My daughter started pulling away in eighth grade. I was prepared for her to spend more time in her room, disagree with me, and follow her own interests apart from our family. She did all of these according to schedule.
What surprised me, though, was the anger that fueled her independence. My kind-hearted and considerate daughter had hit a new stage and had turned, well, nasty.
Adolescence And Identity: Missing My Tween Daughter
Desperate to regain some kindness, I started trying to win back her affection. I curried her favor with little acts of love. “Surprise, I picked you up Starbucks!” Or, “Hey, don’t worry about your laundry…I’ll fold it!” until I realized that the harder I tried, the harder she resisted.
I confided to a friend, and she confessed the same weakness. “My husband can’t stand it,” she whispered. “He says I’m like a middle schooler desperately trying to get the popular girl to like me!”
So, I tried a new strategy: playing hard to get. If the law of attraction proved true, my daughter would want what she suddenly couldn’t have. And, it worked! The less I cajole, the more my daughter hangs out with me. The more I distance myself, the more eager she is to pull me in. It may sound manipulative, and it is, in the truest sense of the word. But, my intentions are pure. I feel less desperate, and she seems nicer. For now, it works.
My recent epiphany reminded me that adolescence is about kids developing an identity apart from their parents. Parents who’ve enjoyed a close relationship through elementary school will feel this keenly, but fighting the natural tides of growing up is futile. When your kid starts to pull away in middle school, my best advice is for you to do the same. Instead of working to hold your kids tightly, strive to give them and yourself more freedom and trust that within that wider space, you’ll find the room to reconnect.