Helping Kids Through Tween Transitions


Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover.
Topic
: Improving the way you and your child experience the middle school years.
Issues: Helping your kid through real middle school problems, including social media, questions about sex, mean girls (and boys), and fitting in, dealing with bullies, fashion, peer pressure, dating, independence, and more.

Manual to Manhood + Middle School Makeover


Jonathan Catherman, author of The Manual to Manhood.
Topic:
How to cook the perfect steak, change a tire, impress a girl, and 97 other survival skills for young men.
Issues: As a man in the making, you’ll need to know how to do stuff. You also need a strong moral character to back up your new abilities. Here are step-by-step instructions for just about everything you need to know.



Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover.
Topic
: Improving the way you and your child experience the middle school years.
Issues: Helping your kid through real middle school problems, including social media, questions about sex, mean girls (and boys), and fitting in, dealing with bullies, fashion, peer pressure, dating, independence, and more.

What IS It with Girls and Clothes?

Dear Mr. Dad: Ever since my daughter turned 13, all she does is pressure my wife and me to buy her extravagant, overpriced clothing. We’re going through a bit of a rough financial patch and there’s no way we can afford what she’s asking for. Any advice?

A: Clearly you were never a teenage girl. Okay, neither was I, but I did survive my two oldest daughters’ bouts with teen wardrobe insanity and still have most of my hair. My youngest, who worships her older sisters and apparently was taking good notes during their adolescent years, is threatening to become a teenager herself in a few years and has already developed some very firm ideas about clothes.
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The Redshirts Are Coming!

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I are thinking about keeping our five-year-old son out of kindergarten until he turns six. We have friends who’ve done the same thing and they say that it gave children a lot of advantages. But is it really a good idea?

A: What you’re talking about here is called “redshirting” and it’s all the rage these days. Basically, parents—like your friends—wait an extra year before dropping their kids off at kindergarten. The thinking is that if children start school later, they’ll be bigger, faster, stronger, and more mature than their classmates. Given that in many places kindergarten has morphed from being dominated by building blocks and crayons into a real academic experience, this could be an issue.

There are some benefits to redshirting your son—at least until herd mentality takes over and everyone keeps their kids home until age six. But until then, the extra year that redshirted kids have can boost their cognitive and social skills. As a result, your son will probably grasp academic concepts more quickly. However, some education experts are now saying that being older, bigger, and more mature may make some kids feel alienated from their peers—or may end up causing them to be excluded by their peers. Either one of those scenarios is a recipe for self-esteem problems that could last a lifetime.

As far as the long-term, solid research on the effects of redshirting are hard to come by, but there is some. The Harvard Health Blog has some great information on the topic and Education.com offers a good overview of the pros—and the many cons.  For example, keeping your child in daycare an extra year could be expensive. And while kids usually do reap some benefits in the early years, by the time they get to third grade, the playing field is pretty level. And some kids end up needing extra help during first, second, and third grades because they didn’t get as early a start as their peers (the right preschool could offset that in some cases).

The real problems turn up later on in your child’s education. Middle- and high school are both sensitive times for your son, and being the oldest kid in class often carries a stigma: until this whole redshirting thing started, older kids were the ones who’d been held back by teachers. That Education.com article points out that older kids are more likely to misbehave when in a group of younger peers.

Another question you’re going to have to answer for yourselves is whether or not redshirting is fair. In general, it’s more common with boys than with girls, with Caucasians than with minorities, and with the affluent more than with the poor. Given that kids already learn at different speeds, have different aptitudes and different attitudes, is it really a good idea to create even more divisions among students when we really need to be ironing out those differences so that kids can just be kids?

In the end, it really comes down to making a choice that’s best for your son. If, at five, he’s very immature, has social problems, and/or takes a long time to figure things out, that extra year could be just what he needs. But if he’s already advanced in all those areas, redshirting him could very well cause more problems than it solves.

An important note: We’ll be announcing the winners of our latest Seal of Approval awards soon at mrdad.com/seal.

Regaining Your Parental Authority

Dear Mr. Dad: Our 12-year-old daughter does well in school but apparently hates us as parents. She never speaks kindly to us, refuses any kind of parental authority, and insists that “no one can tell me what to do.” She is very interested in boys and has been involved in “kissing sessions” on a school outing. We’re just about at the end of our rope. Is there anything we can do?

A: I can certainly see why this situation is upsetting you, and you’re absolutely right to be concerned. Teenagers are notoriously defiant of parental authority, but at twelve, your daughter is still a “tween,” far too young to be engaging in the kind of behavior you describe.
There are a few steps you should take right away, before her behavior becomes even more inappropriate, or starts posing a danger to her health and safety. First on the list is to ask the principal of her school why “kissing sessions” were allowed during a school outing. Where was the supervision? As far as I’m concerned, this is absolutely inexcusable and everyone involved should be held accountable.
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Underage Drinking

Dear Mr. Dad: We’ve suspected for some time that our 15-year-old daughter has been drinking with her friends. Last night she came home, after curfew, with alcohol on her breath. When we confronted her, she said it’s “no big deal” and “everyone” in her group of friends is doing it. What should we do?

A: Your daughter is right about one thing: a lot of her friends probably are drinking. But she’s very, very wrong about it not being a “big deal.” According to the American Medical Association, the average age of a child’s first drink is 12. And nearly 20 percent of 12-20 year-olds are considered binge drinkers.
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