I’ve wanted a parenting handbook for quite a while now. Not a parenting book that espouses a dense philosophy that takes me hours to get through, but an actual handbook that concisely tells me what to do with my tween. If it gives me hope that I have not either ruined my child already and that there is hope that she’ll be a happy, independent, contributing member of society, even better.
I have found that book.
Dr. Deborah Gilboa (also affectionately known as Dr. G) combines her experience as a board certified Family Physician with what she’s learned as a mom to four boys in her recent book “Teach Resilience: Raising Kids Who Can Launch.” It is the first in a series focusing on Dr. G’s 3 R’s: Respect, Responsibility and Resilience.
The book is broken down by ages, with one section aimed at kids between 8-10 years old, and another for kids between 11-14. Dr. G explained that the ages are not a hard and fast guideline and that each kid is different. She suggested that if your child is going through a period where he/she doesn’t seem as resilient, go back a section, or feel free to skip ahead if your child seems ready to handle more. I appreciate that the tween ages are subdivided, as there can be a big gap in what a young tween can face versus a child who is on the cusp of being a teenager.
For 8-10 year olds, the book suggests having your child fill out field trip forms. You still sign as the parent, but your child is certainly capable of filling out the information on the form. The same holds true for forms elsewhere, such as the doctor’s office. I loved it when Dr. G told me that her kids don’t presume that she is their secretary because she has never acted as one for them.
The book suggests having 11-14 year olds learn how to navigate public transportation because “[r]esilience often depends on being able to get where you need to go” and learning to change a tire because “it’s a great life lesson – don’t let your life or livelihood depend on a machine unless you know its basic maintenance.” She also comfortingly adds “For those of us who don’t know how to change a tire: Learn together! That’s resilience!”
“Teach Resilience” gives parents 50 opportunities to build a child’s resilience. The book may be small, but these are big tips. The book got me thinking about the expectations I have for my tween and made me realize that she is capable of more. It has motivated me to empower my tween by asking more of her.
Dr. G explained, “If we are interested in helping our kids reach their fullest potential, we need to let them do everything they can do.”
The book has led me to do more, both around the house and in public, like having her handle the transaction purchasing tickets for an attraction. Before reading the book I would’ve done some of those tasks automatically, without thinking to give her the opportunity to do it. She was hesitant to buy tickets, in part because the clerk greeted her with hello in French. (Love Canada!) My tween did fine, and it was encouraging to see her confidence grow knowing that she could handle something that previously made her uncomfortable.
Dr. G said that tweens need to realize that they don’t get to be obnoxious because you are moody. “Tweens need to know that how you feel matters, but what you do is even more important than how you feel. If you don’t correct that perception as tweens, you get awfully entitled teens.”
She explained that tweens are going through so many changes that they have to look inward and they “cannot focus outward to save their lives. That’s developmentally normal, but it is a mistake as parent is using that as excuse for poor behavior.”
Parents still can and should hold tweens accountable and keep in mind the options we want for our children when they are adults by teaching them to get along in the world, not just the house. “Kids will get further ahead if they learn to make people want to help them,” she said.
“If we want them to have the option of gainful employment, mentors that respect them, roommates that like them, life partners that stick with them, then we need to give them the tools they need to manage their difficult emotions around those people. They need to be respectful even when they are in a bad mood. You don’t get to come into work and not do your job because you lost phone or had a fight with a friend. If kids think all that matters is how they feel, we are betraying them, because the world will not care,” she said.
She advised that when explaining to a tween that it is time to step up and do more, keep the focus more on resilience and express it in terms of how impressed you are with their maturity and abilities.
“Tell your tween, ‘I have not been showing you how much I value your abilities. You are a great problem solver, really proactive. I think I sometimes get in your way and I’m going to do my best to get out of you way. I’m going to get out of your way more because I respect you.’ There is no tween who doesn’t want to hear that.”
Dr. G said that while kids are expected to contribute and do what they can for themselves, if there is one task that must be done a certain way or the parent is uncomfortable, that is a good chore to keep for yourself. She said for her that’s cleaning counter tops. For me, it is how my child gets to school. If you are able to give your son or daughter lots of autonomy and opportunities to be resilient but there are certain responsibilities that you need to hang on to, he or she will be fine.
You can buy the book here.
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