Resist the “tweening”
By Marybeth Hicks
Every so often, my friend Jen posts a link on her Facebook page that
I’m sure is intended to get a rise out of me. All she has to do is
direct me to a news story about tweens.
Once, she found an article about the trend among tween girls to have
professional hair treatments such as highlights, lowlights, chemical
straighteners and permanent curls. Unlike the home treatments we may
have had our moms do for us when we were teens, pre-teenagers today get
their moms to plunk down $45 or more for a salon visit where they get
streaks of color not found in nature.
According to the salon owner quoted in the article, girls as young as 6
sometimes come in for color streaks in their hair; though she admitted,
“8 to 12 is more the norm.” Later in the story, the truth behind this
style trend revealed itself: Tweens are a powerful demographic spending
group, so businesses such as hair salons are finding ways to get a
piece of the tween pie.
Tweenhood is a phony phase
The tweening of America makes me crazy, and not just because I live
with a daughter who sings pop songs in the bathroom and has a crush on
America’s current teen heart throb, Justin Bieber.
I understand stereotypically tween girl obsessions – lip-gloss, cute
shoes, spiral notebooks with pictures of iCarley star Miranda Cosgrove
– since these sorts of things are generally harmless and typical for
What bugs me about tweenhood as a bona fide life phase is, it’s just
phony. It was created by marketers to tap the vast pile of money to
which tweens – those between the ages of 8 and 12 who formerly were
known as “children” – now have direct access or at least direct
Thanks to marketers, our children now experience something called “age
compression” or KGOY, an acronym of the marketing trade that stands for
Kids Getting Older Younger. This is the reason we see news headlines
like one I saw a while back: “Ten is the new 15.”
It works like this: Marketers get children hooked at an early age on
the idea that they will be happier and more popular if they wear
certain brands and have certain things. By the time they reach the ripe
old age of 11 or 12, children are so savvy that they’re understandably
less interested in “childish” things (i.e. toys) and more interested in
the things that make them cool (smartphones, laptops, make-up). At
least, that’s the opinion of one marketing guru who claims KGOY
requires new strategies to meet the tween demand for new products and
Is this what our culture needs – a generation of pre-adolescents
skipping their childhoods only to be immersed in a state of
pseudo-adulthood? How will this result in a mature society?
What’s REALLY Cool in Middle School
Most parents agree that preserving and protecting a period of childhood
innocence is a worthy goal. But parents are often stymied about how to
do this in a culture that literally sells push-up bikini tops for
7-year-olds (Thanks, Abercrombie. Wish I was kidding – see the article
below in News You Can Use.)
Through my years of writing and speaking on this topic, I’ve discovered
a powerful ally in the fight to preserve childhood innocence –
children! In talks to pre-teens across the country, I’ve shared my take
on “What’s REALLY Cool in Middle School.” The response is awesome!
Here’s what they believe is really cool:
Acting your age. Your real age! – not some “wanna be” version of a
teenager or young adult. Parents should hold back on privileges and
activities that ought to be saved for high school (Facebook, dating, a
busy adolescent social life) and instead, encourage kids to do the
things they can only do while they’re still young (play on a
playground, climb trees, make forts with blankets in the basement).
Being yourself! Most kids admit that there are hobbies, interests,
goals and dreams they would never share with their peers because
they’re simply “not cool.” Encourage children to explore their genuine
interests and be authentically themselves because being free to be
themselves is way more fun!
Being a true friend. The pressure to be cool stems from the desire to
be accepted. Encourage kids to make solid friendships the old fashioned
way – by sharing time, interests and experiences with kids they enjoy.
Resist the “tween” fad of collecting virtual friends and instead, teach
kids to develop genuine communication skills that will foster true
friendships. (Conversation! What a concept!)
Being a homebody. Contrary to popular belief, studies of children and
teens show they love spending time with their parents and families.
Rather than buy into the myth that “tweens” only want their parents to
facilitate their social calendars, realize they want and need to spend
time together as a family. Being proud of their families is what’s
Doing what’s right. Middle school is a time when kids often explore
unethical or immoral behaviors because the think they’ll be considered
cool if they take risks. Instead, teach kids that what’s cool is
following a strong moral compass that directs them to do the right
things. It’s cool to be proud of your good decisions!
Our children – and our nation – will be better off if we parents help
our kids to grow up naturally, with the passing of time, and not
artificially under the pressure to be cool and current. In this way,
they’ll develop the authentic good character that will help them to be
truly cool adults.
Thanks for reading and sharing Family Events!
Take good care until next week,
Read the article, plus this week’s questions and answers, at Family Events