Terrible Twelves

by Honolulu Mother

My youngest, a seventh grader, has been a challenge to live with (and to teach) lately, in similar ways to his older brother at the same age. (My daughter went through the phase less severely and about a year earlier.) It led me to google “terrible twelves,” which turned up this NY Magazine article

Age 12 Is Like a Second Toddlerhood

Do you agree?

(And, remind me again that this stage will pass . . .)

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98 thoughts on “Terrible Twelves

  1. I’m currently going through the first toddlerhood (ages 4 and 20 months), and my mom’s group is so clutch. We text daily, often to basically say “Is anyone else’s child being an absolute beast right now?”. I hope we’re still together when they’re 12.

    Lark – I was so excited to see you post about my pizza! I can’t think of a better legacy to have here.

  2. I can not believe this was posted today because I was treated like a servant this morning.

    7th grade is the worst grade for social issues according to every guidance counselor, or administrator that I speak to about this year. I saw an author talking about it too.

    Everyone just keeps telling me that their hormones are changing, AND they have to navigate the craziness of 180 other 7th graders each day. Add a big bar/bat mitzvah party almost every weekend to the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

    I’m just trying to get through this year because I do see that my daughter has a lot of work, and her friends are not always so nice.

    I’m trying to be patient, but I definitely lost my temper this morning. It was a parenting fail, but sorry if I’m not a mind reader and didn’t know that we were out of vitamin c drops.

  3. I find the trickiest thing about this age is the multiple personalities. I told him the other day that living with him is like living with the seven dwarfs, all in one person – Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, etc. etc. Changes every 5 minutes.

    Providence – :) We still love it after all these years!

  4. Totally could not agree more. All hell broke loose here at 11.5 yrs, when DD had her first period. By 13, she was a totally different person. At 15, she is almost delightful most of the time (except when she periodically falls off the cliff for no apparent reason, like, say, last night).

    DS (11) is a little behind where she was at the same age — we are seeing the very early stages of attitude and tone, but basically DS on a bad day is like DD was on a good day back then. But that is what I expected, as DD always hit milestones early e.g., Terrible Twos at @13 mos), and boys tend to hit puberty later anyway.

  5. Yes, have been through this stage twice. 12 and 13 are the worst. I can remember being that age myself, and can remember how awful I was. Both my boys had a lot of issues during those two years. DS1 is far enough away now, at 16, to be quite a bit more human-like, and even polite.

    Think about what is happening to kids at that age. Their body is completely redoing itself, and during that transitional period, doing all kinds of horrible things that directly attach their self-image. The kids have zits, and BO, and slimy hair, and their bodies are all out of whack and the wrong size.

  6. Off topic – Honolulu, I just bought an Instant Pot (on sale on Amazon today!!) and dug up your thread from last year! Are you still using/loving yours?

  7. Providence, yes, we’re still using it all the time!

    On topic — the boy continues to be challenging. Although lately he’s found an artistic outlet — watching Bob Ross and painting space / dinosaur paintings. Whatever works for him. I just hope he turns all his assorted projects in.

  8. Providence – I got an Instant Pot last year based on recommendations here. I love it! I will say I use it more as a slow cooker than a pressure cooker, but it never loses the moisture my old one did. Love the way eggs come out.

    OT – My DD#1 didn’t have terrible twos or 12s, but you could definitely see changes. I think the stress of junior year is so far the worst. DD#2 did have terrible 2s and 6th grade was worse than 7th, but the summer between is when most of her interventions for her learning issues took place and I think that helped. Also, freshman year has been fairly awful – the stress of a new school, going from a school of 400 (k-8) to one of 2200, major shift in the level of “caring” by most teachers and fellow students, finding new peer groups, and adjusting to new academic expectations and routines. I’ve had my head bitten off more than once for asking a question.

  9. Lauren – your comment about the friends are not always so nice reminds me that I need to send in a topic about peer group and what to do when you don’t like your kids’ friends. My kids are younger, so I have a lot more control over who they get to play with, but I can tell it’ll be harder as they get older. Should I send a separate topic in or does it relate to this?

