Taming Tweens: Tips for Dealing with 11-13 Year Olds
Do you have a tween? A person who is not yet a teenager nor still the little sweet child
they once were. Mood swings, bursts of anger, withdrawal, arrogance, desire for
independence and emotional separation and lack of logical thinking are all signs of the tween age.
It is a time when parents start noticing that we are not all that influential and respected and might hear a lot of back talk. Tweens start claiming their territory, may start holing up in their rooms for hours, might decide they hate school and don’t want to learn or care about their physical and mental wellbeing. They may intentionally start breaking rules and generally act out.
It might become progressively worse over the next few years, yet we will be more weathered
and prepared by then. But as of now, it is all new for both – your child and you. So, why are they acting like this? Simply because there is SO MUCH going on within their mind and bodies. Their brains are developing, albeit much slower than their bodies and hormones are affecting their thinking and actions more than ever (although it is only the start). The consequences are not calculated, the plans are short-lived and superficial, there is
only “here and now” but not in the same way as it was when they were very young and
discovering the world around them. This time around they think that they know everything
and you as a parent are just a boring old person who doesn’t know anything.
So what to do? How to deal with this hormonal storm? Here are three little tips:
1. Imagine that they are a three year old.
Seriously. Just look at their words and actions like you would look at the words and actions of a toddler hidden in a big body. Would you be insulted by the things they are blurting out? Probably not. Would you allow them to be in charge of finances, make serious life-altering decisions or drive a vehicle? Definitely not. Yet, you might pretend you do allow all of the above to maintain peace and safety. Use the same principle with your tween. Calmly and patiently accept their position, even if it sounds like nonsense from time to time and gain trust to then slowly interfere without resistance and find mutually acceptable solutions.
2. Manage your expectations.
Let them be. Yes, their room is a mess, yes, there is mould on the cup you asked to take to the kitchen 3 weeks ago. Yes, the handwriting is awful and the level of homework done is below any requirements you might have. Let it be.
Give them space to see the consequences for themselves and allow the results and
quality be developed from within rather than imposed by you. You won’t win this
battle with your tween, it is their path to learn and be in charge. You just need to
make sure it is not harmful for them or for others.
3. Remember what an amazing and wonderful human being is in there, inside, hidden from you at the moment.
They are very gentle and extremely vulnerable at this age. But, they need to learn how to face harsh realities of the world to survive and thrive. So, in ancient times tween age was for various initiation rituals and now we need to make sure we provide them with nurturing yet challenging environment without falling into the trap of becoming defensive and judging them for their superficial bravado and back-talk. They are just at the beginning of the path of self-discovery and unlike real mental disorders, the puberty storm will pass.
So, I salute you, parent of a tween ,the teenagerhood is still ahead of us but calmness and
kindness will take you both through this most interesting, most fierce and extremely
important period of life.