The Back Seat

Is­abel Lee rants about the tweens in her life

Time Out Malaysia Kids - - Contents -

A par­ent’s view of the ter­ri­ble tweens

Th­ese are the for­ma­tive years of form­ing good char­ac­ter, manners and ethics

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THOSE par­ent­ing tomes harp­ing on about the Ter­ri­ble Twos mak­ing new par­ents an­tic­i­pate the sec­ond com­ing of Satan? Tod­dlers may whine, cry and defy sim­ple in­struc­tions but they are still com­pletely man­age­able and after a cou­ple of years, they evolve into very pleas­ant chil­dren who can en­ter­tain them­selves and are ac­tu­ally good com­pany. Par­ents are then lulled into a sense of well-be­ing that the hard­est is over, and in the mean time many go on to have more kids (we’re suck­ers like that) and time passes.

One day you wake up and there’s this not-so-lit­tle or cute person in front of you de­fy­ing you all over again. But this time there’s a dis­agree­able nu­ance to the re­bel­lion. Then it hits you: they’re tweens – not quite surly teenagers but be­yond play­ing with toys and keen on test­ing your pa­tience. There are many def­i­ni­tions of a tween but the one that that made me laugh and agree whole­heart­edly was ‘a crea­ture that is said to be between the ages of nine and 12, and who for some rea­son have im­mense “con­fi­dence” in them­selves’ – taken from that most in­tel­lec­tual of web re­sources, the Ur­ban Dic­tionary.

The age def­i­ni­tion of tweens dif­fers de­pend­ing on whom you talk to and what you read but a gen­eral con­sen­sus is that it hov­ers between ten and 14. This is the age of the on­set of pu­berty, peer pres­sure and the need to be­long to a clique. I hear par­ents la­ment­ing about how kids to­day are so much smarter, slyer or worldlier than they ever were, but we for­get that OUR par­ents said the same thing to us. As a child of the ’80s, my idea of re­bel­lion at that age was go­ing to a friend’s house and not com­ing home for din­ner or mak­ing crank calls.

Tweens have be­come such a pow­er­ful force to con­tend with and to put it into per­spec­tive, the tween re­tail mar­ket is es­ti­mated to be in the bil­lions of US dol­lars, which is di­vided into what they spend per­son­ally and how they in­flu­ence their par­ents to spend. Ad­ver­tis­ers, mar­keters and global brands have to con­stantly up their game to en­sure they keep up with the vo­ra­cious de­mand. Take for ex­am­ple elec­tronic de­vices and mo­bile phones – tweens have them all and their knowl­edge of tech­nol­ogy is amazing, and a lit­tle scary too. An ar­ti­cle in an ad­ver­tis­ing trade jour­nal called the phe­nom­ena of their spend­ing power ‘The Tween Ma­chine’ and stated that they are the ‘author­ity on this dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion’, mean­ing that 12-year-old is more savvy than you on what’s trend­ing in the world of fash­ion, pop cul­ture and any­thing cool.

The down­side of all this is that tweens are so much more ma­ture in their be­hav­iour, dress sense, choice of mu­sic and how they in­ter­act with their friends. You hear pre-pubescent girls gush how about ‘hot’ Justin Bieber is and boys want­ing to watch PG18 movies and, in some cases, want­ing to go club­bing! They even talk funny with their short­ened words and sup­posed street lingo picked up from friends or watch­ing trashy tween TV. It’s im­per­a­tive for us par­ents to be pa­tient and kind but firm and be able to dis­ci­pline them when it goes over­board. Th­ese are the for­ma­tive years of form­ing good char­ac­ter, manners and ethics – eas­ier said than done but as we’re re­spon­si­ble for how they turn out (and we don’t want them to be­come nasty politi­cians or ‘glam­our’ mod­els), we need to buckle down and know we’re not alone in our frus­tra­tion.

But, to­day was a good day. I didn’t fight with my tweens, they didn’t an­swer me back every two min­utes; we laughed, played a board game and had a peace­ful din­ner. They even re­galed me with amus­ing anec­dotes about their friends. And be­fore bed time, my lum­ber­ing 14-year-old son gave me a big hug (he’s big­ger and stronger than me) and for those five sec­onds, all I could see and feel was the chubby lit­tle tod­dler I so adored all those years ago. Yes, deep down in­side they’re still your pre­cious bun­dles of joy who love you al­beit with funny crack­ing voices, in­so­lent ex­pres­sions and an in­nate need to be glued onto their de­vices all the time. Friends with adult chil­dren have all told me it’s just a phase and will pass when they hit that other mile­stone of be­com­ing a bon­afide teenager, so un­til then put up with the eye rolling and sigh­ing, and cher­ish every mo­ment be­cause as we all know, once they’re all grown up we’ll miss them… even the eye rolling and con­tempt.

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