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Tell Your Tweens + Teens

Should My Younger Child Read My Older Child’s Books?

I love it when someone asks me advice. For a person with a blog named Merry Meddling, it’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.

Question: My 7-year-old is an advanced reader and she really wants to read her middle school brother’s books. Do you think that’s okay? She listens to the same music he listens to, so it seems like it’s alright.

Time To Meddle: A 7-year-old and an 11-year-old are cognitively in completely different universes. While she may be able to read what he reads, she won’t be able to comprehend it all, or in the same way. Where there are gaps, her imagination will fill them, and in a way that makes sense only to a 7-year-old.

To share an example, one day at a book signing, a mom with a second-grader in tow bought one of my books for her middle school son. While we chatted, her 7-year-old grabbed the book and began reading it, sounding out unfamiliar words as she went.

She reached a conversation in which one character teased another by stating, “Everything your father says sounds like a bumper sticker.”

The little girl looked up. “What does a bumper sticker sound like?” she asked.

You can see that although she could truly read the words, she didn’t have the cognitive development, or the experience, to understand the content of what she was reading.

Her mom was lucky that she asked. Questions create the opportunity for filling in gaps in a way she can understand.

But, how many times did we, as children, fill in the gaps ourselves? (Don’t get me started on the possible scenario for intercourse that my 5th-grade brain created after seeing my first picture of a naked boy in health class.)

The point is I would keep an eye on what she reads and listens to. I used to read the books my daughter read so I would know some of what she was exposed to. I loved the Animorph Series but I struggled with the Babysitters Club books (for third graders and up). That’s when I stopped being so diligent, and that’s when she imitated the behavior of a character – while in school – and got into trouble…

for cheating on a test.

The teacher called me in and showed me two identical test papers with identical wrong answers on them. Without asking the two culprits, she knew my second grade darling had been the cheater because it was the first test she had gotten wrong answers on. We both knew if she had done her own work, her answers would have all been right. (No, I’m not bragging, honest!)

However, as that evening’s discussion revealed, the book character had spied on another paper and copied it… so, that’s what my growing girl did.

Her reason? She wanted to know what it was like.

The consequences? I had her show me the chapter in her book about cheating, and I read that thing – page after page depicting an anxiety about passing that justified the act for the character – until I found the consequences:

One sentence about being grounded for two weeks.

That was it. One measly sentence! Not enough to impact a little girl looking to shake things up a bit.

So, we grounded her for two weeks. Grounding was a new experience for all of us. I was expecting it to be noteworthy in late middle school, not early elementary, so I was unprepared (hence, the hasty “check the book” solution, which turned out to be the right solution).

Initially, she agreed—this consequence made sense since it was in the book, and since she was acting out the plot. I think at first, secretly she was a little excited to be grounded, to be able to share the drama with her friends, and see their eyes widen when she told her story.

However, she started protesting her limitations around the third or fourth day, telling us two weeks was unreasonably long. We cleverly parlayed that into another discussion about not believing everything you read, and reinforced the fact that the transgression and the consequences both had come from her book, which she grudgingly accepted.

Until she had to miss a party that fell in the middle of those two weeks.

After a weekend of wailing at the unfairness of it all, she sat down next to me and announced that cheating was stupid, she had no idea why anyone did it, and being grounded was the worst.

I serenely agreed.

The moral of this story— 2nd graders should read 2nd grade books. 3rd graders should read 3rd grade books. 4th graders should read 4th grade books. Etc.

AND, parents should know what their kids are reading ALWAYS, plus ask them questions about the consequences of the plot twists. It’s a great way to connect with your young readers, like having a private mini book club!

As for the music young ones listen to, some of those lyrical concepts have created gaps your child has already filled.

I went for years believing Marvin Gaye had been eavesdropping in a garden next to a grapevine that hid him from two people gossiping about his girlfriend (I Heard It Through the Grapevine.) I never mentioned it to anybody, so no one ever corrected me. I had no idea my literal interpretation was off. I actually may have made it to college before someone revealed that not all grapevines were plants.

There’s no need to make a big deal about sheltering them from mature concepts in the lyrics. You don’t have to tell them you’re removing the music they’ve been listening to. Simply add more music to their repertoire.

All you have to do is provide songs with positive lyrics. If you need some help with ideas, there’s a list of uplifting songs on my YouTube channel that was created by the teens in my mother/daughter retreat.

Have you picked up your copy of How To Get Your Happy On? It contains a great discussion on mood and music that you can share with your older kids.

If you enjoyed this article, please share with anyone who would benefit!

Categories
Tell Your Tweens + Teens

Sneak Peek for Some Quarantine Fun

Is your family getting more cranky than usual? Does everybody want to stay in their pajamas and skip brushing their teeth?

These are classic signs that your family is in the doldrums. It’s time to shake things up a bit with a family project. 