    I think the middle school years is when the peer groups become a much bigger deal.

  10. I’ve heard that the “terrible twos” (and threes) are preparation for tween years, so the less trouble you have with your little one, the more you’ll get later. Seems true with a certain boy who was a dream toddler. I’m expecting a happy, cooperative camper will come home from school, because “she” texted him, for the first time ever. Yes, he immediately texted his mother. He will not want me to say a thing about it, which is why I’m getting it out here.

  11. @SM — well, congrats to the Saacster. :-)

    Not sure about “less trouble early = more trouble later,” and vice-versa. IME, with my data set of 2, it has more to do with temperament than anything else. The kid who is super-sensitive to everything and has no filter and reacts externally to everything is just naturally always going to be more volatile/difficult to manage than the kid who hardly gets ruffled by anything and, when he does, has to process it internally before he can even talk to anyone else.

  12. I don’t have any 12 year olds yet, but going through the 2 year old stage a fourth time affirms my belief that they’re all different. Twin 2 has always been my toughest kid, and outsiders continue to confirm that for me. Baby WCE has been sick more than my other kids, because she goes to group childcare, but she also gets a break from being “one of the pack” in a way that her brothers never did. Baby WCE is far more verbal at 22 months than any of her brothers, which I’ve read is a typical girl/boy difference. I also have more bandwidth with her. For example, I can grocery shop around her schedule, chase/discipline her consistently when she does toddlerish things like grab stuff off the shelves or stand up in the grocery cart seat.

    Basically, one toddler is way easier than >=2

  13. 7th grade was the WORST for me. I was not a cool kid and the kids at school didn’t let me forget it. We’re not there yet, but already getting teen-like attitude from the 9yo, which is not cool. Any tips for laying the smack down to nip the attitude in the bud? :)

  14. DS as far as I can tell is navigating MS, Ok. I do feel the school did a good job in the 6th grade ensuring everyone settled in and found at least one friend.
    The push and pull comes when he wants me to take a look at his school work but then pushes back on my suggestions. He has realized that tips I gave him definitely improved his grades. He has grown up a lot especially in taking ownership of his school work. This has been a huge change between elementary and MS. For DS school friends are not his only social circle, he has neighbor kids and kids from
    his activities. He loves to play outside and I definitely feel that is a great stress reliever and results in a happier kid.

  15. L – I am very firm about the tone and manner, I am spoken to. I won’t tolerate unnecessary drama or a snippy tone. I do try to help them out but I also expect them to do their pieces (which I remind them).

  16. L – I’m zero tolerance for snark. One warning and then swift and severe consequences.

    When mine were in various difficult stages, I very often said, “It is okay to have a bad day. It is okay to be in a bad mood, or to be tired, or stressed. It is not okay to be rude to me.”

  17. HM – it gets better. And I personally feel the degree to which it gets better relates to the strictness with which you respond to it.

    Saac – oooh, that’s a huge thing for your guy!

  18. “When mine were in various difficult stages, I very often said, “It is okay to have a bad day. It is okay to be in a bad mood, or to be tired, or stressed. It is not okay to be rude to me.””

    This or similar. Depending on the situation it is not okay to: (1) be rude to me, (2) slam doors, (3) taunt sibling, etc.

  19. I will always let them know that the disrespectful tone is noted (“That’s not an appropriate way to speak to your mother”) but I won’t necessarily do consequences — it depends on the situation. Disrespect out of the blue from a kid with no particular stress going on at the moment, sure, do the ‘try again and this time improve your tone’ thing; something snippy from a kid on the verge of a meltdown over some big issue in his / her life, just say the tone is not appropriate and move on.

  20. HM – oh, completely agree. I was talking about the random, no-good-reason-other-than-age snarkiness.

  21. WCE – you know I love you right?? Because you’re post about more than 2 kids in toddler hood is scaring me.

    DS is a beast boy. Hopefully he’ll be a dream tween/teen. I can pray.

