Parenting Tweens: 25 Tips for Moms & Dads

Mark Twain is said to have advised that when a youngster turns 13, his mother or father should put him in a barrel, close the lid, and feed him through a hole in the side.  Then, when he turns 16, plug up the hole.

A tween is a child between the ages of 9 and 12 (but this age could sometimes extend up to the age of 15). The child thinks she’s a teenager – but she’s not quite there yet. It is a relatively recent term used to describe a distinct period in life in which kids are still kids, but are starting to develop a more realistic view of the world, similar to adolescents.

Tweens are developing a more realistic view of the world in several ways:
  • increased feelings of independence
  • more developed sense of self and identity
  • more mature, sensible, realistic thoughts and actions
  • more nuanced view of human relationships (e.g., they may notice the flawed, human side of adult authority figures more readily than they would at a younger age)
  • more nuanced view of morality
  • more realistic fears (e.g., kidnappings, rapes, and scary media events, as opposed to fantasy things such as witches, monsters, etc.)
  • more realistic job expectations
  • more responsibilities (e.g., mowing the lawn, delivering papers, collecting firewood and shoveling snow)
  • more tolerance to movie, television and video game violence and other content

While these traits may sound similar to those of adolescents, tweens think more similarly to kids than they do to adolescents, and these traits are still much undeveloped.

Many schools attempt to develop these feelings through the use of lessons tailored specifically to tweens' developing worldview. For example, debates on touchy moral issues (e.g., abortion) are sometimes introduced in the upper elementary school grades, as are classes on current events.

Tweens are also known for their brand consumption, and are a heavily targeted market of many advertisers. Their tendency to buy brand-name items may be due to a desire to fit in, although the desire is not as strong as it is with adolescents. Many of these brands names fall under clothing and music.

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

In any event, if you are the parent of a tween, then I’m very sure you can use some help (unless you are Dr. Phil), so here you go…

Parenting Tweens: 25 Tips for Moms and Dads—

1. Adjust bedtimes according to your kid's behavior that day. For each infraction, they must go to bed five minutes earlier, but if they've been good, they can earn the right to stay up an extra five minutes.

2. Be ready to talk when your preadolescent needs to. Your child will continue to come to you if she knows you're likely to listen to her without jumping in to judge unimportant details.

3. When your youngster was a toddler or preschooler -- or maybe even as recently as a year ago -- you could pretty much get her to do what you wanted with positive reinforcement (e.g., praising her for being good, showering her with stickers) and the occasional time-out. With a preadolescent, however, most moms and dads find they have to bring out the big guns. Very few older children are likely to change their behavior based on, say, the promise of an ice cream cone if they can go a week without stomping around the house. Taking away a favorite activity (e.g., Xbox or cell phone) is the best consequence when tweens talk back or mumble something rude under their breath. Whatever you do decide, follow through. Once you don't do what you say, they'll take total advantage, and you'll lose your upper hand again.

4. You'll need to come up with some new rules as your preadolescent exercises his growing independence. Start by figuring out what's most important to you (e.g., right and wrong, honesty, grades, etc.), and let go of stuff that doesn't matter in the long-run (e.g., keeping his room neat, wearing clean socks, etc.).

5. Make sure your kid knows when she’s crossed the line. For example, ignore eye-rolling or heavy sighs, but if she calls you a “bitch” and walks off in the middle of a conversation, that gets a consequence. Communicate as clearly and as calmly as you can as soon as any unacceptable behavior begins. Try not to wait until it's out of control and your kid is screaming that she hates you.

6. As much as your youngster wants (and needs) to begin separating from you, he's still a kid and wants (and needs) to have a safety net. So provide one.

7. If a job is not done diligently, have your youngster practice doing it. She'll learn to be more thorough if she's made to sweep the floor three times because her first effort wasn't good enough.

8. If you repeatedly open the door to your youngster's room only to catch him in an act of disobedience, take your youngster's bedroom door off the hinges. It sounds harder to do than it actually is. And it works wonders!

