Focus on the Family

8-12 Year Olds: Wardrobe Troubles, Tattling Woes and Undereating

The preteen years can be a time of special behavior challenges as children face new insecurities. Dr. Kevin Leman weighs in.

ByShana Schutte

The preteen years can be challenging. Your child may be dealing with how she looks and how she fits in with others. Both of these concerns are often evidenced in wardrobe problems, insecurities about body image and even tattling. Here are some suggestions on how you can deal with each of these issues and help your child adjust to the preteen years.

Wardrobe Troubles: A Little Duct Tape Will Do

When I once attended a retreat, the speaker told a funny story. His wife, a junior high teacher, had grown tired of a student who was coming to school wearing his pants so low that his hind end was showing. She warned him, "Do not come to school wearing your pants that way again. If you do, I am going to fix them myself."

The next day, the student came to school with his pants still riding low. True to her word, the teacher said, "I told you not to wear your pants that way to school again. Now, I'm going to fix them." With that, she reached into her desk and pulled out a roll of duct tape, grabbed the student's pants, hiked them up and duct taped them around his middle into the proper position. Not surprisingly, the student never wore his pants that way again.

This funny story illustrates an important principle: when it comes to dressing and wardrobe issues with your kids, it's critical to decide what constitutes a true problem, and what doesn't. For this teacher, the young man's pants were a true problem. As a parent, you'll need to decipher which wardrobe issues are true problems because they affect your child's character or are the result of a character problem, and which ones aren't a big deal because they are only a sign of poor fashion taste.


Tattling: Don't Tell Me!

When I was a young public school teacher, I just about went crazy dealing with tattling among my 6th graders. One student in particular always seemed to have an inside scoop on everything her peers were doing. Sadly, I suffered mostly silently while I listened to whining complaints from this girl for an entire school year. I wish I would have known Dr. Leman at the time.

Undereating: A Perfect Body Is Not the Goal

More than 20 years ago when I was in junior high, the thought of "getting fat" plagued me almost every day. These concerns still exist, and perhaps even more so for today's young women because of the way the media idolize beauty above character. So while your twelve-year-old boy is stuffing his face after school with mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, your daughter is counting how many calories are in a pile of grapes. According to Dr. Leman, this can be a problem if your daughter becomes preoccupied with how she looks.