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How to Make Your Tween Think You're Cool

Image Gallery: Parenting This tween secretly thinks her mother is pretty cool. See more pictures of parenting.
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Most tweens will tell you it's impossible for them to ever think of parents as cool. Perish the thought! But the truth is many kids actually do think their parents are pretty cool, even if they'd rather die than admit it. So how do you achieve cool status without losing authority over your child?

Child psychologists point out that it's not a good idea to try to be your kid's BFF. In a normal parent/child relationship, there's a differentiation in power, and if you bridge that gap, you're removing natural boundaries. This may sound like a positive thing, but it's really not. Think about it. Do you really need to know every single thought that crosses your tween's mind? Be careful what you wish for. Instead, strive for a harmonious balance of authority and, importantly, openness.

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Being in touch with your child and knowing that he or she is willing to share with you not only makes you "cool," it makes you a better parent. When you're in touch with your tween's life -- her likes and dislikes, his best friends, her favorite hangout -- you can feel safe knowing what your child is up to in his or her spare time. (And it's pretty nice feeling like he or she secretly thinks you're awesome!)

So what can you do to win cool points with your tween? Find out more on the next page.

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Obviously, every kid is different, and every kid responds to things in his or her own unique way. But we still have a few general pieces of advice on connecting with your tween.

  • Get tech-savvy: You need to know what your child is up to online. It's imperative for his or her cyber-safety. But being verse in the latest Internet fads and newfangled gadgets also makes you cooler in the eyes of your child. And if you're not tech-savvy, ask your tween to show you how his or her favorite online games or cell phone applications work. Because…
  • Kids love being the authority, so let them tell you what's cool: Your tween likes nothing more than to be able to teach you about the things he or she likes. Whether it be a few hours where you learn everything there is to know about Pokemon, or a long and impassioned monologue about the finer points of the "Twilight" saga, tweens are thrilled to be able to talk about things where they're the subject matter expert.
  • Allow freedoms … gradually: As your tween gets older, he or she will start pressuring you about more privacy, wanting to hang out with friends more than family, picking out his or her own clothes, and other such things. Give her some freedoms, but not all at once. For each freedom you allow (skipping family game night to go to the movies with a friend), add a responsibility to match (unloading the dishwasher).
  • Share a hobby: Your tween should have his or her own interests, but try to cultivate a common interest -- something only the two of you share. Perhaps your son enjoys cooking. The two of you could take a class together, or go out to eat twice a month and rate the restaurants together. Or maybe your daughter loves cats. Think about volunteering together at a local animal shelter.

One thing all tweens want? Their own space. Keep reading and check out our ideas on helping your tween have the coolest room in the neighborhood.

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Lavender and baby-blue striped wall. Original artwork. A nice spot to play guitar. This room is cool.
Lavender and baby-blue striped wall. Original artwork. A nice spot to play guitar. This room is cool.
Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock

Part of the growing-up process for tweens is to build a more mature identity, and they'll want to express identity via their only personal space -- their bedrooms.

This is also a great opportunity to win cool points with your tween by allowing him or her to decorate that room. She'll appreciate that you trust her design sensibilities. You'll give him a creative outlet. And the two of you will have a project to work on together (bonding alert!).

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A tween's likes and dislikes can change from month to month, week to week -- sometimes seemingly day to day. So, the most important piece of advice we have for decorating your tween's room is: Don't make anything too permanent. Design a space that can grow with your child. Sit down with your tween and find out what he or she is interested in, and then jot down a few thoughts and brainstorm together.

Following are a few ideas we've seen and loved:

  • Vinyl wall art: One of today's hottest décor ideas is the vinyl wall sticker. These are great because they're relatively inexpensive, they come in all different themes and styles, and, once your tween is tired of them, you can just peel them off the wall.
  • Connect the dots: One designer redecorated a tween girl's room using polka dots as inspiration. He painted the walls with bright colors and put up round corkboards that the tween girl could use to pin up her favorite photos and pictures. The bedsheets featured brightly colored polka dots, and a solid color comforter tied the room together.
  • Heavy metal: A tween boy who was really into rock and roll designed his own room using cool blues, tans and browns. Accessories like metal storage boxes with wheels added some "backstage" feel to the room and doubled as seating for impromptu jam sessions.

Most importantly, make sure your tween has input and veto power. Remember that it's your child's space, not yours.

Wondering how to find the coolest gift for the tween in your life? Keep reading.

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Buying a gift for a tween can be fraught with peril. "Oh, Mom, that is so last year!" your daughter tells you, complete with eye roll. You shrug, "How was I supposed to know you didn't like [fill in the blank with pop star] anymore?" Next time your favorite tween has a birthday, or a gift-giving occasion comes up, try some of our ideas and you just might be his or her new hero!

Many tweens keep an online wish list. We suggest always checking that first -- that way you'll be 100 percent sure you're getting them what they want. But if you have no wish list to work from, here are a few ideas:

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  • Alarm clock with MP3 dock
  • Lip gloss and matching nail polish
  • Knit earmuffs with earphones built in
  • Adhesive wall chalkboard with chalk
  • "Monster High" books and dolls
  • Friendship bracelet kit
  • Mini indoor basketball hoop
  • Computer or video games
  • "Retro" gifts, like Frisbees or Shrinky Dinks

You can always do a quick search online, too, for the most current hot gifts. Some Web sites even have a "giftfinder" option, where you can select the age and gender of the recipient and the site will give you recommendations on appropriate gifts.

Even though some think they're impersonal, gift cards are always a good idea for a tween. A gift card gives the tween -- who is already learning to assert his or her independence -- the opportunity to choose what he or she wants. You can find gift cards for MP3s, books, videogames, clothes and more.

So, there you have it. You seem cooler already! For more about tweens, teens and family, check out the links on the next page.

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Related Articles

Sources

  • Hartley-Brewer, Elizabeth. "Tween: Almost Grown Up." Scholastic. May 2010. (Jan. 1, 2011) http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3753978
  • Salgado, Patience. "Connecting With Your Tween." PBS Parents. May 21, 2010. (Jan. 1, 2011) http://www.pbs.org/parents/supersisters/archives/2010/05/connecting-with-your-tween.html
  • "Should You Be Friends With Your Kids?" The Early Show. Aug. 18, 2010. (Jan. 4, 2011). http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/08/18/earlyshow/living/parenting/main6783784.shtml
  • Soler, Alina. "Best Christmas Gifts for Kids." Parenting. 2010. (Jan. 1, 2011) http://www.parenting.com/gallery/Child/christmas-gifts-tweens/1/
  • "Tween and Teen Rooms." Better Homes and Gardens. 2010. (Jan. 1, 2011) http://www.bhg.com/decorating/kids-rooms/teen-rooms/

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