Tween parenting tips: How to dial down tween attitude

tween parenting tips

So you thought all the attitude would come in the teen years? Wrong! Tweens are also notorious for giving it some attitude, and when it comes, it can be quite the shock as many parents don’t expect this from their 9 – 12-year-olds, but trust me, the tween attitude struggle is real as I have seen for myself sometimes! So when it comes to tween parenting, how can what can we do as parents to dial down the tween attitude?  Louise Hoffman-Brooks, one of our favourite parenting experts and coach parenting coach at Parenting Success, gives the inside scoop of tween attitude and shares her tween parenting tips:

Why can the pre-teen/tween phase be pretty tough?

Pre-teen / tween is a term used to describe children between the age of 9-12 years old. This marks the time when your child begins to leave childhood behind and enter adolescence; a
a phase in our child’s life that can give rise to conflicting and big feelings in the family.

On the one hand you might feel relieved that your child is able to be more independent and competent while on the other hand missing the dependence that added a sense of purpose to your life.

There might be a part of you that can empathise with the transition that you child is undergoing, while at the same time feeling triggered by the more frequent displays of disapproval of you.

A big part of what can make this phase feel challenging for us as parents, is because it marks the beginning of the end of our child as a child and requires us to change gear in our parenting.

tween parenting tips

Can you share some typical tween behaviour and what parents can expect during this phase?

A growing need for independence is a clear sign that your child has entered the tween phase. Your child might prefer to walk to school with a friend and you having to wave goodbye to your treasured ritual of taking your child to school.

Things that you used to do and never questioned; such as applying their sun cream, walking into the bathroom or room without knocking, might be met with resistance.

Friends matter more: Not more than you, but more than they used to, and therefore the dynamics of their friendships will affect them more and at times upset or stress them. You might also notice, that your child will view you more critically and through the eyes of their friends. This might show as criticism or a desire to control or rebel against you.

Fatigue and change in mood and interests: Because of the major chemical changes that are taking place in their body, your child’s mood will often feel more volatile. One minute they are happy and easy going and the next they have big emotions to seemingly little things. Hobbies might change, often as a result of orienting towards what peers are into, and your otherwise sporty and energetic child might seem lethargic and unmotivated to doing things that require physical effort.

Why is this happening / what is going on developmentally?

One of the biggest challenges we face as parents is not underestimating the significance of the developmental growth and pruning that takes place during this time. Besides the surge of hormones, your child is also coming to terms with this budding version of themselves.

In adolescence your child’s brain is undergoing a major spring cleaning; connections in the brain that haven’t been needed are pruned away while other connections are strengthened. And because the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making centre are still developing, and not always at the same rate, your child might behave in ways that surprise you.

Increased risk-taking or a more rebellious nature can feel challenging and difficult to understand. But psychologically there is a reason for the madness; all these changes help guide your child towards greater independence and individuation. A slow process that starts in toddlerhood but gains momentum during the tween /pre-teen stage and continues to unfold till late in adolescence and beyond.

tween parenting tips

Can you share some tween parenting tips and strategies for dealing with tween attitude?

1. Personally vs seriously

One thing that has helped so many of the parents I work with is to become mindful of the distinction between taking things ‘personally’ versus taking things ‘seriously’.

If your tween proclaims: “You always say no”, you might feel attacked or misunderstood and take it personally which would see you respond defensively: “I don’t. You get it pretty good.”

This way we fuel disconnection. If, instead we remind ourselves to take what our child says ‘personally’ but seriously we can open a door for better communication and listening– even if it doesn’t lead to us changing our boundaries:

“I’m sorry you feel that way. I always want to hear you out but I might not agree”

When we become mindful of not matching our attitude and tone to that of our tweens and instead keep a cool head and a warm heart, we help ensure that our tween’s outbursts don’t derail the family and create a hostile environment for everyone.

2. Empathy and healthy boundaries

These are both key when we are met with tween attitude. While there is wisdom in choosing your battles and not pick up on every little eye roll, there might be behaviours and words that you do not condone and need to set a boundary around. When you do so, use a tone and words that are clear yet respectful and be clear about what is okay with you and what isn’t:

“I’m going to have this conversation with you a little later, when you’re not speaking to me like this”

3.  Help guide decision-making – evaluating pros and cons

Be a good role model – expressing emotions, eating well, exercising regularly. Have conversations about sex, drugs and alcohol Never intentionally embarrass your tween in front of their peers – shaming will not teach any lessons but it could instead make them lose trust in you as a confidant. Monitor use of technology and social media.

And what should parents not do in terms of tween parenting?

The atmosphere and mood in your family is not your tween’s. While emotional outbursts might intensify and your tween’s communication style might get a bit more daring, it is a massive help for your child to feel that you can shoulder the change that is taking place without letting your family ship sink.

For your child there is a lot of confusion as to what is going on and they might not seem recognisable to themselves, so refraining from comparing them to their better-behaved sibling or ‘old self’ is key.

Because a key part of becoming a separate person is to think for oneself – it is a good idea to hold back a little on your own opinion about things. Your child knows what you stand for and how you see the world and it is therefore a good idea to become more curious and open to learning how they see the world. Even if you don’t agree.

If you are told you are embarrassing; that kisses on the school run aren’t welcome, show that you are willing to respect these boundaries and find different ways of expressing your love.

In order to promote a healthy body image, refrain from putting down your own body or that of others. Start with modelling kindness towards your own body and talk openly about the changes their body undergoes and how these are all normal.

Can you share some specific words or phrases can use to help dial down rather than inflame their behaviours?

By the time our child approaches adolescence, they master sarcasm and are proficient in the language that adults sometimes use. And they might try it out on you. Remember, that you can’t ultimately control what your child does or says, but that you can only control your own actions and words, become intentional about what you role model. The more you can let go of the need to have the last word, the more likely your child will not need to. And the more you can demonstrate a willingness to listen to your child, the less loud and angry your child needs to get in order to get through to you.

This might show in how you respond to their requests, such as; “Can you buy me a new X-box game?”

Rather than a flat-out no – try to show a willingness to hear your child out – even if you still decide it is a no.

“Tell me what is interesting about this game?” or “What is it about?” and “I see why you think that’s cool… I’m gonna have to think about it and I’ll let you know”

What is more important than giving your child a yes, is that you have shown interest and willingness to consider their point of view. This can de-escalate a lot of frustration and promote mutual respect, although it does not ensure that your child doesn’t get upset.

What other parenting tweens tips can you share to help parents get along better with their kids during this period?

Although your child in some ways might seem to be drifting away from you, know that you are still very much needed and loved. If your relationship has always been physical and affectionate, assume that your child still enjoys unless they tell you otherwise.

Connection with your tween is essential to their emotional thriving and while you might need to rethink what you do to connect with your child, claim a space in their life on a daily basis by entering into their world;

This might be – joining them on the trampoline, watching and taking interest in their latest game on the X-box, playing football in the garden or pulling up a chair and watching them practice, facilitating a project of theirs or going for bike rides or evening walks together.

It is the connection we establish with them that will give them the confidence to venture forth and away from us later on, knowing that they have a soft place to land and somewhere where they can always take their game face off.

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