Yes, “How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door” isn’t officially out yet, but I thought I’d grab a couple of cool ideas from it to share with you. These projects are guaranteed to inject new energy into your lethargic family!

  1. Create a graphic novel. You will need an artist, a writer, a designer, and an organizer.
  2. Spray paint or mow the lawn like a chessboard layout, and then gather the neighborhood for a game of chess/checkers where people are the playing pieces. Not your game? How about Chutes and Ladders or Monopoly?
  3. Conduct a Scavenger Hunt around town, focusing the clues around a theme (like Summer Movies, Twilight series, Harry Potter, Avengers, X-Men… you get the idea). Or set up a Reading Scavenger Hunt using your favorite books.
  4. Try Geo-Dashing , Geo-Caching, Letter-Boxing, Orienteering, Flashlight Tag, or Scavenger Hunting. Many states have competitions that anyone can join. Some activities allow you to go at your own pace, while others have deadlines. It’s your choice.
  5. String lights across a volleyball net for VAD (Volleyball After Dark). Put glow sticks in water-filled plastic bottles for nighttime lawn bowling in the dark. Pair that up with some fruit grilled over a campfire for a perfect event.

Take pictures!!!! Sharing a past event visually stimulates your happy hormones. Now, that’s a gift that keeps on giving.

What other unusual ideas can you come up with? If they are new to me, who knows? Your idea may appear in a future post!

Here’s a great resource for more ideas: https://www.weareteachers.com/meaningful-earth-day-activities/


If you enjoyed this article, please share with anyone who would benefit. Since this article came out, “How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door,” is available for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089B67ZJN

Categories
Awesome Moms Tell Your Tweens + Teens

Embrace Your Multiple Mom Roles

Have you ever had your daughter blow up at you when you were offering sage advice? Probably not, but it used to happen to me, and all that wise advice would go to waste.

That is, until my Darling Daughter informed me that she didn’t want my advice.

What?

Well, for goodness sakes, why not?

Because it wasn’t what she needed right then. Somehow her exasperated explanation pierced through my indignation (and feelings of rejection), and I actually heard her. She talked, and I listened.

Sometimes my Distressed Daughter just needs a sympathetic ear. Sometimes it’s a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes she needs to royally rant about a perceived hurt. Sometimes she wants to shyly share feelings about a boy. And, sometimes… sometimes she wants my advice! (Be still, my foolish heart.)

Now that I understood, it was easy going forward, right? After all, I have an analytical science brain. I could figure it out the role she needed me to play based on:

  • her words
  • her expression
  • the tone of her voice
  • her body language
  • the time of day
  • her outfit
  • the wind direction
  • what she was eating
  • how she clutched the cat
  • the day of the week
  • the number of times we had spoken that day
  • the number of times she said “like”
  • her astrological sign
  • the number of…

Okay, I was guessing based on scientific observation, and it wasn’t working for me. Neither were her emotional eruptions when I veered out of my lane.

Solution? I asked her what role she wanted me to play. Yup, I went right to the source. (Revolutionary, isn’t it?)

HER: Mom, I want to talk to you!

ME: What role am I filling here?

HER: I just want you to listen.

ME:

(I was listening.)

Sometimes the smoothly flowing interaction would screech to a halt when I’d jump in with timely advice, until I learned that when she wanted me to just listen, I should just listen.

It took a while, but eventually our relationship jumped up a level. After months of sticking to my roles, our conversations progressed, and sometimes she would say, “Okay, Mom, you can give me some advice now.”

>Happy Dance!<

Now my Delightful Daughter lives on the other side of the country, but we talk regularly.  Here’s a snippet from today’s conversation, which prompted this article:

HER: Mom, what should I do?

ME: This is what you could try…

HER: But what if…?

ME: Then try this…

HER: Wow! My headache just disappeared!

ME: Score one for Mommy Magic!

Our daughters want us to be there for them, and more importantly, they want us to know what we’re doing. Being transparent worked for me and my girl, so it could very well work for you.

Are you ready to embrace your Multiple Mom Roles? This is a marathon, not a sprint, so start slowly.  Introduce the concept to her at a time while nothing is going on. Give her time to mull it over. Then, give it a go the next time she brings something up.

Your Charming Cherub may not be able to define the role she needs from you the first time you ask her, so be ready with some suggestions.

  • Advice giver?
  • Warm shoulder?
  • Sympathizer?
  • Listener?
  • Peer Friend who doesn’t judge?
  • Adult Friend who may not approve but won’t criticize?

There is always the possibility that she will be so emotionally embroiled in her issue that she won’t have the presence of mind to identify the role she needs from you. That’s okay, too. Let her know she can tell you when it becomes clear to her, even after the conversation is underway.

Over time the way you converse will morph into what you both want. You’re gonna love it!

For more ideas, check out How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door. It’s available for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089B67ZJN. Enjoy!