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Charlotte Safavi

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Making the Most of Discipline for Tweens

Posted: 08/04/11 06:21 PM ET

So what do you do when your tween is misbehaving?

After a decade of reading professional and not-so-professional books on how to be a good mom, how to discipline your kid effectively, how to survive the terrible ones, twos, threes, ad infinitum, I think I've finally hit the mother lode.

At least when it comes to my kid.

Now don't get me wrong, this won't work for every kid, but if you play it right, it might just work for yours -- and you'll get to do something fun and cultural at the same time, get something out of it, other than lip, petulance, door slamming and an ensuing migraine you can't shake.

It started like this chez nous.

After two weeks back from vacationing overseas, my newly minted twelve-year-old settled into his old routines. Let's just say, he began to spend too much time immersed in electronics: computer design in 3-D (which I generally encourage), video games (which I patrol like a cop on the beat), TV (which I can't control as we have far too many male-encrypted remotes in our household.) The list goes on, you get my drift.

I finally decide brain death is imminent and drag him off to an art museum.

We're talking Tuesday, Washington DC, The National Gallery, West Building, free, air-conditioned and not-too-crowded in August, and all my son does is complain. And complain. And complain. So what do I do? I tell him if he doesn't quit, we're going to do the East Building tomorrow.

He laughs, before resuming his aforementioned behavior.

Next morning, I pack him in the car. Much to his consternation, I take him straight to the East Building, as promised. At one point on a snack break, he texts a friend, who texts him back,

"R U in museum camp this week?"
My son shows this to me.

I laugh and then say deadpan,

"If you keep up your good behavior, no, and if you don't, yes. I'm up for a week long camp. There are lots and lots of museums downtown."

Needless to say, he's an angel the whole visit, well, maybe that's pushing it, but overall, he behaves very well, including going along with my personal game of pick your favorite painting and tell me why in each gallery.

Later back at home, after setting the dinner table without grumbling for the first time this summer, he confides to his father,

"So we're in this room full of naked ladies and mom's asking me to pick a favorite!"

On Facebook, I get more disciplinary fodder: classical music, opera and ballet. More instruments of tween torture. I think I'll toss in Shakespeare plays, foreign films and historical home tours.

One FB friend shares,

"I was taken to the Lincoln Center Chamber Music every other week for most of my youth... I am scarred for life."
Another one ventures that she dragged her never-to-misbehave-again son to a couple of excruciating hours at Barneys, where she tried on lipstick and mascara. Hmm, I'm thinking shoe shopping might be a good one too.

The point is tweens want to do what they want to do (believe me, tromping through museums with mom isn't on the list), not what we want them to do, so why not make them do what we want to do, when they're misbehaving.

They might even get something out of it!

 

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