    I’m already gearing myself up for 2 toddlers and the hell my life will be. Hopefully DS will be more verbal than he is now so I can better understand why he’s a jerk.

    Half the family is sick including DS while I’m in NOLA. Lord help me when I get home.

  22. Risley, I was actually responding to L’s question about dealing with snippiness, and hadn’t seen yours yet. But it sounds like we’re taking similar approaches.

    One of the things mine has been doing lately is being very disrespectful to a particular teacher, though. She is in fact not a great teacher, but it sounds to me like he’s been challenging her for control of the classroom, with some success. It also sounds like she’d tried to give him detention previously but hadn’t gotten administration back-up (I’m sure the administration has heard lots of complaints about this teacher). When this all got through to me, I told the school I was absolutely ok with him getting detention for this — it is definitely for his own good to learn the downside of letting someone in a position of authority know that you thing s/he’s an idiot.

  23. I have to say neither of my teens are terrible. They do have moods but generally don’t project that on to me. My daughter will internalize more but not talk back.I don’t know if that is good or bad but she’s a lot sassier in her texts than she would be with me. I actually spend time trying to draw her out and see what she’s really feeling. “Tell me if you are angry and let’s hash it out.” But mostly the teen years are ok. THey were both terrible, terrible babies due to prematurity and reflux so I hope that maybe I paid on the front end but we are still at the beginning and middle so I don’t want to speak too soon!

    @Tcmama – would love a post on kids’ friends because there are a few in there who are real clunkers that I have to grit my teeth to be around!

  24. FWIW, DS has all male core subject teachers. Last year he had one male teacher who was also team leader. All his male teachers have had different styles. In some cases, it is like the teacher charging forward and asking the troops to follow him.

  25. What’s the best way to handle attitude from a four year old? My approach has been something to the effect of “We don’t talk to each other like that. If you’re frustrated/want something/etc, the polite way is to say XYZ. Would you like to try again?”. But, lately it’s been increasingly difficult to not lose my sh1t.

  26. Providence, you’re doing the right thing. At that age, they really are still learning tone and phrasing so the here’s-the-polite-phrase-try-that-again does eventually work.

  27. I’m on my third thirteen year old. The older two were cranky, irritable, snappy, and lazy, so when the third started that I just continued with the usual don’t taunt your sibling, yes you still have to do chores, blah, blah, blah…..

    Turns out the youngest has a chronic disease that manifested when he was twelve. He suffered for over a year, getting progressively sicker but the symptoms mimicked stereotypical teenage boy. I had a medical evaluation when he was twelve and was told he was a teenager. He got worse, and last summer, our pediatrician took a look at him, said it is x,y, or z, start this interim measure, we’ll get him to a specialist, and if he gets worse over the weekend, call me on the way to ER and we’ll decide which ERto go to.

    If you suspect anything more than teenager, get your kid checked and be persistent.

    He is in treatment and almost to remission and I have my sunny energetic kid almost back.

  28. Anon at 1:14, could you give a little more info about what kind of symptoms to look for? I understand that you’re trying to be discreet.

  29. Anon – what RMS said. It is difficult to tell what are normal growing aches and pains or something more serious.

  30. HM, your middle school has detention? I ask this because my sons go to a K-8 and last year at PTO something came up about MS kids not following directions regarding a certain area. I said “why don’t you state the expectations and then give detention to anyone who breaks the rule?” You would’ve thought I said “lets take them out to the front of the school, strip them naked and flog them”. They all looked horrified. Detention does not exist. Kids are sent to the office if they “misbehave” to sit out of class for a bit but that’s it. So basically there are no real consequences until the kid is kicked out of school. And from my friends who have kids this age, they report the kids all know it.

  31. He had weight loss, lethargy, general crankiness and stomach pain and diarrhea. Weight loss or lack of weight gain in a growing child is a major red flag. The rest of it, hmm….the stomach pains seemed to come about in response to chores, but in retrospect occurred in response to eating.

    I have seen enough adolescent mammals to know something wasn’t right, but that is hard to communicate when all you can come up with is that he looked and acted like a sick calf.

