Parenting a 12-Year-Old

By:  Jessica DiRamio

Where did the time go?

After each one of my children were born, life got a little more complicated for my husband and me.  We were almost at our breaking point soon after #3 came along when we realized we were outnumbered.  Quickly getting into a groove with 3 kids, we chugged along and figured “oh yeah, we got this”…

Sure, we figured it out – how to be parents of 3 kids, how to comfort each one, how to divide and conquer and more.  It was all smooth sailing in this household. That is, until our oldest daughter turned 12 and went to Middle School.

Any feelings of success came to screeching halt within five days of the start of Middle School last September.  Immediately came the requests from her to:

  1. Walk home from school
  2. Hang out at local pizza places and go other places by herself and/or with a group.
  3. Get Facebook, Skype and Twitter accounts.
  4. Be allowed to have a boyfriend.
  5. Take her cell phone and iPod to school.

Are you stressed yet?  Because just writing that list above gives me heart palpitations!  Being the parent of a pre-teen brings new meaning to stress.  Don’t get me wrong, I love her with all of my heart – she’s my #1 girl, but boy oh boy is life with a 12 year old a chore!  I feel that I had a little bit of an inside scoop on this phase thanks to my mother and father.  You see, they had my little sister 13 years after me, so I was old enough to see her go through some of this firsthand.  I can also thank my BFF whose only child is 2.5 years older than mine.  I get a preview of each coming phase through her and feel somewhat prepared at every stage.

However, and this is a big however, there isn’t a book out there or a friend experiencing it firsthand that can accurately prepare a parent for the pre-teen stage.  You must experience it for yourself.

Pre-teens ask for so many things on a daily basis, one can easily fall into the habit of saying no to all of it.  I’ve tried to approach all of this with a “yes, attitude”.  I say yes to a lot, but in baby steps, and with serious consequences if bad things happen.  I could not possibly say yes to walking home from school in September, October and every single month after that.  I wasn’t ready…she wasn’t ready.  But now that the nice weather is upon us, when the day comes that she’ll ask again, I’ll say yes.  You see, she’s been taking part in a secret experiment since September.  She has walked to a friend’s house one street over, she walked into the center of town, she hung out at Burger King with friends on a half day; all with no issues.  She’s ready for the granddaddy of them all: walking home from school.  Crossing my fingers it all goes according to plan.

This “yes, attitude” seems to be working for our family.  I have a very happy, healthy 12 year old who actually wants to hang out with us and is very rarely grumpy towards her family.  I consider this a win, for now!

What do you think about all this?  For those of you with Middleschoolers, how do you handle the barrage of requests to do more, get more, be more, on a daily basis?

4 thoughts on “Parenting a 12-Year-Old

  1. I don’t have my own middleschooler yet, so can only relate as an experienced auntie and former middle school teacher. I think you are onto something with the “yes” attitude though. It’s an attitude we all could do well to share more often.

  2. I am terrified of having teenagers (especially my daughter!). Keep the advice coming, I’m sure I’ll look back on it in 12 years!

  3. Mine is finishing his 8th grade year right now. I agree with your advice, but we have had the negative experiences too. Nothing too serious, but getting kicked out of a high school football game he was allowed to go to with friends, because they acted like idiots and were wrestling around in the grass, that kind of thing. I find it’s a little bit like the “push me-pull you” from Dr. Doolittle’s books. We go a little bit one way, and end up going back the other. Some weeks work fine, others are a disaster. I think the key is to keep telling you love them, giving them advice, and allowing them to make some mistakes on their own and suffer the consequences for it.

  4. No I’d let my kid walk to school (sadly, we did as kids) in this day and age. There are 73.7 million kids in the US, only 13% walk or bike to school with parents so paranoid, thats 9,581,000. 115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year so thats a 1 in 83,313. Chance, for the year that is… 240 school days (less really but…) so that gives these kidnappers 240 chances to walk by your kid this year, that reduces the theoretical odds down to 1 in 347. …yeah, my method for figuring statistical odds is probably highly flawed, but it’s good enough to make me a safety nut parent, lol.

    Her computer stays in one of the common rooms and I’ll *think* about allowing her a FB account in a year or two, that I will have full access to. You have to be super careful with this stuff. A friend of mine had one of her girls and several others blackmailed into sending risque’ pics to a guy (google the basic idea and you’ll get the picture) kids don’t really need FB, Just like us having one, it’s a huge time waster, eventually causes friends/family strife of some kind, and all the information about you and your friends and everything you do is logged, collected, marketed and sold. Nothing is free in this world! Skype? No way! And as a parent you better learn about all the other phone communication apps and computer apps out there these kids use for trading txts, photos and videos as well as harassing people.

    Phone/ipad at school?! Kids don’t even NEED cellphones! Unless I’m a single parent and we have no relatives living in the area to help raise my child and said child is a latch key kid, then, NO, they don’t need a cellphone. Marketing gets people to dump money for everything under the sun in monthly subscriptions to bleed you dry of your hard earned money!
    If the kid wants a phone then the kid needs a part time job to buy it and feed it IF the grades are kept up and the chores are done!
    Boyfriend? Ummm, thats the mom department, because you know my answer 😉 (at least for a few more years;)

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