Parenting tweens can be a real rollercoaster for parents. This is a time when kids start to push boundaries and test their limits as they try to ‘fit in’ with their peers. The preteen years also bring body changes and emotional ups and downs thanks to hormonal fluctuations, which can be both confusing and embarrassing for children. While tweens want to become more independent, they still need guidance and support from their parents, which often results in unwanted power struggles and emotional outbursts.
If you want to know how to avoid power struggles while parenting tweens, these tips and ideas will help!
How to Avoid Power Struggles While Parenting Tweens
1. SET AND ENFORCE CLEAR HOUSE RULES
If you want to create a positive home environment, developing and enforcing a set of ‘house rules’ can make a world of difference. While it’s normal for tweens to try and push limits and boundaries, taking the time to outline which behaviors you will and will not accept will ensure your household runs smoothly, allowing you and your children to enjoy your time together instead of engaging in unnecessary power struggles.
2. BE CONSISTENT AND ALWAYS FOLLOW THROUGH
As parents, we often hear about the importance of being consistent and following through with consequences, but it can be so difficult to do in the heat of the moment – especially when it comes to parenting tweens! Just remember that if you don’t follow through, your child won’t take you seriously, learn accountability, or figure out the difference between right and wrong. So dig your heels in and stand your ground no matter how hard it feels.
3. USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
When it comes to parenting tweens, reinforcement is a fabulous technique to use to encourage the behaviors you want to see in your child. Research suggests that positive reinforcement – the act of rewarding a child when he or she completes a desired behavior as a means of increasing the likelihood he or she will repeat the behavior again – is the most effective. Many parents use sticker charts as a means to positively reinforce behaviors in younger kids, but if you’re parenting tweens, you need something a little more age appropriate. Positive reinforcement for tweens could be as simple as offering a hug, allowing more screen time, granting additional car privileges, increasing their curfew, etc.
4. USE NATURAL AND LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES
Another simple way to avoid power struggles while parenting tweens is to use consequences instead of punishment as a way to influence your child’s behavior.
Punishment is aimed at making a child suffer in retaliation for inappropriate behavior.
Consequences offer an opportunity for children to learn from their mistakes.
While this may sound easy in theory, many parents don’t use consequences properly – they don’t implement them soon enough, the consequence doesn’t match up to the behavior, or the parent uses the consequence as a way to shame the child.
If you want to know how to use consequences effectively while parenting tweens, natural and logical consequences are the way to go.
Natural consequences are those that occur inevitably as a result of a child’s behaviors or actions (i.e. if a child refuses to eat, she’ll feel hungry).
Logical consequences are designed to help children replace poor behaviors with more appropriate ones (i.e. if a child fails a test, he or she is required to spend more time studying).
Natural consequences tend to be more effective, but since they don’t always occur as a result of poor behaviors, logical consequences are an excellent positive parenting technique to use to avoid power struggles. If you’d like more information on how to use logical consequences while parenting tweens, THIS POST has lots of great tips and ideas.
5. GIVE CHOICES – NOT ORDERS
One of the best things you can do to prevent power struggles with your tween is to offer them choices. This can require a bit of thought, but once you get used to doing it, it is much easier to think on your feet. Instead of telling your child to do something, which gives them something to fight against, offer them 2 choices which both lead to the same outcome. For example, if you want your child to eat vegetables, ask, ‘would you like peas or carrots with your dinner?’ When a child is craving autonomy, they welcome the chance to make a choice instead of follow an order.
6. EMPOWER INSTEAD OF OVERPOWER
One of the hardest parts about parenting tweens is learning how to let go and allow them to do things on their own. After years of doing everything for them, it can be really hard to sit back and allow them to make mistakes. But what we fail to realize is that when we empower our kids, we’re actually showing them that we trust them and value them as a contributing part of the family, which can actually strengthen our relationship with them. Assign your tween age-appropriate chores, encourage them to take risks, and allow them to make mistakes and troubleshoot along the way.
As your child gets older, it can become harder to get them to open up and confide in you when something is bothering them, which can lead to unexpected outbursts (and power struggles). This is the age where they start valuing their privacy, closing their bedroom door, and turning to their friends for advice, which can be difficult for parents. Try not to take this change personally, remind yourself that it’s a positive sign your child is developing his or her independence, and find other ways to connect with your child so you can lend a listening ear. Enjoy meals together as a family, show an interest in the things that bring your child joy, find ways to spend quality time together, and just LISTEN to what they have to say. When you are approachable and refrain from overreacting and offering your own opinions, you increase the likelihood your tween will feel comfortable coming to you in times of need.
8. REPLACE DEMAND WORDS WITH REQUESTS
Language is another important yet often overlooked strategy that can help make parenting tweens a little easier. The use of ‘demand’ words such as now, need, must, can’t, won’t, etc. can backfire during the tween and teen years they imply you are making non-negotiable demands of your child. A much better strategy is to make requests using the following language:
Do you mind…
Would it be okay with you if…
How do you feel about…
What you are finished X, could you please Y…
9. BE FLEXIBLE AND LEARN TO COMPROMISE
I’m a big believer in the importance of being consistent and following through when it comes to rules and consequences, but I’m quickly learning that avoiding power struggles while parenting tweens requires flexibility and compromise. While it’s (mostly) realistic to expect our kids to do exactly what we’ve asked when we’ve asked them to do it when they are younger, we need to recognize that tweens and teens have their own agendas. Instead of nagging them and engaging in a power struggle, have a conversation instead. If you’ve asked your son to take out the garbage and he’s refusing to get off his electronics, resist the urge to get upset and ask why he’s giving you a hard time. Maybe he’s playing a video game and has reached a level he’s never reached before and just wants another 10-20 minutes to finish his game. Being flexible in this situation shows your son respect, and the garbage still gets taken out within a reasonable time.
Of course, there will be times when your child needs to be flexible and accommodate your needs. Instead of nagging and raising your voice, explain why. In the example above, the urgency may be because it’s garbage day, you forgot to put the garbage bins out, and you’re about to hop on an important work call. Offering this information to your child will provide greater insight into the urgency behind your request, and you might compromise that he take the garbage out within 10 minutes.
10. PICK YOUR BATTLES
If you want to know how to avoid power struggles while parenting tweens, you really do need to pick and choose your battles. While there will definitely be times when you need to put your foot down and assert your authority, learn to let go of the smaller stuff that’s not worth arguing over.
11. PRIORITIZE 1:1 TIME
The tween years are a time when kids start to test their limits, value their privacy, and lean on their friends more. You may notice your child spending more time in their bedroom with the door closed, but don’t mistake that to mean they no longer need to connect with you. While your time together may look different, it’s important that you continue to find ways to spend quality time together. One-on-one time can be as simple as playing card games, going for a walk around your neighborhood, cooking a meal, or watching your favorite TV show together. There are no time limits, and the only real ‘rule’ you should have is that you give your child 100% of yourself in the time you spend together. Turn off all distractions – including your phone – and really live in the moment so your child feels important and has an opportunity to open up to you about anything that may be bothering him or her.
12. REMAIN CALM
When your teen is acting out and you feel your blood pressure rising, take a deep breath, gain control of your emotions, and take inventory of where you are in that moment. Set a good example by refusing to let your child’s behavior upset you, and remember that his or her actions aren’t a reflection on you as a parent, but rather a normal part of the tween years. Knowing this can help you to pull back, regain your composure, and be proactive instead of reactive.
While the preteen years can be confusing and difficult for parents and kids alike, I hope the tips and ideas in this post help make parenting tweens a little easier.
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