How can I work with this preteen?

Clk - posted on 09/08/2016 ( 4 moms have responded )

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Hello,

Full disclose: I'm a dad--not a mom. But I thought I would post here to get some practical (that is, motherly) advice on this.

I have two very young daughters, but that's not what I'm posting about.

My wife and I have a "couple" friend that we've known for 7 years or so. They have a few kids, who are all amazing, funny, smart, and generally just a joy to be around. Especially before my kids were born, I've come to spend a lot of time with them and have assumed somewhat of an "uncle" role.

Our friends (their parents) don't really speak English that well, but I speak their language. Their kids are being raised bilingual, but they are much more fluent and expressive in English. As such, there are some disconnects between them and their parents that I've sometimes gotten involved in to help the relationship and communication.

Ever since I've known her, I've really taken after their oldest (now 11). I see a lot of me in her when I was her age and I've tried really hard to help her insecurities where I can and prove to her that there's nothing she should be afraid/insecure of. She's great--and incredibly smart.

However, she's really hit that age where she's simply treating most people terribly--including me. While she's very smart, she doesn't have a lot of "EQ" in being able to understand and interpret others' feelings and responses.

Despite how much I've given her and have done for her, she accepts it--but throws it back in my face in some way. I'm probably taking it a bit too personally, but it feels horrible.

We've had a couple times that I've tried to turn into teachable moments and not take anything personally. These usually appear to end up successful, but she inevitably breaks whatever she promised me--and sometimes flaunts it.

Recently, I've told her that I've pretty much had it. I'm not going to ignore her, but I'm certainly not going to make any further efforts for her. This is not to make her feel bad--but rather to protect myself. Because it is just so hurtful.

It's easier to do this practically since she's not my child and I don't spend every single day with her. But this is clearly distressing her in some way, and I don't know what to do.

My main question is: Do I try to brush everything off, man up, and continue to meet her considerably more than halfway considering her age, despite how many times she's just been terrible to me? I care about her deeply and I would hate to write her off during a sensitive period in her life, but it's just been too tiring to deal with.

Or is it appropriate that I'm distancing--and spending more time with her younger siblings--so she can realize the effects that it's had on me?

I didn't think this would affect me enough to post on the Internet about it, but it's been hard to not question myself.

Thanks for your help.

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Sarah - posted on 09/08/2016

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I agree and there is a positive side to this behavior. Kids are usually most awful to their parents and then pleasant to other people. This partly because they know their parents love is unconditional; that no matter how badly they behave, they will still be loved. That she treats you badly (while it is not ok) is a sign she knows you love her. I'd give her some space, she is figuring a lot out at this time in her life. The next few years may be rough but she will eventually settle down.

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JL - posted on 09/10/2016

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First, it’s exceptional to hear a man share so deeply and emotionally about a child, and that she’s not your own makes it even more so. It’s so great that friends share (community) in the development of their children. Since you said that you now have children of your own, this could be a good learning experience for you when dealing with them too.
I think you’re dealing with the pain of discipline. I have four kids (two adults and two that are young) and it hurt and still hurts me every time I have to reprove the young ones. Not to be preachy or anything, but the Bible says in Hebrews 12:11 that no discipline feels good at the time, but painful; however the rewards are right living and peace (my paraphrased version). And I think parents, friends, or anyone who cares about someone else and thus takes the time to correct the ones they care for feel the pain of correction as much and maybe at times more than the one who receives it.
So stepping back after corrective periods and giving space to learn and adjust is great. And doing so by now investing a little more time with her other siblings (as long as it’s done naturally and not to make a point) is good for them too. Trust the process. Don’t let her actions, non-actions or expression of the pain of separation due to her overstepping your boundaries stir you too much emotionally. The process of discipline will bring you both back to having a peace from having done what is right. (You for having corrected her and her for learning how to treat people.)

Dove - posted on 09/08/2016

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I wouldn't write her off, but definitely let her know that the behavior isn't acceptable and while she is acting like that you will not interact w/ her. Basically like a parent sending a moody preteen off to her room to chill out. Don't take her behavior personally. Preteens are basically overgrown toddlers for a couple of years.

Jacqueline - posted on 09/08/2016

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Being 11 is tough for a little girl. At that age so much is going on. Just remember it is most likely a phase she is going through. If you are like family to her then I would do what family does and help her and be there for her no matter what. She will remember you were there for her. Hope this can help you.

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