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Highly Effective Parenting Methods for Preteens

Staying connected as children approach the adolescent years and become more independent may become a challenge for moms and dads, but it's as important as ever — if not more so now. While activities at school, new interests, and a growing social life become more important to growing children, moms and dads are still the anchors, providing love, guidance, and support. And that connection provides a sense of security and helps build the resilience children needs to roll with life's ups and downs.

Your 12-year-old may act as if your guidance isn't welcome or needed, and even seem embarrassed by you at times. This is when children start to confide more in peers and request their space and privacy — expect the bedroom door to be shut more often. As difficult as it may be to swallow these changes, try not to take them personally. They're all signs of growing independence. You're going to have to loosen the ties and allow some growing room. But you don't have to let go entirely. You're still a powerful influence — it's just that your preteen may be more responsive to the example you set rather than the instructions you give. So practice what you'd like to preach, just preach it a little less for now.

Modeling the qualities that you want your 12-year-old to learn and practice — respectful communication, kindness, healthy eating, and fulfilling everyday responsibilities without complaining — makes it more likely that your child will comply. Small, simple things can reinforce connection. Make room in your schedule for special times, take advantage of the routines you already share, and show that you care.

Here are some tips for parenting preteens:

1. Your youngster may not need to be tucked in anymore, but maintaining a consistent bedtime routine helps preteens get the sleep needed to grow healthy and strong. So work in some winding-down time together before the lights go out. Read together. Go over the highlights of the day and talk about tomorrow. And even if your 12-year-old has outgrown the tuck-in routine, there's still a place for a goodnight kiss or hug. If it's shrugged off, try a gentle hand on the shoulder or back as you wish your youngster a good night's sleep.

2. Make a tradition out of celebrating family milestones beyond birthdays and holidays. Marking smaller occasions like a good report card or a winning soccer game helps reinforce family bonds.

3. It may seem like drudgery to prepare a meal, particularly after a long day. But a shared family meal provides valuable together time. So schedule it and organize it just as you would any other activity. Even if you have to pick up something pre-made, sit down together to eat it. Turn off the TV and try to tune out the ringing phone. If it's impossible to do every night, schedule a regular weekly family dinner night that accommodates children' schedules. Make it something fun, and get everyone involved in the preparation and the cleanup. Sharing an activity helps build closeness and connection, and everyone pitching in reinforces a sense of responsibility and teamwork.

4. Find little things that let you just hang out together. Invite your “soon-to-be-a-teenager” to come with you to walk the dog. Invite yourself along on his or her run. Washing the car, baking cookies, renting movies, watching a favorite TV show — all are opportunities to enjoy each other's company. And they're chances for children to talk about what's on their mind. Even riding in the car is an opportunity to connect. When you're driving, your preteen may be more inclined to mention a troubling issue. Since you're focused on the road, he or she doesn't have to make eye contact, which can ease any discomfort about opening up.

5. Don't underestimate the value of saying and showing how much you love your 12-year-old. Doing so ensures that children feel secure and loved. And you're demonstrating healthy ways to show affection. Still, preteens may start to feel self-conscious about big displays of affection from moms and dads, especially in public. They may pull away from your hug and kiss, but it's not about you. Just reserve this type of affection for times when friends aren't around. And in public, find other ways to show that you care. A smile or a wave can convey a warm send-off while respecting boundaries. Recognize out loud your youngster's wonderful qualities and developing skills when you see them. You might say, "That's a beautiful drawing — you're really very artistic" or "You were great at baseball practice today — I loved watching you out there."

6. Stay interested and curious about your child’s ideas, feelings, and experiences. If you listen to what he or she is saying, you'll get a better sense of the guidance, perspective, and support needed. And responding in a nonjudgmental way means your youngster will be more likely to come to you anytime tough issues arise.

7. Stay involved in your child’s expanding pursuits. Getting involved gives you more time together and shared experiences. You don't have to be the Scout leader, homeroom mom, or soccer coach to be involved. And your youngster may want to do more activities where you're not in charge. That's OK. Go to games and practices when you can; when you can't, ask how things went and listen attentively. Help children talk through the disappointments, and try to be sympathetic about the missed fly ball that won the game for the other team. Your attitude about setbacks will teach your 12-year-old to accept and feel OK about them, and to summon the courage to try again.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents


Anonymous said...

I have two boys, 15 & 8. My 15 year old has ADHD & ODD and we have never had any reason to think that our 8 year old has anything like that...he has always been a very easy child. Although, recently I have noticed a change in his behavoir. He has become more moody and he has been accused by others of misbehaving and when I asked him about these situations he denies everything...I have never had any reason not to believe him but now I'm starting to notice that other parents are coming to me more ofter to complain that my son is acting out and I'm begining to think that my little boy he gotten into the habbit of lying to this a phase because hes getting older or have I been doing something wrong with him? Should I be worried???

Online Parent Support said...

