The Parenting Mistake I Wish I Could Redo

The preschool years were tough. Every day was SO lonnnnnggggg. No time for showers, no sleep at night. That depression diagnosis sent me down a deep, dark hole I didn’t think I’d ever escape.

So, when my oldest started school, I could breathe … a little. They were bathing themselves, brushing their own teeth (greatest gift EVER) and I was thinking … Aaaahhh, I survived. I actually started painting my toenails again.

Then, I got lazy. Or, I just didn’t know what to do next.

Fourth grade hit. Questions, asked in innocence, about sex, drugs and bad words started flying. I even had to Google some of them (ex. Meow Meow drug she learned about at recess).

I knew I had missed something as a mom. The tween years hit, and I wasn’t prepared. It’s the parenting mistake I wish I could redo.

Most people define the tween group around ages 8-12. Here are four things I wish I had done differently:

When my child was between the ages of 5-7, I would’ve read these books by Dannah Gresh:

“Six Ways to Keep the ‘Little’ in your Girl” and “Six Ways to Keep the ‘Good’ in your Boy”

I would’ve created more open communication.

I would’ve set a precedent in my family that it’s a safe place for any topic of discussion, especially starting in kindergarten. Talk about everything with no embarrassment. Now, we have a set time at dinner for our conversations. It has become routine. No technology. TV is off. Here are some starter questions:

  • Did you hear any new words that you don’t know the meaning of?
    (*Don’t freak out if you get the F-bomb. Calmly explain what it means and that it’s a word we don’t use.)
  • What made you happy, sad, excited or scared today?
  • Was there any drama?
  • Who got in trouble?

Nothing is off-limits. Here’s our only rule: what is SAID at the dinner table, STAYS at the dinner table.
image13I would’ve set technology standards before the tween years.

I would’ve set parental controls when they started using technology. That way, it’s common practice to need a password for sites. Apple products offer great parental restrictions. Go to Settings/General/Restrictions, “Enable Restrictions” — you can set your music to clean (instead of explicit), PG for movies, etc.

For social media, I would’ve specified the rules before she asked. Most social media sites are prohibited for kids under 13, but most of them do not ask for a birthdate when opening an account.

I would’ve built a bigger support group of other tween parents.

There are many times I’ve felt like I’m the only mom saying “no.” It helps to know I’m not alone. Build a community of moms you trust. Have a mentor with grown children (who turned out great) and call them for advice.

I’ve started a group called “MomTalk” in San Antonio. We also have a closed Facebook group (so you don’t have to be in my town to be involved). Comment below with your email address for additional information.

 **This has been approved by my tween. I don’t share anything about her without her permission.

Now, it’s your turn. What else would you recommend to prepare for the tween years?

18 thoughts on “The Parenting Mistake I Wish I Could Redo

  1. Hi Mandy, my email address is I’d like more information on how to be added to that facebook page. Although my oldest is eight, as you pointed out, it’s not too early to prepare and build foundation for those tween years.

  2. Thank you, Mandy, for your transparency and for starting this group! I am so grateful for all I have learned from it, and knowing I am not alone gives me strength. One thing I am glad we did was to say yes to the Wii (when my son was about 8) and no to XBox and Play Station… until my son turned 12. Now I am wishing I had said no to the XBox. We have been able to regulate the time our kids spend on it, but the games for the XBox are geared for adult gamers. I will admit I was very naive about all things XBox before we got it, and I wish I had done more research. There seem to be so many more family friendly games for the Wii and almost none for the XBox — sports and racing are two of the good ones. And we said no to XBox Live which is the subscription part where gamers can play with others on the internet. The harder thing to monitor is the games that he plays at his friend’s homes, but we have told him to ask what a game is rated and to call and ask us if he isn’t sure if he can play it or not. Never assume that someone else has the same electronic standards or protections in place that you have. Always ask and tell your children they do not need to play on a computer at someone else’s home unless you are 100% sure it is safe.

    • Shawna — I’m so glad you gave this advice. You bring up a great point about electronic rules at friends’ houses, it is definitely something to be aware of. Thanks for being a part of MomTalk!

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