Parenting: Talk about tweens

“The switch over from having a child who adores you to a pre-teen who wants nothing to do with you can feel sudden."

If your tween is already rolling her eyes at you and treating you as if you’re so, like, not cool, you might want to pull a few time-tested tricks out of your fanny pack. (“So not cool, Mom!”)

“The switch over from having a child who adores you to a pre-teen who wants nothing to do with you can feel sudden,” says Jennifer Kolari, child psychologist and author of Connected Parenting. “All of a sudden it seems they’re arguing with you, slamming doors all the time and getting into a negative cycle.”

At Taking an Educated Approach to Learning, a recent conference hosted by KMT (The Learning Group) in Toronto, Jennifer explained how parents might start to notice this behaviour when their child turns nine or 10.

First, their hormones are changing as they begin to turn from kids into adults. Then there are the lessons they’re getting from the media. “You can’t find a show on TV that has adults who aren’t morons,” says Jennifer. “Parents are easily tricked and kids solve the problems. Sometimes there is a strange absence of adults, even in kids’ shows. We see kids talking to adults in horrible ways and there is a sense that adults are there to serve them.”

We start to assume it’s normal preteen behaviour when a child acts out or treats us with disrespect, but it doesn’t have to be, says Jennifer. With some patience and a concerted effort, you can stay connected with your tween through these tender years.

Tips for tween bonding

Be the person your tween wants to be with. They don’t want to be with a nag. They want to be with someone who listens and who comforts them.

Remind them of their baby years. Look through photo albums and reminisce about when they were a baby – even for just a few minutes every so often. It will help draw your kids back to you. Then, when you have to correct their behaviour, they will know it comes from a place of love.

Make a date with your kids. Parents tend to place an emphasis on ensuring their kids have a wide social circle, but there is nothing wrong with making sure you’re part of that circle. It’s how you stay close to them. If you’re always farming them out to neighbours or play dates, it may come at a cost. You want your kids to orient themselves around you, not their friends.

Ditch the tantrums. When you get upset, it’s easy to yell and say things you don’t mean. Try to be the parent you want to be – this means being neutral and respectful when you’re correcting their behaviour. You want your tween to go away reflecting on how they behaved, not how you behaved.

Give your kids a job. Everyone needs a sense of purpose and responsibility in the family. Talk to them about becoming adults and ask them to watch their sibling or be in charge of taking out the garbage once a week.

Talk to your kids. Remind them you are there if they want to discuss things they are seeing in the media or around them.

Put them to bed. When kids get older they don’t need you to tuck them in, yet bedtime is one of the best times to talk to your kids. Pop in on them once in a while to say good night and ask them about their day.

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