Sep 27 2011, 11:43 AM
MarkHutten: 10 Tips for Reducing School Anxiety ==>
[My Aspergers Child: How to Reduce School Anxiety in Aspergers Children]
My Aspergers Child: How to Reduce School Anxiety in Aspergers Children
Sep 27 2011, 11:44 AM
MarkHutten: A big problem right now is sleep issues ==>
[My Aspergers Child: Aspergers Children and Sleep Problems]
My Aspergers Child: Aspergers Children and Sleep Problems
Sep 28 2011, 12:33 AM
bexbeach: thank you so much for that information - much appreciated
Sep 29 2011, 5:51 AM
bexbeach: FAO Mark Hutten
Sep 29 2011, 5:51 AM
bexbeach: I have another problem which is starting to get out of control and I wondered if you could point me to articles that could help please
Sep 29 2011, 5:52 AM
bexbeach: My son is extremely aggressive when he can't do things that he wants to or the way he wants to.
Sep 29 2011, 5:53 AM
bexbeach: Whilst we can try and reason with him, there often comes a point, daily, where we have to restrain him
Sep 29 2011, 5:54 AM
bexbeach: It doesn't always work though and we end up having to be almost as aggressive with him as he is with us in order to stop it
Sep 29 2011, 5:54 AM
bexbeach: I know it's not the right way, or certainly it doesn't feel the right way.
Sep 29 2011, 5:54 AM
bexbeach: Archie is also like this at school
Sep 29 2011, 5:54 AM
bexbeach: is there anything else we can try?
Sep 29 2011, 5:55 AM
bexbeach: really quite desperate to get this sorted so any help would be much appreciated
Sep 29 2011, 5:55 AM
bexbeach: many thanks
Sep 29 2011, 10:25 AM
MarkHutten: Consider these parenting strategies here:
[My Aspergers Child]
My Aspergers Child
Sep 29 2011, 10:25 AM
MarkHutten: Good luck!
Sep 29 2011, 10:27 AM
Jkennedy: Teen anger can be a frightening emotion, and although not inherently harmful, teen anger can lead
to teen rage and teen violence, which can soon destroy a family. Click for more ==>
[Teen Anger Management Problems: Intermittent Explosive Disorder]
Teen Anger Management Problems: Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Oct 2 2011, 12:43 AM
Amy Blache Graziano: we recently moved to a rural area and my daughter met a girl who is from an even more rural area. my daughter seems to thinks this girl is so amazing and has begun to talk in this crazy hillbilly accent. we do NOT talk like this and i cant stand it. there are no google hits for daughter mimicking friends speech patterns/accent. help !
Welcome to Parent Chat
Oct 2 2011, 11:38 AM
Jkennedy: If this is the biggest problem you have currently - then count your blessings - seriously. She's just trying to "fit-in."

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have just come across your web site by accident while looking for somewhere for my grand daughter to stay in the short term.
I live in New Zealand and have the care of my 5 grandchildren. The older 2 are causing a lot of trouble. The 17 yr old female is on drugs and is abusive to all the family. Her maturity level is about 14. She is wanting to come off but can't give up her friends and so goes back on. She is pleading with me to come home, and I want her to, but not at the expense of everyone else in the family.

The boy is 15yrs and is very defiant of me and has no respect at all for me. He is dishonest in all aspects of the word and currently cannot come home because I have no control over him. When I consequent him he becomes very vindictive and his actions towards me are becoming more severe. He is at boarding school because the agencies here do not have a home for him. People don't cope with defiant teenagers. I want him home but don't know how to help him or myself.

Both these children are nice kids. The boy is a very good worker and is very pleasant to other people.
Children are much the same the world over but I did not want to buy your book if it was too "Americany" if you know what I mean.

I am a solo Granmother. The ages of the children are 17 - F, 15,14,12,10 (deaf) males.

I would like to get into fostering - helping other teenagers as there is a major gap in our country for support to parents for kids aged 12 to 16. After 17 they are deemed adults and have to fend for themselves.

Anonymous said...

we now feel we are heading into a crisis situation and are unclear of what to do. Our daughter Tara is our third child. Her 2 older siblings had no behavioral/academic problems (23 yo graduated college and is working and 19 yo sophomore in college). Tara has always been “on the go” creative and engaging but difficult to control. She never liked school and things got very bad freshman year of the public HS, ending the year with a 1.0. As a family, with our daughter involved in the decision, we chose to send her to a boarding school sophomore year. She was at a small all girls boarding school for 2 yrs; the first year went well, last year she felt trapped in the small environment,the school was very expensive and she only had a couple classes to finish to graduate, so the decision was made to bring her back to the public HS.

We are 3 weeks into her senior year and she is running with a bad crowd some of the kids are have graduated HS are are just” hanging out”. She has been arrested twice in the past 2 weeks. The first time for mouthing off at a police officer in town which escalated to her chest butting the female officer and resisting arrest. This weekend she was with a group who threw a beer bottle at a police officer . We live in a lovely affluent town, where this type of behavior is very unheard of. I have just spoken to her guidance counselor and vice principle of the school who informed me that she has been late to school, cutting classes and failing most of her classes. She is planning to apply to art school out of state, but has a real disconnect as to what her reality is.

I am at my wits end with how to discipline her as she is not a bad kid. She pretty much follows house rules, comes home at curfew, joins us for regular family dinners. She makes poor choices, and has no sense of time/ long term consequences. I worry that if she were NOT to graduate she would just get deeper into this bad crowd. She sees a psychiatrist for her Adderall, and was seeing a psychologist but has been refusing to go, and frankly we questioned whether it was making a difference.

What can we do to discipline her and keep her safe?

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