  32. UL, yes, but they’re sure reluctant to give it! My impression is that it’s partly that my son for all his faults is still a ‘good’ boy compared to some, and partly that they must have some parents who will complain all the way up the chain, so knowing they have parental backing helps. It’s scheduled for a couple of days after the offence during recess / lunch, and involves helping the custodians with picking up trash, cleaning, raking, that sort of thing.

  33. Anon, I remember when you posted about your concerns a year or so ago. I’m so glad you finally found out what was going on, and were able to address it!

  34. “One of the things mine has been doing lately is being very disrespectful to a particular teacher, though.”

    When DD was about that age, she was very disrespectful to her piano teacher. She also wasn’t practicing, so we stopped sending her to lessons.

    I’m not sure if that was the right thing. She clearly didn’t want to be taking those lessons, and what we did rewarded her bad behavior.

    OTOH, a year or two later, when she decided not to continue with softball, she handled it quite well. And with the one EC she’s continued, her violin lessons/chamber music, she’s become much more motivated, e.g., practicing fairly regularly without us having to tell her to practice.

  35. 12 and 13 were my least favorite years for DD in terms of attitude, snarkiness, etc. But at least we still had DS who is 5 years younger. DS is now 11 – and is generally still very sweet, enthusiastic, etc. I’m going to be so sad when he hits the 12/13 year old phase of snarkiness and attitude. I’m really enjoying him right now – but I have the feeling that when he turns 12 and starts 7th grade, it could all come to an end. Especially as he is going to have to go to a new school (Seattle Public Schools is opening a new middle school that he’ll be reassigned to) – the only plus is that since it’s a brand new school, everyone else will be new there too.

  36. “My impression is that it’s partly that my son for all his faults is still a ‘good’ boy compared to some”

    So if your DS does get detention, it might get the attention of some of the other kids who don’t quite have his reputation as a good boy.

  37. “I’m zero tolerance for snark. One warning and then swift and severe consequences.”

    What sort of consequences?

    One difficulty we have is consistently enforcing consequences that matter to the kids. The most effective consequence is taking away internet access, but it’s a PITA, and they often need it for homework.

  38. From what I gather from DS, school can get chaotic as students test boundaries. There is not turning in assignments inspite of repeated reminders, including putting “missing work” in weekly online grades. Then the teachers hunt down the offenders. Parents see the plummeting grades and are worried. There is detention which means the student sitting in recess and being made to complete the assignments. The three years of MS, must somehow be gotten through.

  39. SSM, that would be such an interesting social experiment here because these kids have a caste system in place their school. I can’t imagine what would happen if they had to get tossed into a new school, and they couldn’t have their assigned table in the cafeteria.

  40. I’m not sure if that was the right thing. She clearly didn’t want to be taking those lessons, and what we did rewarded her bad behavior.

    Why would you keep forcing a child to do an activity that they clearly don’t want to do? (I am referring to “fun” activities, which is what I can consider music lessons to be. I realize some parents consider music lessons to be equivalent to an academic endeavor.)

  41. “My impression is that it’s partly that my son for all his faults is still a ‘good’ boy compared to some”

    Funny, we had the opposite issue at DS’s aftercare — he started getting in trouble with one teacher, because he’s such a “good” boy [her words], and she wasn’t used to *any* degree of snark or pushback from him.

  42. SSM, that would be such an interesting social experiment here because these kids have a caste system in place their school. I can’t imagine what would happen if they had to get tossed into a new school, and they couldn’t have their assigned table in the cafeteria.

    Lauren, I give it three days at most before the social hierarchy is restored and the cool kids tables are established.

  43. Anon for this – my younger one is concerning. He is diagnosed lactose intolerant (at age 7 but it is severe and I suspect has been there since birth). We have done a ton of tests, ultrasounds and an MRI. He has nothing else “wrong” but he is tiny (age 10 and size 6-7), weighs 49 lbs., and has had a cold for over four weeks. And this may be TMI but it is perhaps telling – he has a lot of mucus constantly, terrible bad breath, the smelliest feet of any child I have met, and a lot of tummy issues. Our ped is basically worthless for any of this, we have run the gauntlet with the GI doctor and have ruled out a need for human growth hormone. Where to go next?

