How to Implement Positive Parenting With Preteens?
Dealing with a child in the digital world is enough to reduce a parent to a quivering mass of self-doubt and anxiety. And when that child is a tween or pre teen, we have to triple the tremors. Raising pre teens can be quiet a challenge for parents.
Raising a healthy and well mannered child can be the most rewarding task in any parent’s life. Nothing gives parents more joy and pride than a happy, healthy and loving child. Each age and stage of child development has specific goals and tasks. For toddlers it is to eat, sleep and explore their world. For teens it is to develop their own identity within their peer group.
Pre Teens are the years we probably see more variation in physical maturity than at any other age. The differences between tweens of the same grade is astounding. Many parents react to their tweens’ moodiness, their focus outside the family and increased independence and physical maturation by distancing themselves a bit from their child.
Tweens entering into pre adolescence are beginning to leave behind some of their childlike behaviors. However, tweens can quickly swing back to needing lots of attention and support. They need to feel like they have a safe nest as they get into the thrilling but frightening world outside the family. Tweens who feel disconnected from their mom and dad often seek refuge in their peer group.
- An early adolescent may feel self conscious with the physical changes their body is undergoing.
- Pre teens wants privacy, respect that but keep those lines of communication open.
- Friends become most important for pre adolescents, in many ways taking the place of family in importance.
- Tweens struggle between wanting independence but still relying on you.
Time Management and Pre-adolescence
Time management is a skill still developing in early adolescence. Time looses all meaning when engrossed in a conversation on the phone with a friend. You will have to gently help your pre teen to plan ahead, and to keep commitments (like chores!).
However, encourage your pre teens to focus on the NOW. Worrying about how they look, or what their peers may think is mostly negative future thinking. Being happy in the moment is such an important focus. Tiny children have it naturally, then we condition it out of our kids until as adults, we spend a fortune on books, programs and processes, trying to get back to it!
Trying to get a balance between enjoying the moment and taking steps towards a bright dream, and taking care of the daily things that need attention, like clean clothes, contributing to the family, is not always easy.
Many arguments between parents and pre teens are often to do with school. We want our kids to succeed and do well at school, and we don’t trust that they have the same goals for them as we do! We have our own vision of what they will turn out like and we do all kinds of things to try to make that happen! We tell them stories about the consequences of their failure to hand in an assignment – “you won’t get into college”, “You’ll fail at the exams”, “The teacher/your father will be so disappointed in you”
Now think about it. How does motivation to avoid disappointment or disapproval teach pre teens to reach for big dreams, to follow their passions, or to be in touch with their own spiritual essence?
Keep involved and be supportive with your kids school projects, but they will learn the consequences by their experience of not handing things in on time. Many a school project was largely written by the parent who wanted their Tween to do well, so it would credit them as a good parent!
You can gently lead them to imagine the two different scenarios … what if you didn’t hand this in on time, what do you think might happen? What would it be like if you did do an assignment you were really happy with and handed it in on time. How would that feel? What comments would your teacher make? Let them come up with the answers. And, let them decide which scenario they are going to play out!
Question your motives for trying to make your pre teens to conform. Unfortunately the school system is geared to average children who conform. That is the only way teachers can cope with such big classes. A few minutes per day with each child doesn’t leave much room for individual learning or a child following a passion. Wouldn’t it be great if kids could learn what they are most interested in? I read somewhere about an amazing school, Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, USA. Based on Law of Attraction Principles, they encourage children (pre-school – high-school) to explore the world freely, at their own pace and in their own unique way. Teachers offer a wide variety of subjects and activities, but primarily follow the interests of the child. How I wish I could have sent my kids to a similar school! (Or gone myself!)
Testing the limits
Pre Teens will begin to test limits and challenge family and school rules. They start developing strong opinions, often want to do things their way and don’t hesitate to state their case and argue with you. Believe it or not, this is great!
Easy to say, but try not to get hooked into big argument. Let them state their opinion and take the time to think about it. This teaches them you are respecting their opinion, plus you are modelling to them to respect others. Are you being unreasonable? Is what you want really important? See if you can come up with a trade off or let go your ego and back down and modify the rules if you think they may just have some valid argument.
The great thing about Pre teens forming their own opinions is they are also beginning to develop a social conscience. They are becoming more aware of issues that affect society and often get involved in community projects or fundraising.
