: I highly doubt it, I don’t know why you think you can. Have you looked at your size?

(I got bolder a took a peek over the rack. The girl in question had beautiful caramel skin, glossy hair, and a LITTLE bit of puppy fat…the bane of most pre-pubescent girls. Not that anything should warrant the mother speaking to her like that. EVER.)

Girl: Well, I’m going to take a chance and try it on.

Mum: Don’t come crying to me when you look ridiculous.

At this stage, I wanted to cry. I wanted to attack the mother. I wanted to cuddle the girl. Clearly, she had a backbone and tried on the clothes, but how much longer can she bear this verbal abuse without it having some awful effect on her?

#tween #girls #teenager #growingupDD and I are carefully negotiating the tween years together, which includes me reminding her of boundaries when she snaps at me and rolls her eyes (like she’s just done!). But my refrain has and will always be, “I’m on your side. I’m always on your side.” Which means that I may want to have strong words with you when I get home, but I will use all my superpowers to ensure there will NEVER be a public humiliation. She knows that both her parents will back her up. She will never face from us what that poor girl faced from her mother. Almost a day later, I’m still cringing as I type this.

Am I over-reacting? Do parents have a divine right to speak to their children like that? Are parents not responsible for a dependant child’s diet, and therefore, the child’s size? Does that mother not think her words are going to leave long-term scars?

I’d like to point out I have a daughter, so all my experience relates to raising females, but I think this is relevant for any child. 

23 thoughts on “Raising Tweens

  1. Trish says:

    As a mum of 2 teens ( well almost ) I can say that body image is so important regardless to being male or female. Both my children and all the ones I look after and have looked after have been encouraged to eat well, exercise and be confident in who they are. That mother should be ashamed of her actions and should address her body image first. Kids grow some out and up, some up and some out before eventually up. But no parent or adult has the right to humiliate a child because they are growing. ( rant over).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. clara@expatpartnersurvival.com says:

    You just have to be SO careful at this age! I follow some great social media sites aimed at parenting girls, and follow their advice. When talking to them about their bodies, use words like strong and capable and physical. Avoid words which refer to their looks, conncentrate on their abilty – what their bodies are able to DO rather than what they LOOK like. It is a minefield for sure. I would have been so upset to hear that conversation between that mum and her poor daughter 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  3. April says:

    That kind of conversation would make me cringe too. I have one daughter and two sons and I can say that the boys have concerns about their body image as well. We also focused on their abilities. We let them dress and wear their hair the way they wanted, as those were battles not worth fighting. If they felt good then that’s all that mattered. Some parents can say some very harmful things which can last a lifetime. I know, I’m one of those grown up kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hollie says:

    There is no excuse for that mother to talk to her child like that. She’s going to ruin her sense of self-confidence. It is such a fragile time where you’re insecure about everything and if your own mother spews venom at you, particularly about your own body, then what chance to you have to grow into your teen years as a confident young adult?
    On the other hand, the two fathers with their daughters can restore some faith in humanity. I always talked to Owen, never in the baby gibberish, but really talked to him. I think that is why he spoke clearly at a really young age. Now that he is nearing 9, I love our conversations and do my best never to talk down to him…just because he is little doesn’t mean he has nothing of value to add to a conversation. I learn from him all the time.
    You’re doing a great job with DD. Tweens are tough, but I think the two of you will remain thick as thieves at every stage of her life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      We had an up-and-down morning, and I said to her,”This is really hard for me, too, I don’t always know what I’m doing.” She was startled. “But you’re a mum, you know everything.” I explained I’m a first-time time to a first-time tween, and I know as little or as much as she does. She then hugged me and said, “Don’t worry, you’re making it up just fine!” Such a hoot!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. joey says:

    Oh yuck. I’d hate to hear that kind of conversation as well. I’m sure she has no idea the damage she’s doing. The media beats us all up enough, we don’t need our own loved ones joining in. That poor girl. :/
    On my end, I like to point out the various sizes, coloring, and style of all the beautiful women in our lives. Clearly they know what works for them. So varied, so authentic. And I always say try it on. If you put it on and you feel great, you’ll look great. I hope that girl’s got an auntie like us, she sure needs someone in her corner.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jmurphynd says:

    So brutal. As women our bodies change shape and size at different times in our life….sometimes because of the way we’re living, sometimes just because. I think all the messages in that convo (you are totally responsible for how you look, it’s your fault, a certain size is right and bigger than that is ridiculous) are all so harmful. Unfortunately, weight hate seems to be socially acceptable in so many forms…..how do you ever protect your girl(s) from all of it???

    PS thanks for the awesome postcard! Made my day!!! And, we finally popped something in he mail for K!! Win!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amy says:

    Her comments were very insensitive, especially in public. I have two daughters and given my background was very careful not to ever say something like that to them. Unfortunately when my daughter became a college athlete, it was her coach that ended up talking to her like that, and it broke my heart when she developed an eating disorder after all those years of my being so careful and teaching her to love herself. So I guess the moral of what I am saying is not only do we need to be careful of our words as parents, but also need to teach our daughters about how to handle society’s unrealistic expectations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. luckyjc007 says:

    It makes me wonder…what kind of childhood did the mother have? Is she repeating her experience onto her daughter? That is so sad. Little does she know, I guess, that some encouragement can go a long way in a child’s life. They have so many changes and have to adapt, but without help in the right direction, things can get totally out of control. Very good post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Anxious Mom says:

    So not overreacting-talking to one’s child like that is appalling. If the mom is comfortable speaking to her daughter like that in public, I can only imagine what is said at home. We usually wait until we get home or are otherwise in private to scold LM for anything (aside from telling him to stop). We’ve been criticized for that, but I don’t believe in giving him a dressing down in public either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      I agree, if a child needs to be corralled, that’s an instant correction. This child was just trying to buy clothes. DD can push my buttons but I’ve never torn her down like that. I Can still hear that woman’s voice in my head!

      Like

  10. Shrewed Up says:

    Great post and discussion. I was that child many years ago and you are right, it does affect you in the long run. As much as I want to judge the mother for behaving in this manner, there may be a reason for her actions we are unaware of . . . I don’t agree with what she did, but we really don’t know do we. My oldest boy just told me the other day that the kids call him chubby. I smiled and told him he was healthy and strong, like me. I guess that makes me chubby as well. He gave me a hug and smiled.

    Liked by 1 person

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