  44. “The kid who is super-sensitive to everything and has no filter and reacts externally to everything is just naturally always going to be more volatile/difficult to manage than the kid who hardly gets ruffled by anything and, when he does, has to process it internally before he can even talk to anyone else.”

    You know my two kids? :)

  45. Where to go next?

    Do you live anywhere near a good children’s hospital? I’d go there and see what they say. Has he seen an endocrinologist and an allergist?

  46. Rhett +1
    It sounds like you need a good pediatrician (new) that is affiliated with a children’s hospital that will take the time to spend some time with you to navigate through the visits to all of the pediatric specialists that you may need to see to get some answers. There is one doctor in our practice that is known for his diagnostic skills. He is much older, and he has seen it all in a lifetime of taking care of kids. You sound like you need a doctor like this…one that is almost like a dog with a bone because the doctor wants to try to get to the bottom of what is going on with your child.

  47. Anon – I would recommend keeping a journal of the things like what and when is he eating/drinking, when he complains of stomach pain, day, time, level of severity of muscus, smelling feet, runny stools, etc. Obviously harder to do with a boy who is in school, but having even a little bit of something concrete in your hands will help when describing symptoms to your new pediatrician. Also think about to when he was a baby (did he nurse well, did he have trouble with solid foods). These are all questions I was asked when searching for my DD’s diagnosis. If your child is in the 3rd percentile for height you should see an endocrinologist. Highly recommend going to a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in growth hormone, thyroid, and other endocrine issues.

  48. @ L – in addition to 12, I have found 9 to be a pretty sassy age with both my kids. I think you have to really know your own kid, and know what the biggest disincentive is for repeating bad behavior.

    I also think that sometimes when they’re going through those growth stages, they can hardly believe what just came out of their mouths, either. So if you can manage to not respond emotionally, and give them a chance to apologize and pull themselves together (don’t put them on the defensive), it frequently goes better.

  49. We have been to an endocrinologist and allergist.Surprisingly we were less allergic to things than the blood allergy tests revealed. DH and I were both late growers and my son’s bones appeared to be 2 years behind, which is consistent with the delay in both kids’ teeth development (also consistent with DH and I as children). Because DH and I were late bloomers, endocrinologist did not think additional intervention was warranted. I like the suggestion of a ped practice that is embedded with a children’s hospital and maybe has these specialists down the hall.

  50. Anon, I don’t have anything else to add but I wish you luck in finding out what’s wrong. And Anon #1 glad ou got it sorted! Trust your gut and find a doc who respects your gut!

    Providence – I’m of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with losing your S$#t once in awhile. I think kids need to know that people can only be pushed so far before they break, even Mom! Caillou’s mom always made me crazy – the kid coated the kitchen floor in oatmeal and honey and all she says is “Oh Caillou” ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? When my kids would complain when I yelled I would say “But you move so fast when I do.”

    I’m all for bringing back detention and adding a dash of public service. Detention and help clean up the lunchroom. I think they stopped it because so many families have two working parents and if the kid misses the bus then they are stuck.

  51. Anon – a friend of mine has a kid who had growth issues, a terrible time as a baby with reflux, etc. It ended up being a corn allergy. Just a random thought that maybe you could check out.

  52. Lots of reflux when nursing and a fair amount of GERD. I produced a ton of milk and he still didn’t gain much weight. He has only been on the growth chart once in his life but the curve has made progress in line with a normal growth curve.

  53. Anon 2 I don’t have any advice beyond what the others have told you, except, be persistent. If you know there is something going on with your boy, keep going until you figure it out. Then, don’t berate yourself for not figuring it out sooner.

    Or maybe one thing, talk to your family and your in laws for relatives who might have had something similar going on. Lots of issues have a hereditary component and there might be a clue in your family tree.

