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Parenting a Tween

Posted on Thu, 29 June, 2017

I am parenting a tween. He is eminently 12 years old and everything that encompasses: awkward, funny, overwhelmed by what he is learning, frustrated, frustrating and lazy. He hates that last descriptor, but there it is – and it’s true. He also has ADHD, which in itself includes lazy.


Parenting a Tween

He feels he is doing quite a lot and not the least bit lazy about it. His father and I disagree but then again we have to remind ourselves he has ADHD and a lack of motivation is paramount to the disorder, and the hormones frankly. It’s a dopamine thing, the neurotransmitter present when something motivates you: drugs, sugar, sex, basically anything pleasurable. It’s only there for screens, sports and hanging out with friends. Oh and food – the kids loves good food.

Surprise, surprise, he’s not motivated by chores, homework and anything following by “you need to…”. Duh, I’m parenting a tween. SOOOO, I’m at the point where I have to teach this kid life skills to be independent. Incrementally of course – I’m not casting the kids out at 13 when he has his Bar Mitzvah. Sure he’ll be a man then according to Jewish custom, but it’s the 21st century and I’m a reasonable parent.

What is happening is basic cooking skills, cleaning his bathroom, taking the trash out weekly and cleaning up after the general mess that is wherever he is or has been. Eventually it will include laundry, but I’m waiting on that one. I am also teaching him public transportation because I believe it’s is necessary to know how to get yourself around even though we live in an affluent area and he has not wanted for transportation anywhere.


The Background

My private practice includes clients who have no personal transportation like a car and rely on the bus. Which requires a lot of planning to figure out routes, arrival/departure times, transfers, walking times to actual destinations, etc. That coupled with my perception of the world being ever more dangerous compels me to feel confident in his ability to be self-sufficient should something happen. Perils of the job I’m afraid, and current affairs.

I gave him the exercise of researching how to get from our house to his eye doctor appointment 12 miles away (25 minutes by car). He gave up and tried to walk away. This has been indicative of the last three months since puberty shifted into higher gear.


The Letter

A huge rise in apathy, laziness (ahem, lack of motivation) frustration intolerance and general tiredness has replaced my usually energized, happy and compliant boy. All of this gives me only a moment to communicate with him before things start to take a dramatic turn. So if I were to say everything I want to this would be it:

“Hi honey. I know I gave you a long list of things to do and that you would rather do ANYTHING else, as long as that included video games and your phone. I appreciate you doing them. I know that each time you do them you get better at doing them, which also means you get better at doing life. Everything you are doing now is practice; practice for the game of life.

Some people have an easier game version and some have a really hard one. Many things go into which version of the game you have. You are lucky because you are a privileged white male born in the United States. You have no idea how easy your version is and as Murphy’s Law (you should look that up on Google, btw) would have it, I’m supposed to begin teaching you how to live life in our society and confront how you should know about other people’s game, now. Just at the time when you are beginning to want increasingly little to do with your parents. Whenever I meet our maker, I will bring this gross oversight up.

I kind of know how this adolescent thing is supposed to go from all the professional studying and having been one myself. No, I wasn’t always a bossy, stressed out grown up.

So I trust you that this new person you’ve introduced us to is the version of your game that will be your representative until you return.

You are having growing pains (both physical and emotional) and that requires some distancing from us. I will be the custodian of this version of your game, entrusting that you will come back to us after your journey into adulthood nears it’s end, and you need money and laundry. I have some requirements for this new guy though:

  • He needs to chew with his mouth closed, cause I can’t stand that shit.
  • He needs to communicate his whereabouts since it’s still your body and that came from my body – no way will I ever be ok with not knowing where that body is.
  • If he treats your sister with cruelty or without the protection we expect from a family member, he will have SEVERE consequences. The type to include several days of him not leaving the house, for any reason. I’m totally willing to go to the mat on this one. Just try me.
  • I’m also open to him continuing your good manners.
  • Doing this with as little attitude as possible will get him more privileges. Be sure to mention that so it helps with the motivation.

Please tell this new guy to be patient with me. Sometimes I will lose it too, cause repeating myself over and over is not my strong suit. I know I am not a patient person. The universe has given me the opportunity to address that by having two kids with ADHD, so maybe things will get better for both of us.

I love you, and will endeavor to teach this new version in the best way I can. You both will become one somewhere between 20-25 years of age, and if I haven’t scratched out my eyes I will be exited to see how that comes out. With the amount we’re spending on your orthodunture I expect one hell of a smile as least.”


What really scares me is the letter I will have to write his sister in a couple years.



Jodi Klugman-Rabb is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Marin and Napa Counties. She specializes in connecting with clients on a humorous and practical level, helpful when specializing in ADHD, trauma and anger/communication skills. She uses EMDR to treat traumas and fears of all types. She is the mom of two funny and awesome kids. Connect with Jodi on her website or

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A blog written by a hip, sometimes irreverent shrink who’s been around the block and calls it like it is

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