9. If your tween gets too hyper, come up with a code word to remind him to stop the action without embarrassing him. For example, whenever he starts getting too rowdy in a group, yell, "Hey, Batman." He will know he needs to calm down before you have to take more drastic measures.

10. If your youngster likes to stomp off to his room or stomp around in anger, send him outside to the driveway and tell him to stomp his feet for one minute. He'll be ready to quit after about 15 seconds, but make him stomp even harder.

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

11. Include your tween in decision making and involve him in conversations about your own life so that he knows he has a valuable contribution to make to your life. This confirms for him a sense of belonging in your family and builds his respect and self-esteem.

12. When a "discussion" between you and your preadolescent leads to screaming or hysterics, step back and wait for things to calm down. Encouraging your youngster to take a break from a situation is a good way to defuse high emotions all around.

13. The “tween years” is not the time to try to be your youngster's best friend. Despite appearances to the contrary, he's looking to you to help him get through this confusing stage. Ultimately, he'll take his cues for how to behave from the way that you deal with a given situation.

14. Make a homemade “consequence jar” and fill it with slips of paper with various consequences written on them. Instead of giving your youngster a time-out, send her to the jar for a slip (e.g., no TV or computer for a night, early bedtime, an extra chore, etc.).

15. Next time your youngster "forgets" to put something away (e.g., video games, sports equipment, etc.), put it away for him. When he asks where it is, tell him that he'll just have to look for it. He will learn that it's a lot more trouble to find something that you’ve hidden than it is to put it away in the first place.

16. One way to handle a tantrum is to simply say, "That is too disruptive for this house. You may continue your fit in the backyard. When you're finished, you are welcome to come back inside." When there isn't an audience, the thrill of throwing a tantrum is gone.

17. Peer pressure will become greater. Be sure you're still the one he can trust to talk to, because you are attentive and have time for him. Be understanding and sensitive to his feelings, and be sure to hold back from impulsive reactions, snap decisions and judgments.

18. Share openly with your tween so that she will know you are human and accessible when the difficult issues begin to come up for her.

19. Seek immediate help if your tween’s behavior is truly threatening. Once the crisis is averted and after ensuring everyone's safety, the first thing you should do is sit down and talk. Try to identify "things" your youngster values. This may include bicycle time, controlling the music choices in the car, or freedom to stay up until a certain time. These "things" are your tools. When you know what these tools are, use them as rewards and consequences.

20. Take your preadolescent out for breakfast or invite him along to walk the dog, just the two of you. Don't push an agenda, but do let your youngster lead the conversation, even if he just wants to chatter on about that video game he's addicted to. You never know where the conversation might lead -- and even if it goes nowhere, you'll get points for listening.

21. Take time to participate in your tween’s activities and the events she's passionate about even if you're not interested in them. Celebrate her! This lets her know that she is important to you, and it builds the bond between the two of you.

22. Timers set definite boundaries. For example, with a timer, you can say, "I'm setting the timer. I want the dishes unloaded in 10 minutes. If you haven't finished by then, your consequence is _____." This method not only spurs on easily distracted kids, but it also leaves little room for arguing about a job that isn't finished and whether the consequence is warranted.

23. Remember that consequences should fit the situation. Too often, moms and dads respond to a youngster's misbehavior with too harsh a punishment. A youngster grounded for 2 weeks for a minor offense may have trouble seeing the end of such a consequence and may lose all incentive to improve his or her behavior.

24. Remember that consequences should be immediate. An immediate consequence makes it clear to your youngster what behavior caused the reward or consequence.

25. Your preadolescent should be moving away and out into the world. Your job is to move with him, not away from him. Recommit to maintaining a close relationship so that no matter what he does, you're not far from him.


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

Resolving Parental Disputes

"I'm the mom of an 18 yr. old boy, and I have always had to be the 'bad guy' throughout his and his sister's lives as my husband has NEVER given either of them a consequence EVER. My daughter seems to be doing fine, but we have had lots of issues with my son. My son has cussed at me and my husband just stands there and says nothing. My husband has also put me down in front of my son. I think that was because he wants our son to 'like him'. This has more than damaged my marriage, and I am fearful that my son will treat his wife the same way some day. I feel it is too late in my circumstance. My friends say that some day my son will think of me with respect because I did stand up to him and have expectations for him. I hope I live to see it. I love him dearly and just want him to have a happy and successful life." 