    Good luck, we’re pulling for you.

  54. Anon, we’ve known a number of kids with your DS’ growth pattern. Both DW and I were like that, although not to the same extent– in early elementary school we were both among the smallest in our classes. But we both caught up before HS.

    There’s a family we know quite well in which 3 of 4 kids sound like your DS. The youngest in is 6th grade now, but looks more like a 1st grader, very much like the 2nd was. The oldest kid is in college now, and when we saw him last summer, it seemed like he’d grown while in college. The 2nd is still petite, but appears to be still growing.

    I’ve mused that their kids would’ve been great models. Imagine a well-behaved, 1%ile 6th grader (the family is 2 for 2 so far with NMSF) who can model 1st grader clothes.

    I also theorize that their bodies just mature slower than most, so when they’re 60, they’ll probably look more like 40.

  55. Imagine a well-behaved, 1%ile 6th grader

    I’m unconvinced that intelligence is positively correlated with good behavior . . .

  56. “I’m unconvinced that intelligence is positively correlated with good behavior . . .”

    I don’t disagree, which is why I listed them separately.

  57. I wonder how unusual it is to grow after 18 or 21. Mr WCE’s mom grew an inch or two after he was born when she was 24 and one of Mr WCE’s brothers continued to grow really late. Mr WCE and I both grew a little in college.

  58. “but the curve has made progress in line with a normal growth curve.”

    Don’t let doctors think that this is normal if your gut is telling you otherwise. My personal experience with DD was the same – she was growing on par with “normal”, but not on the growth chart. I’m petite so the doctor originally just suspected it was heredity. But my DD has other little issues that when put all together lead to a medical condition. Continue to follow your gut and seek out answers.

  59. Off topic – I just got back from the remodeled Barnes and Noble near my house and I’m so sad. The kids section is about half the size as before, they removed all the nooks and little chairs that my girls loved. I couldn’t find what was once the huge kids non-fiction & history section, and the short book racks were replaced with high shelves. Not to mention that the store is much more open and resembles a large trendy loft, so the sounds just carries through the place, including the clanking of dishes because there is now a full service restaurant. Ugh, I thought of Mooshi and how she would hate this place.

  60. WCE- I was told it’s not common. I grew 1 inch in college and filled out a lot. I’m confident DH grew a bit in college and filled out as well.

    Off topic – I don’t want to leave NOLA!!! Half the house is sick and with windchill it’s -10 to -20!!! Sigh.

  61. Rhode, I’ve been thinking about you today. NOLA sounds nice.

    Your next couple years will be busy, but then it will get easier. We’ve just had 3 snow days out of 8 school days, Twin2 missed 3.7 more days with an ear infection, Baby WCE went to the doctor with raspy breathing (virus, she’ll get over it in a couple weeks) and my first-four-days-of-Christmas-break babysitter just informed me she found another job.

    This too shall pass.

  62. My DS’s school (6th-12th) has detention. It is one Saturday a month from 7-12, where you can work on homework, and when you finish, write the school rules from the student handbook. It used to be 9-12, but I guess they needed it to suck more. Tutoring for kids who need it is also on Saturdays, although not at 7, so back when my DS found himself in detention he got to help the younger students with math when he was done his homework. The AP of Discipline loved him and cut him a little slack, and in return he would ask me to drive through McDonalds on the way to detention and pick her up a sweet tea. I think Saturday detention is effective because the mom who really wanted to sleep in but instead has to get up and drive to detention has the entire car ride there and back to reinforce the suckiness of 7am detention.

  63. My daughter grew an inch her freshman year of college. One of my cousins shot up from around 5’11” to about 6’3″ or so in college. It was surprising.

  64. I was surprised by kids who grew an inch or two after high school age. Good luck, Anon 2. I hope you keep us updated and continue to seek out advice from this group.

  65. CoC yes!

    Also, I have a tipping / year end gift question.

