“Helping Your Tween With Their Attitude”
by Heidi Mills
There really is nothing like the in-between years, or the “tween” years. It’s that funny stage of leaving childhood but not yet being ready for the responsibility of adulthood. It’s that stage where a child is trying to find their identity and independence and they are also feeling the effects of the changes that puberty brings.
It’s very common for kids in this stage to have bad attitudes or to respond to adults or siblings with rudeness, or even anger. So how can you help your tween choose a good attitude? It can be challenging for sure, but here are a few things to consider…
1) More Is Caught Than Taught
We, as parents, have to choose a good attitude ourselves if we are going to expect that from our kids. Ouch! We have to model the way we want them to behave. If this doesn’t bring every parent to their knees, I don’t know what will! If you don’t want your child to be sarcastic, don’t be sarcastic with them. If you want your child to answer you with honor and respect, you need to give your child honor and respect. It’s a two-way street, and the bulk of the responsibility lies on our shoulders as the grown ups.
2) Praise The Behavior You Want To See
Spend more time highlighting the behavior you want to see than you do correcting bad behavior. Chances are, if your child is being praised for good responses and good attitudes often, you will see MORE of that. Likewise, if you are constantly pointing out their flaws, (we’ve all done that from time to time) you will continue to see more of the negative behavior. If it’s difficult for you to focus on the good, one little trick you could use is to set a timer on your phone. Remind yourself on an hourly basis (or at least a few times a day) to encourage your child. Every time that alarm goes off and you see the reminder “encourage” give your child an encouraging word. Before you know it, you’ll be a natural. I had to do this with myself because being an encourager is not natural to me. The timer has helped me to encourage the good behavior more often.
3) When Correcting, Sandwich With Encouragement
When you do have to bring correction to your tween, make the effort to sandwich it with positive encouragement. Instead of saying, ‘”You forgot to ____ again!” You could say, “Honey, I love you so much and I’m so proud of you. When you forget to ____ it drives me nuts! Please stop. But remember that I love you.” Or something like that. For every correction give two affirmations. I have heard this tip all over the place! From pastors, to counselors, to life coaches… you name it, it’s a common thread. This is a tried and true method for communicating without putting the other person on the defensive. It’s not easy to do, it definitely takes more time and effort, but the rewards are worth it.
4) Be Present
At this time of life and throughout the teen years, do everything you can to be there for your kids. Often times they want to talk or open up at a time that doesn’t seem very convenient. Make the time. Stop what you are doing and listen to them. If you absolutely can’t stop what you are doing, look them in the eye and explain how much time you need to finish whatever it is you are working on and make a set time to talk with them. Do not delay for long though! Keep the lines of communication open and be available to them as much as is possible. You will build a relationship with them that is deep, and from that relationship, honor and respect will flow. You cannot expect your child to respect you “just because”. Give them something to respect by being present and engaged with them.
The bottom line is this, being a tween is hard. There are so many thoughts, emotions, and physical changes that happen in that stage of life. I don’t think that gives kids the right to be disrespectful or rude, but we also need to remember that as parents we set the tone of our home and our relationships. I know that for me personally when attitudes have been out of control at my home I can point it back to me being stressed out and that is merely the ripple effect.
Parenting is hard, but no one ever said raising world changers would be easy. Now go give your tween a big hug and a word of encouragement!