Susan Ginsberg talks about pre teens being a work in progress. Although this applies to all ages, I think focusing on the bigger picture sometimes helps when your early adolescent seems to be a little monster! They are still creating themselves and you are still a major influence on them even if they seem to be pushing back.
One of the things that hit home for me was something my pre teen daughter said. “Stop trying to fix it up” “I don’t want you to fix it, you always take every opportunity to teach me something!” Woops! A really good reminder to just be present with your children.
If you are trying to “help” or “teach” you are not really being present with them. Instead you are trying to fix them, change them, make them cope better or react better (and yes, I do still manage to find opportunities to be helpful!). It is much more powerful to just really be with them, without doing anything. That will empower them to find their own solutions far more than all your (MY!!) helpful little lectures! And, they are far more likely to ask for your advice if they think you will give it without expecting them to take it!
Challenging Pre Teens
Find things that will challenge your Tween. Part of teenage development is searching for identity and figuring out what they can do, and what they enjoy. Succeeding at a difficult task or activity will have a major impact on their self esteem. Particularly for kids that are just cruising at school. You may be surprised at how strong they are, or what cognitive and creative skills they have.
Your pre adolescent will love being the family expert on fixing the DVD player or other technological devices. How about getting them to write instructions for the rest of the family to be able to use the damn thing – now that would be helpful!
Look around the house and see what needs improvement – maybe the garage is a mess and they could design a storage system (and hopefully clean it up at the same time!) Perhaps now the family is getting older maybe the living room doesn’t function so well to meet the needs of different ages, give them the responsibility for re- arranging the furniture or fixing shelves or screens.
I have a thirteen year old that helps me in the garden. He is far stronger than myself or my husband, and is keen to earn money. He is learning about different plants and planning in the garden, and I get to have someone take care of tasks that were getting on top of me. I am even letting go control and putting him in charge of re-organizing the paths round the vege garden. (it wasn’t easy!!)
What’s Going On In Their Head?
Find out what your Tween thinks, ask their opinion about important issues, either in the family or in society. Try to listen to their music and talk about it, check out the latest fashions (without being critical!). By listening and respecting their answers you are teaching them to articulate what they think is important and to test out their beliefs and ideas. Encourage their friends around and include them in conversations. Listening to your pre-teen’s friends will often tell you a lot about your own child!
Another one of those lessons from my pre-teen daughter! I was very concerned about the impact heavy metal or hard rock music was having on young teenagers and was constantly critical whenever I heard them playing it. My daughter yelled at me one day (I think it was a Pearl Jam song) “have you even listened to the words?” That stopped me in my tracks. No I hadn’t!
In my insistence on surrounding myself with only positive stuff, I had developed a belief that all heavy music was negative! And to make matters worse I was creating a negative story with my kids. I started listening to it with them (just a little quieter please!) and now my kids regularly send me music and we often discuss bands. My daughter even took me to a gig in Sydney when I visited her. (So you see, they do want to be seen in public with you again!)
Yes, there will be times when you need to step in and provide consequences for pre teens behaviour that is not acceptable to you. However, you will get far more compliance from your pre adolescent if you enlist their input in developing the rules, AND the consequences. If it is always a one way street, where you are imposing your values and rules on them, then you will also be using a lot of energy in forcing compliance. Be prepared to have some flexibility so they can develop their own self monitoring abilities.
NEVER, EVER, EVER criticise or discipline your Pre Teen in front of their friends. That would have to be one of the MOST humiliating and damaging thing you could do at this age. I promise you whatever you were hoping to instill with your discipline it will totally backfire if you do not show you respect them in front of their peers. I see so many parents negatively comparing their children to the visitor child – who of course is on their best behaviour! What are you doing?? What on earth will that achieve that is good?
The second No No, is sadly parents seem to gather together and play the game, Teenage horror stories. (just like the Terrible Twos!) I do think parents of pre-teens and teenagers (well, any age come to that!) need support from other parents. But building a big list of terrible teenager stories really is not that helpful. The media does enough of that!
And even worse, venting to the parents of your child’s friends when your children may well be in ear shot!You do need space to vent your frustration, but find people who let you have a moan (away from the flapping ears of your children!) and then help you to focus on what is lovely and wonderful about your child. Or help you to come up with different ways to handle the conflicts more productively.