    My barber charges me $8/haircut (you’d understand if you saw me: less than a full head of hair, buzz cut – #1 all over, roughly monthly). Includes the warm shaving cream/straight razor sideburn/neck work. Normal price is $14 which is what my kids pay for their more complex haircuts. My $8 was not a negotiated rate…something she just started. I tip her each time I’m there. Anyway, the common guidance of “equal to one session” clearly would not apply…even at the full rate. Guidance needed!!!!

  66. Fred, I’d give her 72 as a Christmas tip given that’s the amount you’ve been saving. Seems like a nice person that you have a personal relationship with – plus that covers the rest of the family too. My two cents but my husband always says I overtip.

  67. Back OT, I’ve heard many parents talk about middle/intermediate school (~6th through 8th grades, which some schools/districts call middle school, and others call intermediate school) being the toughest school years for their kids. It seems like the issues raised in the OP article are often exacerbated by changes in school, from elementary (K~5) to middle/intermediate.

    DW and my SIL went to the same schools, and both of them promised themselves they would never send their kids to the same intermediate school they attended (grades 6-8), because overall, they didn’t enjoy those years. This leads me to wonder how much of that was the school, vs how much was just the combination of terrible twelves and the move from a much smaller elementary school.

    While DD exhibited some of the behaviors mentioned here, overall she and DS enjoyed their grades 6-8 years, relatively free of angst. I attribute that in part to their attending a K-12 school, which took out one likely contributing factor (I similarly don’t remember a lot of angst during those years, and I went to a K-8 elementary school), although interestingly, they both became very close to some kids who transferred in for grade 6.

    The parents of one of those kids, who remains one of DS’ closest friends, told me that they attributed their kid’s enjoyable MS experience, much different than their older kids’, in large part to the friendships established with DS and a couple other kids at the outset of MS.

  68. Ah, I can finally comment.

    Mom to a 7th grade girl. The earlier comment about 7th grade being the worst socially concerns me. I see her behavior and attitude toward me/dad vary based on who she is spending time with. When with a very outgoing and popular group she can be unbearable. When with a more reserved group she is more respectful.

    Am I right to be concerned that she mirrors behaviors of her peers? More importantly, how can I (or can I) influence who she chooses to associate with? Very interested in tcmama comment about a peer group post.

  69. Welcome, Swim.

    I’m not sure we really can influence who our kids hang out with in middle school and later. Overt disapproval of friends will only drive them toward those friends. And “Why don’t you hang out with so-and-so, she seems like such a nice girl” has probably never worked. But we can hang on to our own standards for behavior at home . . . according to Risley’s article posted on the new thread, apparently all that nagging does sink even even when they seem impervious to it!

  70. Swim, I agree in part with HM, but also disagree in part.

    First of all, I believe you are right to be concerned.

    At this age, it’s a lot more difficult to directly control who she associates with (e.g., too old for play dates), but there are still levers at your disposal.

    E.g., if you’re not already doing so, you might start investigating HS options.

    You do have veto power over what she does, and with whom, outside of school.

    Within school, I’m guessing you still have some input as to what classes she’s taking, especially electives. At my kids’ school, it seems that different sorts of kids gravitate to different sorts of classes, and if you’ve been lurking you know DW and I pushed our kids toward orchestra in part because of the peer group there. We’ve also been good totebaggers in making sure our kids are on the honors/calculus tracks, in part to increase the odds that their peers will be kids who strive to achieve academically.

    And while it may be drastic, moving is one way to do a hard reset on your kids’ peer groups.

    One reason I’ve been so concerned about my kids’ peer groups is the experience of DW’s auntie with one of her kids. She told us she had a lot of regrets over not seriously considering her son’s peer groups when she and her husband moved when he was, IIRC, around middle school age, and then not trying to steer him to certain peer groups and away from the ones he established. Her son had a great deal of difficulty in launching, which she attributed in large part to his peer groups.

  71. I think it is possible to have a little influence over peer groups outside of middle school, but It is more difficult to have influence inside the school. This is just my opinion, but it based on my experience and the experience of my friends. They are going to sit where they want to sit at lunch, and that seems to determine other things such as texting circles, and invitations to certain things after school.

