It feels impossible, but it’s always inevitable: your sweet young child turns into a bratty tween overnight, and you’ve just about had it up to here with the attitude. Why would your kid suddenly have a temper, talk back, making biting comments, struggle with you about every little thing and close off communications?
For the most part, because that’s what kids do at that age. Obviously there will be levels - if your child is completely and totally locked up, unavailable, violently disruptive or showing a complete lack of self-control, there may be more serious issues at play. But for the most part, most difficult teen behavior is going to come from regular hormonal moodiness.
At this age, your children are going through a variety of physical and mental changes, and they’re simultaneously trying to understand their identity separate from you and in relation to their peers, and learn about the world around them. It’s a confusing time for them, and you’re going to face some of the side effects of growing up in the form of fights and parent-child struggles. Here are some tips on facing the tween blues and addressing rude behavior.
Don’t bend easily on rules
The best parenting method is authoritative parenting, where you set clear and firm rules without sacrificing empathy and care. You don’t have to be a demon about rules, but you must have clear boundaries and guidelines that your child can understand and expect to follow in order to maintain a level of respect and good behavior. Don’t teach your child to lie to you by being absolutely unbearably unyielding about every little thing - even your child will recognize it’s unfair, and decide further that all your rules must be unfair.
But setting firm boundaries on reasonable things - like what time your child can come home, how independently your child can make plans, what they can and can’t do on social media, how they can talk to you at home and in public - are necessary for maintaining respectful boundaries and behavior.
Be their parent, not their friend
One line that most parents find it difficult to straddle is the one between parent and friend. You want to have a close relationship with your child, and you may even be thinking ahead to the future when they’re all grown up and get to make their own online deals.
You want your child to be close to you and cherish your relationship, which means it may be difficult to be the bad guy sometimes - but it’s important that your child continues to see you as an authority figure, not as a friend. This is because while children can love and appreciate their friends, they don’t necessarily obey their friends or follow rules set by their friends.
Don’t be afraid to enforce rules when necessary. You don’t have to be mean about it - showing kindness and empathy is never a bad thing - but you can’t be talked out of something because your child is upset. Don’t be a friend to her - be a parent.
Give plenty of space
Teens are looking to figure out who they are. That means they need personal space, more than they did before. It may feel like your tween is repeatedly ditching you, suddenly doesn’t care about you and is dangerously detached from the family. Chances are, she’s just looking for a bit of space and privacy to process what she’s going through. She doesn’t want to share absolutely everything with you, and in some cases she just needs time and space to process before she will share with you.
In addition, giving tweens space allows them to cool off after a bad argument. You don’t always need to talk to your child immediately. While a five-year old may be in tears at the end of a five-minute time out, your tween will probably want a couple hours to herself before she wants to talk to you again. The older she gets, the longer that period may be. Your child’s tween years can feel like an exhausting, demoralizing time. Kids can be selfish in their quest to grow up, and for parents, that can mean a lot of heartache. But that comes with the territory. With patience, love and a firm hand, your child will outgrow her rude behavior. You just need time.