Children go through various stages and each presents its own set of challenges. Tweeners, though, are a stage that will cause many parents, teachers and adults in general, no matter how streetwise or tough, to flinch. That stage between the ages of about 10 and 14 (middle school age) can cause parents to question their sanity at times. Many a parent of tweeners knows well the mantra, “13 only lasts a year.” But in the next breath the child that was pushing all their parent’s buttons turns into a sweet, loving angel. Parenting is stressful, regardless of the child’s age, but once you understand your tweener you may find that parenting your tweener is easier and can even be fun.
Tweeners face unique challenges. As the song says, “Too young to take over, too old to ignore. Gee I’m almost ready, but what for?” They are too young for one thing and too old for the other, stuck in the middle. They are also going through some tough developmental changes during this time. As a parent, before you take your frustrations out on your tweener because he or she has pushed you to the limit, remember that they are fighting a hard battle themselves. They are undergoing dramatic changes physically and emotionally.
They are trying to establish their own identity.
As tweeners try to become more independent, parents may find that they experience more conflicts with siblings and even mom and dad. It is important to remember that these children are struggling to establish their own identity. As a result, they tend to express less affection to parents. This means fewer hugs (in public) to mom and they may even come across as rude and obnoxious. Parents of tweeners may complain that Mom and Dad are interfering with their independence or are trying to change who they are.
They are “coming into their own.”
Tweeners are discovering the opposite sex and sexuality is growing in importance to them as they become more concerned with how physically attractive they are to others. Boys want to be attractive to girls and girls want to be attractive to boys. But they also want to be attractive to everyone. Tweeners begin to worry if they are “normal.” They want to fit in, dress like other kids and look like other kids. They want to be accepted by their peers and fit in with the crowd.
They are developing their own values, morals and self direction.
Tweeners are trying to establish their own ethical codes and define their own morality and values. During this time they tend to test rules and limits and question authority. They develop their own ideals and identify with role models which can lead to dressing in a certain way or altering their appearance. They may even begin to experiment with sex, alcohol and even drugs during this time, particularly as they are more influenced by their peers and are trying to fit in with the crowd.
Parents, however, do not need to be afraid of this stage of their child’s life. Tweenhood can be a very special time. These tips can help parents of tweeners survive those challenging years.
Choose your battles.
When you try to control every aspect of your child’s life, you are in for a long, difficult ride. Loosen the reins and give your child some breathing room. Give them room to grow and be themselves. You don’t have to win every battle, choose wisely.
Treat your tweener like a grown up in training.
No, they are not adults, but a little responsibility can go a long way. Take time with them to teach them practical life skills such as cooking, creating a budget or changing a tire on a car. Giving each child an evening to plan and prepare a meal for the family can be very beneficial to their self esteem and will help them in the future.
Give them your approval and support.
Tweeners may come off like they don’t need the adults in their lives, but in truth they do need your approval and support. While you set realistic boundaries, leave a little room for flexibility. Just how bad is that skater haircut? Is it really that bad for them to have a pair of Tripp pants as long as they do chores and save their money to buy them? Let your children know that you love them, support them and approve of them FOR THE INDIVIDUAL THAT THEY ARE
Take time to listen your tweener. This does not mean pretend to listen, but REALLY listen and, more importantly, HEAR them. Sometimes they just need to be heard. Even if you don’t understand or you can’t really relate, DO NOT pass judgment on them or their friends and ask questions to guide them to make good moral decisions. This way you are teaching them to think things through for themselves and improving their decision making skills.
Relax but Set Realistic Boundaries.
Relax and be flexible, but set realistic boundaries. The key word here is realistic. If you control every single aspect of your child’s life and refuse to allow them to make some of their own decisions, you are not preparing them for the time when they will have no choice but to make their own decisions. You will have deprived them of valuable life skills. So relax and allow them to make a few mistakes as long as they are safe. If your 13 year old daughter wants to dye her blond hair black, what will it hurt? It is her hair and if that is the worst thing that she does, count your lucky stars. If you are setting realistic boundaries, it is just a little harmless hair dye. Put your own vanities aside and consider your child as an individual, not as an extension of you.
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