There are some families in which the parents’ beliefs about changing children’s behavior are so different that their attempts at discipline become more of a problem than a solution. A youngster whose dad is strict, but whose mom is a consistent pushover, for example, receives confusing information about what’s expected.

Such fundamental disagreements can lead to difficulties that go far beyond the consequences of not picking up toys after playing with them. Moms and dads who have significantly different parenting styles are more likely to have kids with behavior problems than families who have similar styles.

Here are some steps you can take to work towards resolving parenting disagreements:
1.    Be prepared for behavioral problems. Remember that many changes in your kid’s behaviors are linked to their stage of normal development. It should come as no surprise that your 3-year-old becomes defiant or your first-grader has an occasional temper tantrum. Talk ahead of time about how each of you would handle these predictable situations. That way you’ll have fewer conflicts when they occur.

2.    Discuss your parenting objectives. What is important to both of you? Sit down with your spouse and decide what values are most important. Also, what areas are not as important?

3.    Don’t be trapped by your past. That includes both your own childhood and the style of discipline you may have used in an earlier marriage. Look for ways to explore, with your partner, your unquestioned assumptions about disciplining kids. One good way to do that is to take a parenting class together. That does two things: (a) it helps you realize how differently other people respond to the same situations you face as moms and dads, and (b) it gives you and your partner a common base of information from which to develop your shared approaches to discipline.

4.    Find out what both of your parenting strengths and weaknesses are. Many times both moms and dads want the same things for their children. Compliment your spouse on his/her strengths. Don't just point out your spouse's flaws.

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

5.    If at all possible, don't disagree in front of your kids. You can't always anticipate where and when you will disagree, but when you can, discuss the issue in private first and return to present a unified front. Disagreeing in front of kids, while not necessarily damaging, can be confusing for them. At the same time, a healthy difference of opinion and subsequent negotiation, compromise, and follow-through on a decision is not necessarily a bad process for kids to see.

6.    If the discussion gets heated, agree to disagree. Fighting about how to parent is only going to make the situation worse. Walk away, take a break and discuss it when you are not angry.

7.    Parenting and relationships are a growing process. The more you communicate the better parent/spouse you will be. Learn from each other and listen to each other. Build on your parenting strengths and tackle your parenting weaknesses a little at a time. It won't happen overnight, but if you continue to discuss things with your spouse calmly and positively, you will become a better parenting team.

8.    You and your spouse will never agree on everything, but perhaps you can agree on a decision-making process. Some situations call for immediate parental action, but if you aren't satisfied with how a situation was handled, you can discuss later and decide how you will handle these kinds of situations in the future. In other situations, you may be able to step away and briefly discuss alternatives. Explaining your reasoning to both your youngster and your spouse will go a long way to building trust with both your kids and your spouse.

9.    Plan ahead. Discuss problem situations you are having with your kids. For example, if you are having a problem with your youngster having tantrums, discuss how you think this should be handled. If you have a plan in action, it will be easier for both of you to follow each other's wishes.

10.    Remember that, compared with losing a loving unified home, the damage that may be caused to your kids by your partner's different idea of what is best for them is likely trivial – even assuming you're right and your partner is wrong. Placing things in perspective this way often leads you to discover that you've been fighting over nothing and resolves things right there.

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

11.    Talk about where your kids are developmentally and what they are capable of understanding. Sometimes the reasons for parenting disputes are because one spouse thinks that a youngster is capable of understanding something and the other disagrees. Knowing what your youngster's cognitive level is will help you to make better decisions. Don’t compare your youngster to other kids. You can use examples based on what they are capable of doing and not doing. For example, if you ask them to get something out of their toy box, do they understand and go get it? If not, expecting your youngster to be able to understand certain things may be unreasonable.

