Tween ‘Tudes: What Are They Really Saying?

The great thing about the English language is that you and your children both speak it fluently. That is, until they turn into tweens. When she’s not quite a teen but certainly no longer a kid, a new barrage of hormones and uncertainty of life seemingly turn your angel into a brooding shadow of who she used to be. Along with emotional change comes a new language that rivals any German class you ever attempted to pass: tween speak.

So how do you read between the very angst-filled lines and decipher what your tween means when she’s saying something completely different out loud? We’re here to help.

What they say: You wouldn’t understand!

What it means:  I don’t want to explain it to you.

Whatever problem your tween is experiencing, you’ve been through it. But to her, this one thing is the most complex problem on earth and will take forever to explain. How can you possibly understand the drama of her life when you don’t even know how to use Snapchat?

What to say back: Very little. Let her know that if she needs to talk, you’re there. Skip asking for details and convey that you’re happy to listen to an over-simplified version of the problem (e.g., she’s having trust issues with a friend). Don’t try to be the cool parent and explain how you once had the same problem. Sit back and wait; she eventually will come around for advice.


What they say:  I have a headache—I can’t go.

What it means: Something has changed and it’s making me uncomfortable.

Tweens commit to sports/instruments/activities because it sounds cool or friends are doing it. Once the activities get underway, feelings can change. If you find your child suddenly feels ill for every single game or performance, something’s up. Perhaps someone on the soccer team is bullying your son or he just can’t handle the grueling workouts. Maybe your daughter thought dance would be amazing but she’s not catching on fast enough and is embarrassed.

What to say back:  Not every activity is going to be a lifelong love for your kid. Do your due diligence up front and explain that if she signs up for something, she’s committed for the season or X amount of lessons. That said, exceptions to the rule may be in order, so dig in to find out whether something deeper is occurring. Attend practices or rehearsals or call and speak to the coaches. If your child isn’t forthright, don’t just pull him from the activity; find out what’s going on and handle it accordingly.


What they say: I’m not a baby! You’re ruining my life!!

What they mean: I want to do more things on my own.

Tweens are a walking contradiction. One minute they need you to take them to the bathroom and the next minute they’re ordering the filet mignon, medium rare. The hardest part is that tweens reserve the right to switch their neediness levels on you at any time. Some days a hormone surge has them feeling super confident, while other days they feel small and childlike.

What to say back: Offer to increase your tween’s responsibility in the household in exchange for some freedoms she hasn’t been afforded in the past. If she’s mature enough to go to a movie without you, she’s old enough to start doing her own laundry or make dinner once a week. Tweenhood is a give-and-take, for both the parents and the child.


What they say: I hate this store! Please let me stay in the car!

What they mean: I might run into someone I know.

Unscheduled stops are like a torpedo for tweens. Quickly running into the grocery store is small potatoes for you, but for him, the trip is fraught with danger. What if he sees the girl he’s crushing on and he’s smelly from basketball practice? What if his friends see him in the women’s sanitary items? I mean…mortifying.

What to say back: If you’re truly just running in quickly to grab something (ahem, a bottle of wine), consider giving in and letting your tween stay behind in the car. Of course, we all worry about child snatchers, so use your best judgment. If you do insist on making your tween come in, consider letting him wait up at the front registers for you—anything that puts a little distance between you (the coolness murderer) and your tween.

Do You Speak Tween? A fast and furious decoder of tween-isms:

  • Can’t even:  Super-duper frustration.
  • On fleek/point: Someone/something is very well groomed. Think eyebrows or toenails.
  • YAS: A super dose of “yes.”
  • F2F or FTF: Face to face
  • Spam account: A secret Instagram account where tweens post the “outtake pictures of themselves not looking on fleek.” Accounts are often reserved for very close friends and definitely not family. If you’re wondering if your children have one, we will spare you the suspense. They do. Also known as a “finsta” (fake Instagram account).

Kim Antisdel is a freelance writer and interior design sales rep for Kansas City. She lives in Liberty with her husband, two stepdaughters, son and small zoo of rescue animals.

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