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Change In Behaviour

by Joanne

My 12 year old sporty daughter has suddenly decided not to be involved in what have been her favourite activities at school - soccer and cross-country running and gym.

She told me that she just doesn't want to do them. She just switched schools this year as her school only went to grade six and although her classmates are all at the new school too, it has been change.

I'm wondering if social pressures are playing a role. She still plays competitive soccer outside of school and doesn't want to give that up. I have been questioning her sudden change, and she is angry with me. Should I just back off and not say anything? Am I making things worse?

Comments for Change In Behaviour

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Changes In A 12 Year Old - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Dear Joanne,

It is always a bit of a concern when a child seems to totally drop all the activities they have been involved in, however she is still playing outside of school, so clearly is interested enough to keep that up.

Is Peer Influence Bad?

Peer pressure? Could quite likely have a pretty big influence at this age, and increasingly from now on. However being part of a peer group and learning about relationships and still being able to maintain a good sense of self is one of the big learning curves from here on in and is really important.

She may well be tired of being the sporty girl - and although physical activities are really important, it also really important that she get opportunities to try other things. The wider range of hobbies, activities and things she participates in or tries out, the better. We don't have to stay doing the same things forever, even when we have been really good at them, or have loved them in the past.

She may well be having a fairly major adjustment with the new school, but rather than focusing on her dropping the sporting activities, observe if she is happy and keen to go to school and to see her friends. Is she taking up new activities to take the place of sport? Is she excitedly talking on the phone with her friends?

It is pretty easy for any questions from parents to be seen as critical at this age. She may be seeing you as pressuring her to continue with the physical activities when she has lost interest. If she is getting angry with you then it kind of seems like she is feeling defensive or judged by you.

It is hard as a parent when we see our kids friends starting to have a bigger influence than we seem to! But the important thing is keep listening and being available for her to talk things over, and try not to tell her what things she should be doing. Learning to make decisions about what to be involved in and figuring out what is important, doesn't just suddenly happen as an adult. It all accumulates from an early age of testing things out, evaluating, making decisions.

The more we as parents help our kids to make their own decisions, and are more of a sounding board and in the listening role, the better for them long term. And yes sometimes that does mean they choose things we don't agree with or think is best. But they also learn heaps from their bad
choices too.

Part Two Follows . . .

Changes In A Twelve Year Old - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Listen, Be Curious
Avoid Criticism

And no, I don't think you should back off and not say anything or question her decisions - but pick your moment when she is open and receptive, and make it conversational rather than a critical interrogation!

With this issue it may be time to back off, but in general, we can play the role of devils advocate, to point out both sides of an issue, or give reasons for something they may not have thought of.

A direct "Why are you giving up cross country running?" may well seem to be a confrontation. But a curious rather than judgmental tone of voice and aiming more for understanding her thoughts rather than a criticism might get a better response from her.
"I was surprised you dropped running when you have done so well in the past - what made you decide to stop cross country?"
"I'm curious about your thinking behind your decision to stop playing soccer, can we talk about it?"

There may be lots of little factors that have led her to this, many of which she might not be consciously aware of. Her body will be starting to change, she might be getting more self conscious physically, her friends might be into other stuff, she might be tired of competing, she may have just lost interest. It might not be any big factor that has influenced her, but just a shift away.

In fact, to some extent she is creating a good balance - she is still competing outside of school, but is making some changes at school. So this can be seen as a really good thing. She is giving herself the opportunity to explore other aspects of herself - but also continuing to participate in something she enjoys.

The important thing is to keep listening, spending time with her, sharing good times so there are lots of opportunities for her to talk to you when she is open to it. And support her making more of her own decisions and deciding what is important. She can always change her mind next season, nothing much is set in concrete.

All the best,
Annie Desantis :)

change in behaviour
by: joanne

Thanks so much, that was the reassurance I needed. Friends have definitely become her central focus and she is definately fighting for independence. I knew this stage would happen, I just hadn't anticipated how suddenly!

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