12.    The majority of parenting disagreements are over discipline methods and when it is appropriate to discipline. One parent may think that spanking is the best method, and the other may prefer time-outs or something else. One of the most effective ways to resolve this issue is to talk about it. Find out the reasons why your spouse feels the way he/she does. There are pros and cons to every form of parenting. Talk about why your spouse thinks his/her discipline style is the better method. Sometimes talking about it will help you to see each other's point of view.

13.    There is so much advice from websites, blogs, online discussion groups, family and friends, and from books and magazines. Find a few trusted writers that are close to your parenting philosophy, and use them as guides to consult at times of conflict. Consider a trusted organization like the American Academy of Pediatrics. Couples may want to agree on a few advisors from whom they will seek guidance.

14.    Time is precious for new moms and dads, and we often don't have the luxury of long conversations, but if you can find some uninterrupted time, it is great for each of you to share how you were parented and what you think was useful and what wasn't. If you have never had these kinds of conversations, it will at least put the disagreements into perspective. If you can find the time, it would also be great to talk about your hopes and dreams for your youngster and what it will take to support them to reach those dreams.

15.    Work on role modeling communication. If your kids see that you communicate and problem solve together, they will grow up to do the same. Kids often repeat patterns of their own moms and dads. Look at your relationship and evaluate how you communicate. Is this the way you would like your kids to communicate with their future spouse?


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

20 Tips for Dealing with Demanding Children

"I need advice on how to deal with a very demanding 15 y.o. brat (sorry)!"

As a parent, you know all too well that some kids will simply not take “no” for an answer.  Just as they need to learn the importance of saying “please” and “thank you,” they need to learn how to appropriately make requests.

If you are the mother or father of a demanding son or daughter, rest assured that this is not a new problem and there are many parents in the same boat. Here's some help on this issue...

20 tips for dealing with demanding children:

1.  The goal for parents is to immediately respond to demands with (a) choices, (b) consequences, and (c) consistent follow-through in order to avoid power struggles and tantrums. If this is a new approach for you, the youngster will probably still have tantrums in response to this new approach. In fact, his reactions may seem to be more extreme before it improves, because he is testing new limits. Your youngster wants to see if you will react differently if embarrassed in public, if he destroys things, if he loses control, etc.

2.  Ask, “How would this make you feel.” Ask your kids how they would feel if they were interrupted? If they were woken up? If you talked to them that way? Help them understand how their demanding actions make others feel.

3.  Be patient with your youngster. Do not make the mistake of giving up too soon because you do not see the results you want immediately. It is unrealistic to expect your youngster's behavior to change overnight. Persevere in your efforts to teach correct behavior. The time you invest in it will be worth it in the end.

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

4.  Do not allow yourself to get drawn into arguments. A youngster will resist your efforts to redirect his behavior if “being demanding” has gotten him his way in the past. He may cry, yell, rage, or argue in an attempt to recapture some of his control. Do not engage in power struggles with him. Remind him of your expectations and the consequences for his behavior, and then let him decide if he is going to obey you.

5.  Establish appropriate consequences. Your youngster needs to know there are consequences attached to his behavior. Communicate to your child precisely what will happen when he behaves in a way that is unacceptable (e.g., "We will leave the movies if you begin to cry or yell because you can't have any extra snacks"). Be prepared to follow through by walking out of an activity if your youngster refuses to obey. Consequences have to be consistent in order to be effective.

6.  Give positive reinforcement. The most effective way to reduce demanding behavior in kids is to strengthen desirable behavior through positive reinforcement. Be aware of your youngster's efforts to improve his behavior and give sincere compliments when he succeeds.

7.  Avoid vague reprimands such as "act your age" or "behave yourself." Instead, give your child a clear picture of his unacceptable behavior by using descriptive language (e.g., “You are shouting at me because I won't let you stay up past your bedtime. This is not appropriate.").

8.  If moms and dads allow the natural consequences of a situation to occur, the parent is not the one exerting the control – nature is. The parent can now face the situation calmly and from a detached position of presenting the youngster with his choices and then letting him experience the consequences of his choice.

