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Discipline for Tweens

The tween years are an exciting and challenging time for your youngster – and for you. This stage in your son or daughter's life occurs in that brief, eruptive time “between” (hence the name "tween") early childhood and adolescence. No longer is your little man playing cops and robbers in the confines of your backyard – rather he's now biking through the neighborhood with his buddies. And your darling baby girl may be thinking less about her Barbie doll and more about her appearance.

Tweenhood is a game-changer for the whole family. So, if your youngster is between the ages of 8 and 12, throw out all of your old childhood parenting books, because you'll need a new set of techniques for the years ahead.

In this post, you are going to get the top 25 strategies you'll need for nurturing and disciplining your tween:

1. Asking your tween to suggest a consequence. Your tween may have an easier time accepting a consequence if she played a role in deciding it.

2. Avoid punishing your tween when you're angry. Likewise, don't impose penalties you're not prepared to carry out — and punish only the guilty party, not other family members.

3. Avoid ultimatums. Your tween may view an ultimatum as condescending and interpret it as a challenge.

4. Be careful when scolding. Make sure you reprimand your tween's behavior, not your tween. Avoid using a sarcastic, demeaning or disrespectful tone. Also, avoid reprimanding your tween in front of his friends.

5. Be concise. Keep your rules short and to the point.

6. Be flexible. As your tween demonstrates more responsibility, grant her more freedom. If your tween shows poor judgment, impose more restrictions.

7. Be prepared to explain your decisions. Your tween may be more likely to comply with a rule when he understands its purpose.

8. Be reasonable. Avoid setting rules your tween can't possibly follow. A chronically messy tween may not be able to maintain a spotless bedroom overnight.

9. Be specific. Rather than telling your tween not to stay out late, set a specific curfew.

10. Consistent rules are still needed, but keep reviewing rules and changing them as your tween grows.

11. Don’t give too many orders – these can overwhelm tweens. Explain why some things have to be, but listen to their views. If you have to overrule, explain that until they are more mature, there are some decisions you must make for them.

12. Enforce consequences. Enforcing consequences can be tough — but your tween needs you to be her parent, not a buddy. Being too lenient may send the message that you don't take your tween's behavior seriously, while being too harsh can cause resentment. Be consistent when you enforce limits. Whatever disciplinary tactic you choose, relate the consequences to the broken rule and deliver them immediately. Limit punishments to a few hours or days to make them most effective.

13. Impose additional responsibilities. Assign your tween additional household tasks for misbehavior.

14. Impose additional restrictions. Take away a privilege or possession that's meaningful to your tween (e.g., computer time or a cell phone) when he is disrespectful.

15. Minimize pressure. Don't pressure your tween to be like you were (or wish you had been) at her age. Give your tween some leeway when it comes to clothing and hairstyles. It's natural for tweens to rebel and express themselves in ways that differ from their moms and dads. If your tween shows an interest in body art (i.e., tattoos and piercings), make sure she understands the health risks (e.g., skin infections, allergic reactions, hepatitis B and C). Also, talk about potential permanence or scarring. As you allow your tween some degree of self-expression, remember that you can still maintain high expectations for your tween and the kind of person she will become.

16. Prioritize rules. While it's important to consistently enforce your rules, you can occasionally make exceptions when it comes to matters such as homework habits, TV watching and bedtime. Prioritizing rules will give you and your tween a chance to practice negotiating and compromising. Before negotiating with your tween, however, consider how far you're willing to bend. Don't negotiate when it comes to restrictions imposed for your tween's safety (e.g., substance abuse, sexual activity, reckless driving). Make sure your tween knows early on that you won't tolerate tobacco, alcohol or other drug use.

17. Put rules in writing. Use this technique to counter a selective memory.

18. Set a positive example. Remember, tweens learn how to behave by watching their mother and father. Your actions generally speak louder than your words. Set a positive example and your tween will likely follow your lead.

19. Clearly state your expectations. To encourage your tween to behave well, identify what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior at home, at school and elsewhere. As you establish appropriate rules, explain to your tween the behavior you expect as well as the consequences for complying and disobeying.

20. Stay calm and avoid arguments as much as possible.

21. Understand your tween will want to test out her independence. Answering back or disobeying can often be a way of demonstrating this, and showing she has a mind of her own. Encourage as much independence as possible, even if it involves some risks – tweens need to learn by their own mistakes.

22. Use active ignoring. Tell your tween that you'll talk to him when the whining, sulking or yelling stops. Ignore your tween in the meantime.

23. Use specific praise, describing exactly what it is being given for.

24. Use “reflective listening” (i.e., feeding back what you’ve been told and not leaping in with your own judgments).

25. Encourage cyber safety. Get to know the technology your tween is using and the websites he visits. If possible, keep the computer in a common area in your home. Remind your tween to practice these basic safety rules:
  • Don't get together with someone you meet online.
  • Don't send anything in a message you wouldn't say face to face.
  • Don't share passwords.
  • Don't share personal information online.
  • Don't text or chat on the phone while driving.
  • Talk to a parent or trusted adult if an interaction or message makes you uncomfortable.

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