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Is Tween the New Toddler?

Is Tween the New Toddler?

By Kelcey Kintner

For years, I’ve been hearing about this mystical sweet spot in childhood. As folklore has it, it occurs after the tantrum years but before teenage angst and attitude. A period of time when your child is finally somewhat rational and enjoyable and yet still wants to spend time with you.

My oldest daughter is now 10 and I figured I must be be right there. Just as I was about to bask in mother-daughter outings filled with lovely moments of bonding and laughter – she was throwing a fit over the fact that she doesn’t have an Instagram account.

Instead of a sweet spot, I have found my preteen or “tween” daughter on a roller coaster of emotions. One minute she is lovingly pushing her 2 year old brother on the swing and the next moment, she is bursting with giant tears because of some incredible injustice.

In the last few weeks alone, she cried when I killed an ant in the kitchen (instead of setting it free), when we bought the wrong color protractor although she never mentioned having a preference and when her sister got 15 minutes of extra TV while she was on a playdate.

Sometimes it’s so ridiculous, I want to laugh but I don’t. Because I know the emotions are very real. It’s almost like the feelings take over her – so suddenly and so dramatically that she can’t contain it. Just like the days when she was a toddler, protesting madly at the outrage of having to wear pants – yes actual pants  – when she left the house.

I often get blindsided. We got frozen yogurt recently and I always remind my kids to not overfill the fishbowl size cups because I need some money left over for their higher education. But this time, my daughter ignored my wishes and filled her cup to the brim with a mountain of yogurt and toppings.

After I had paid close to $20 for our 3 yogurts, I said, “Dylan, you put way too much in your cup.” And she exploded. “I’M SORRY MOMMY. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?!!! I DIDN’T MEAN TO! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME…..” And then the tears. She wouldn’t talk to me all the way home and all I could do was sigh and wonder how a fun yogurt outing turned so wrong.

The more I read about and explore the tween years, I realize they are filled with moodiness, volatile moments and pushing boundaries. There are hormonal changes going on and often preteens are as surprised by their emotional outbursts as the parents. Basically, my daughter is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing and I just need to catch up.

And I realized I mostly need to calm down. All too often, I resort to yelling because I feel like I’m under attack. So when my daughter starts screaming about not getting to have a last minute sleepover (honestly, I just didn’t have the energy!), I found this advice very helpful…

“Kindly tell your tantrumming preteen that you see how upset they are and you want to give them time to pull themselves together before you discuss it. Ask them if they want you to stay, or to leave the room to let everyone calm down…. Later, give them a big hug, and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you can’t agree with their position, acknowledge your child’s perspective, and work to find a win/win solution.” (Courtesy of Aha! Parenting)

In the end, we decided to put a future sleepover on the calendar. And that seemed to do the trick. So no, I never did find my sweet spot. What I found instead was very sweet moments intermingled between the challenges in this new frontier. And I’ll take every one of those moments I can get.

Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

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  • Adam Kessner

    March 21, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Absolutely brilliant. We are going through exactly the same stuff. Thanks for the info.

  • Caroline

    March 23, 2015 at 6:26 am

    You’re a much nicer mother than I. The examples you’ve described (yoghurt treat tantrum etcetera) would have had different results were I to have been the one in charge. Screaming at me? No yoghurt for you, possibly ever again! Hysterics over the wrong colour protractor? Thanks, I’ll be needing the money for said item, you can now pay for it, you rude, ungrateful, charmless, entitled little dear! I get that they ALL have tantrums, mine are totally impossible from time to time, but I will not tolerate disrespect and rudeness, nor tiptoe around brat behaviour, whatever the age of the child (or adult!) displaying it. Appropriate responses get dished out and amazingly, it works reasonably well.

  • Sarah

    March 23, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I don’t normally comment, how people choose to raise their own kids is up to them, but I do feel that you are setting yourself up for years of being walked over and for your daughter to believe that she can behave however she likes because there are no consequences.

    Would it not work to maybe deliver a consequence in the minute and then when she is less emotional – talk about what caused the consequence and ways that she can cope with her emotions that do not involve abusing you (or someone else)?

  • jennifer

    March 23, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Isn’t it freeing (emotionally) when you are able to take things for what they are…. normal behaviors for the stage they are at in their development.  
    And in regards to the a couple of previous comments… it is not about making excuses for the behaviors, it is about learning how to cope with the NORMAL (although sometimes unsavory) behaviors in a way that will keep everyone sane.  I for one, have used a similar technique with my 12 year old… and it is good for both her and I.

  • Brittni

    March 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    I see so much of my 5 year old in this post. Already, she’s passionate and strong willed and so much more emotional than I thought a little girl could be.

    I walk a fine line between trying to teach her to be respectful and letting her simply vent & speak her mind (as scattered as that may be). She’s funny and challenging and intuitive all at once so to imagine that intensifying as she gets older makes my head spin.

    I’m glad to see you finding the humor in it though, that gives me hope for the future…that and knowing wine frequently goes on sale at the grocery store nearest me.

  • HonestMum

    March 23, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Sound advice, I have a 5 year old going on 15 here and it’s hard going!