9.  Is your youngster demanding because that is how you talk to them? Evaluate the way you talk to your kids. We might find that we are relentless and demanding in our communication, and our children are just copying us.

10.  Is your youngster demanding because he doesn’t feel he is getting enough attention? Take time to listen to him without multitasking. Sit down, look him in the eyes and just listen. Laugh together, watch his eyes, and observe his story-telling actions. Forget about the laundry.

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

11.  Make it really clear that a demanding, whinny, relentless voice will not be tolerated. If they have a request, it has to be made in a “nice voice.” And, saying things once will suffice. Don’t acknowledge demanding relentless requests. Before you start enforcing, teach your youngster what it sounds like to use a nice voice. Go through some common examples of demanding situations you have experienced in your home. Demonstrate a “nice voice,” and then ask your youngster to repeat the voice back to you. Give them a few sample situations where they can practice being respectful and kind.

12.  Moms and dads are doing a disservice to themselves and to their youngster by giving in to demands to avoid a scene. Even if unintentional, this teaches the youngster that if his behavior gets severe enough, he will get what he wants.

13.  Moms and dads should be prepared to disengage and remove themselves or the youngster if the behavior escalates. Moms and dads must be willing to leave a situation and trust that others will understand and respect their need to attend to the situation. Most people are supportive of a parent disciplining a youngster in a respectful way. Although some people would think this action would violate the parent's right to enjoy an outing, one should remember that parental responsibilities do not end whenever it's inconvenient for the parent to uphold them. The parent needs to remember the rights of others to exist in a peaceful environment, and the youngster needs to learn that unacceptable behavior is unacceptable in all situations.

14.  Don’t let your youngster intimidate you. Demanding children feel like life revolves around them. You have to change that. The only way is by saying ‘no’ to some of their requests. This means we have to stay strong and not give in. Stick to your guns. When we give in to the demands, we have just taught our kids that when they are demanding and relentless, they get what they want. The exact opposite of what we are trying to teach.

15.  When kids are young, it’s hard for them to understand the difference between needs and wants. Getting to baseball practice on time is “necessary.” Buying silly putty is “not necessary.” Take some time to explain the difference, and then work to only address the “needs” when your youngster uses a “nice” voice.

16.  The middle of a tantrum is not the time to reflect feelings or try to talk a youngster out of being angry. That time has already passed, and the youngster will now interpret these efforts as a denial of his feelings and may escalate his behavior to convince the parent of how strongly he feels. Communication may be futile until the youngster calms down and may even keep the tantrum going by giving the youngster more attention for his behavior. Process what happened, the youngster feelings, and the choices and consequences of behavior after the tantrum is over.

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

17.  There are times when it is best to walk away from the situation and refuse to interact until the youngster's behavior improves. A power struggle cannot occur with one person. Walking away is not giving in. Usually the youngster wants something from the parent, either some service or attention. Walking away will give the youngster nothing and will give him a chance to calm down and rethink his choice in the matter. If the youngster has become destructive in the past, the parent can plan ahead by arranging a safe place for the youngster to go and discussing appropriate ways for the youngster to release angry energy away from others. Remember to tell the youngster specifically what behavior is acceptable rather than wording your statements in terms of "don't".

18.  Try to stick with choices within limits unless the behavior becomes even more unacceptable. When this happens, moms and dads can shift the focus from the original issue to the behavior. The parent can present the youngster with a new set of choices (e.g., "You can calm down, or can we'll leave."). Remember to focus on the behavior and not attack the youngster's character.

19.  When your youngster does say something in a demanding tone of voice, reflect his/her feelings ("I understand you feel...") before stating your expectation about how it should be said ("...but I expect you to tell me in a calm, polite way.").

20.  Be patient with your child as you implement your new parenting strategies. We must implement change gradually because change is tough. People don’t like change, and kids will totally reject parenting changes if they occur too fast.


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

How do I get my over-achieving daughter to slow down?

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