We all know how fast our kids grow up – and they seem to mature earlier and earlier. Caitlin, at 10 is well in the throws of tween-dom with Ieuan, at 8, not so far behind. Don’t you find the younger children seem to race to catch the oldest up? It’s a far cry from the days when they could be kept happy with CBeebies and an extra large ice-cream (although the ice-cream still works sometimes). Yes, parenting tweens certainly brings its share of unique challenges.
The challenge of parenting tweens
It can be hard to cope as you see your kids becoming their own person and challenging your views and opinions. Here are some tips you might find useful for parenting tweens.
Don’t take it personally
It’s only human nature to take what your tweens say to heart when they lash out or are after something. They know you well enough to be able to push your buttons and aim that arrow right to the heart for full effect!
Try not to take what they are saying personally. The best approach is to calmly acknowledge what they are saying by feeding it back to them. Say what you observe. “I can see that my saying no to the party has upset you”. “I can see that you feel my banning Roblox is unfair”.
Acknowledging that you recognise what they are saying and feelings does not mean you are letting them off the hook when it comes to treating you with respect.
You need to stay firmly in your role as an adult and, if they are shouting at you or being disrespectful, then you should point this out. It’s that fine line between being a parent and being a friend.
That means you need to watch your reactions and not have an ‘adult tantrum’ – so easy to do when you are tired. Don’t load on the guilt – “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you”. Try to judge the behaviour as a momentary lapse, rather than a permanent stain on their character. “That behaviour is unacceptable” rather than, “you are a pain in the backside and your behaviour is getting worse!”. Big difference.
Ask the grandparents or a family friend
If it all gets too much, just say “I’m really not able to deal with this right now. Let’s take a break and we’ll discuss it later”. Sometimes it helps to talk about the problem with another adult first – their other parent, a grandparent or a good friend. Incidentally, grandparents are great sounding boards because they know you and how you react to situations. It may be that you are over-reacting or that there’s a simple solution you just haven’t considered.
Lead by example
Often easier said than done, but rather than just telling them what they should be doing, demonstrate the behaviour you want them to adopt. Kids are like sponges and they miss nothing. You can be sure every slip-up, swear word, momentary rudeness and less than sparkling attitude has been duly noted and stored.
Show them what to do by setting a great example. It’s normal for kids to try on different behaviours and particularly to see which behaviour gets the most attention. You can be sure that your bad behaviours will appear at some point – usually in the most embarrassing situation possible.
If you do slip up, explain that you are not happy with how you just behaved and the reasons why that behaviour was inappropriate. If I shout and am grumpy, I will explain to the kids that I am sorry, I am tired and whilst this doesn’t excuse my behaviour, everyone is human and slips up sometimes.
Impose appropriate punishments
I’m not even sure that ‘punishment’ is the right word but when you are pushed to the limit, it’s certainly the word that springs most readily to mind. Discipline is a better word because it implies strong, yet more gentle guidance. However you choose to phrase it, it’s a case of ‘the punishment should fit the crime’. I don’t believe you should allow your children to grow up believing bad behaviour has no consequences because, in the wider world, it most certainly does.
The challenge is to make your point without exacting physical or psychological harm to your child. The most popular one I hear many parents talk about is withdrawing Wi-Fi privileges or cutting pocket money. As kids get older the threat of an early bedtime has less of an effect, whilst ‘grounding’ them and refusing to taxi them to parties and after-school clubs just might.
But talking may be far more effective
Far better to sit down with them and talk about what happened to see if they understand why there’s an issue and whether there are wider implications you haven’t thought of. Is the bad behaviour a reaction to a new partner? Is it sibling jealousy? Are they being picked on in school? Is it just hormones?
Keeping them safe is even more of a priority
Tweenagers are at that tricky stage where they still need lots of support and attention. Because they start spending more and more time in their inner worlds, it is often difficult to gauge what is going on with them. For example, knowing who their friends are, or how well they are doing academically. Of course, you can talk to their teachers at parents’ evening but that doesn’t always give you the bigger picture.
When children are spending lots of time playing games online, it is even more difficult to know who is in their social circle and whether their safety is being compromised. Lots of Caitlin and Ieuan’s friends already have mobile phones which are used to organise sleepovers and parties and which can easily cause rifts in friendships and that hideous bugbear of ‘peer pressure’ and feeling left out.
We used software to monitor our kids’ Wi-Fi access and the type of sites they are allowed to use but, of course, this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what they can potentially get their hands on. As parents, you need to be extremely vigilant. The contentious Logan Paul video had actually been viewed by my two. You can be sure we tightened up internet access after that! Cyberbullying is something every parent needs to be vigilant about.
The challenge of being a parenting blogger
As parenting bloggers, we often post pictures of our children in our blog-posts and on social media. Now is the time that children may start to actively object to having their image promoted, particularly when they are doing things they consider embarrassing. Asking your kids permission to use their image will demonstrate respect and acknowledge that they have a right to privacy. It’s a two-way street. If you want respect as a parent, you need to show it to your children.
Since most social platforms recommend a minimum age of around 13 before you are allowed an account, teaching them a sensible approach to using social media will stand them in good stead later and allow more open discussions about why the minimum age has been set the way it has by YouTube and Instagram etc.
There’s no doubt that parenting tweens is challenging – particularly if you have children close in age, as I do. Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful.
What are your best tips for parenting tweens?