  72. Finn – i am in general agreement about your point however, I disagree with the extent and also I’m not sure you mean it this way- but would you have steered towards orchestra if your kids hated it and had a passion for something else? What if the honors track was actually too stressful for your kids? I agree with gentle nudging but not if it’s going against something fundamental in the kid. Also, (not the case with Swim’s child,) but some kids are not as swayed by peer group- some are actually contrarian and and honors peer group could make them accentuate their slacker side. I know I have a “pleaser” more subject to peers, a “contrarian” and a “I’m my own man, strong internal compass” in my third boy.

  73. Mafalda, I don’t think we would’ve pushed too hard had the kids really hated orchestra, or were in over their heads in the honors/calculus track. But what we definitely did was start them in those tracks so they wouldn’t be locked out later because we hadn’t put them in a position to be in those tracks.

    DS being in the orchestra track wasn’t so much by design. Neither DW’s nor my schools had orchestra programs, and the rough equivalent in terms of peer group was band, so we’d both figured our kids would be in band. But most band instruments don’t lend themselves well to being played by little kids (e.g., they won’t have the physical ability to fill many of the winds, or to reach what they need to reach; imagine a 3yo trying to play a trombone). So we started DS on violin, but we found out in the first few years that the peer group we wanted was more in orchestra in their school It also helped that by the time DS had to choose, he’d already seen the difference and decided for himself that he preferred orchestra.

  74. That’s interesting. My third son did trombone starting in 2nd grade and was very diligent and very much a leader in his elementary and middle school orchestra. As soon as he hit high school he decided it was “cooler” to pay bass guitar and taught it too himself and started a band with some friends. He already has a strong foundation in reading music and enjoys all kinds of music. I was disappointed when he switched but had to admit I got it when I went to the first “Rock for Relief” concert at his school and saw how genuinely cool his band looked. There are two girls and two boys and they were cheered like crazy. Lots of people came up to him afterward (including lots of girls) that never happened after an orchestra performance – (only some parents)

  75. Mafalda, I’m curious as to whether your DS3 could reach 7th position in 2nd grade.

    I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to fill a trombone with air as a 2nd grader.

  76. He was very big for his age and his fine motor skills were terrible so the music teacher recommended trombone or drums. He did have a lot of trouble getting enough air. He was so breathless and red in the face. But very determined. His teacher really helped him by giving him age appropriate pieces.

  77. I don’t know anything about music but thought it would be good for both my kids to learn to play an instrument. They are both in band. I am amazed at how quickly they start to read music. They are competent enough but not musically super talented. They do enjoy band and the company of their band mates. I am not sure if it is a superior peer group or not. The band does travel to play in other cities when older and they play at local events so there is that aspect which they enjoy.

  78. Mafalda, my daughter plays trombone. She didn’t start till 6th grade though.

    When I was a kid we were much more gender-essentialist about band instruments — girls wanted to play flute, trombone was a boy instrument, clarinet was neutral ground — so it’s been interesting to see the change in a generation to having girls play everything. Boys too — there are boys on flute — but there are more girls than boys in band by a fair bit.

  79. Yes! I love it that the girls in my son’s band play their instruments. So many of the “rock bands” at school have the girls only as singers.

  80. Have’t read through everything, but just saw HM’s comment re gender specific musical parts. I played trombone, starting in sixth grade. I was the only girl trombonist, but half the trumpets/ cornets were girls, as were the French horn and susaphone player. But drums/percussion were a third of the band, and were all boys. The clarinette section was nearly as big, and was all girls.

  81. Thanks, all. Periodic lurker, used to read way back when, in the WSJ days but time constraints keep me from reading regularly.

    Your responses are eerily on target as we had HS choice discussion this weekend, she brought up by her after attending our local high school winter band/chorus concert. She is an avid athlete but we have been happy to see her aspire to the high school band. In this case tho, some of those popular/outgoing kids she emulates are band members, too.

    Appreciate the coments!

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