One minute you have a sweet child willing to spend all their free time with you, and hanging on to your every word adoringly. The next minute, you have a tween (not a child, but not a teenager yet) mumbling under their breath, pushing boundaries, and breaking rules. No longer are you the all-knowing parent; you’ve just been replaced by peers, social media, and celebrity pop stars. But there are ways to get around this. After all, your tween (aged 10 to 12 years) is in a transitional phase that can be difficult to decipher. Here’s how to make the transition smoother for both, the kid and you.
1. Make Room For Drama
Kids this age are just beginning to carve out an identity for themselves, says Mary Ann Lowry, a Dallas parenting coach specializing in tweens. They are torn between their desire to be an individual and to be part of a group. Add to this, their raging hormones, and you could have some serious drama on your hands, especially if you have girls. While girls tend to overreact and get dramatic, boys switch it up to being defiant, or withdrawing completely.
Quick Tip: If your tween bursts into tears, slams doors, or sulks indefinitely, ignore them. Giving them time to cool off also lets them know they don’t get to you. Deal with it later, when they’re calmer.
2. Maintain Your Parental Status
It might be tempting to befriend your tween while they are going through this confusing stage, but that would only send him or her, the wrong signal. You need to remind them that you are the adult and therefore in charge of the situation. Establish basic ground rules such as no backtalk, or walking away during a conversation.
Quick Tip: A snappy tween could use some tough love. Don’t scream or yell, but maintain your parental status. If they act up, confiscate the cellphone, or extend a mild curfew.
3. Hear Them Out
If you want your children to talk to you respectfully, don’t talk down to them either. Avoid interrupting them, or correcting them in front of others, especially their younger siblings. Make an effort to pay attention to what they’re sharing, even if it’s banal and mundane stuff. It lets them know you are available and open, and makes them feel important, which is essential for their self-confidence.
Quick Tip: Create a special time for just the two of you to connect. It could be while walking the dog, setting the table for a meal, or just going out for ice-cream. Letting them know they have a safe place to express themselves will help them open up, however slowly.
While trying to carve a new identity for themselves, kids are looking for inspiration everywhere but inside the home. Whether it’s TV, books or the internet, it’s tough to compete for that spot, so don’t even try. Just be your loving self, and allow them to grow into their individual personalities. A little patience and plenty of firm guidance should help them segue into the next stage of development.