I remember what it was like to be a tween. Back in the day when I was a kid, I think adults had unrealistic expectations of pre-teens. We weren’t even living in the information age, and grownups expected us to know how to do the right thing all the time.
Fortunately, our kids are growing up in a different time. My tween daughter has much more emotional freedom than I ever had. She’s also allowed to ask questions and make mistakes. I’m okay with her not making the same choices I would make in every situation. She’s still a child. She’s still learning.
There are, however, a few completely age appropriate expectations that I have for my girl. I’ve sat down to explain them to her, and I’m here to support her in succeeding in meeting my expectations.
1. Make her own lunch.
My daughter is expected to make her lunch for school every day. My husband used to make them, but they’d come home half-eaten. We decided that giving her responsibility of figuring out her lunch for the week and making it would ensure she wasted less. We were right. She’s been making her own lunch since the first grade.
2. Keep her bedroom neat.
I don’t expect that my daughter’s room will always be pristine, but there is an expectation of cleanliness. She knows that she’s not allowed to have any food waste or trash in her room, and we do expect her clothes to be hung up regularly. I’ll help her with deep cleaning and organizing, but her bedroom shouldn’t look like a tornado came through it!
3. Keep track of her homework assignments.
I’m not in school anymore, so I don’t have homework to keep up with. Between a student planner, emails from her teacher, and reminders that she gets in school, my daughter has enough resources to help her keep track of homework. If she forgets it, then she’s expected to reach out to her teacher on her own. I won’t be around when she’s in college, so this is a great skill for her to learn now.
4. Help around in the house.
My daughter doesn’t have a ton of chores, but she is expected to help keep the house clean. She takes out the recycling, vacuums the floors, and cooks dinner one night a week. It’s not a huge responsibility, but we do want her to learn how to do her part to make sure our house feels like a home.
5. Expect to hear ‘no’ sometimes.
My daughter doesn’t get everything she wants. I don’t delight in telling her no, but there are times when what she wants just doesn’t work for our family. I don’t mind if she shows that she’s disappointed, but I do expect her to be able to accept a no without going crazy.
6. Express gratitude.
I’ll keep it real. My husband and I don’t always write thank you notes. We do, however, express gratitude with a phone call, email, or text message when someone shows us kindness. Our tween is expected to do the same. We talk to her a lot about being grateful for the things that people do for her, or give her. I’m not just talking about folks outside of our family, either. We expect her to be grateful for things her father and I do for her as well.
7. Let me know if she needs clothes, deodorant, etc.
Similar to the homework thing, if my daughter needs things, we expect her to let us know. I don’t know when she runs out of soap or lotion. This is an easy way, low risk way to teach her to be responsible for herself.
8. Ask for help when she needs it.
I want my daughter to learn how to be a critical thinker, so I don’t always rush to help her when I see she’s struggling with something. Kids figure out how to do things when they have time to work through the challenges. If she does get stuck, though, she knows that she can ask for help. And we expect her to help. Otherwise my husband and I stand back and let her figure it out.
9. Treat everyone (even in our family) with respect.
Tweens are notoriously emotional. We know that when they’re going through challenging times, they tend to take things out on the people that are closest to them. While we do allow a fair amount of that and are understanding, we still expect to be treated with respect.
There will be no “I hate you!”, slamming doors, or screaming in our home. We treat our kids with respect and we expect the same in return.