Getting Along with Your Preteen
Discipline techniques change a bit when kids hit the preteen and teenage years. As children grow older, it's a parent's job to give them the freedom to make their own choices (with guidance) and practice self-discipline. Kids will test the limits during the preteen years. How a parent responds can make or break household conflict. Encouraging your child to take responsibility for her choices and her behavior will be important. Use the following tips when working with your preteen:
Show respect. The preteen/teen will try to push a parent's buttons by acting in disrespectful ways which may involve backtalk or disrespectful mannerisms. At this point, it's very important that you continue to stay calm and show your child respect...even if he is not respecting you. You can calmly let him know that you will be happy to continue a conversation when he is willing to speak respectfully. When he realizes that he is not pushing your buttons, the disrespectful behavior may stop. In addition, earn your
child's respect on a daily basis by giving him some control over decisions, being a good listener, and role modeling respectful behavior.
Don't get into yelling matches Just that! Yelling matches are not productive. In addition, you will demonstrate negative, disrespectful behavior to your child. Stay calm and revisit the issue when you are able to communicate in a calm manner.
Keep the lines of communication open. Be available and willing to talk with your child. Let her know that you are there when she is ready to talk. Make observations about her behavior and encourage her to talk with a close, responsible adult if she doesn't feel like talking to you (for instance, "You look like you have something on your mind...do you want to talk about it?"). Even if your child doesn't open up to you, let her know that you are there to listen!
Set up clear guidelines and behavior expectations as well as clear consequences. Your child needs to understand your expectations. This is where a behavior chart can come in handy. For example, if your preteen consistently backtalks, then you can set up a behavior chart that targets disrespectful talk and reward him when he makes an effort to stop. In addition, if he doesn't stop, you can set up some clear consequences. Instead of telling your child in generic terms that he is "behaving badly and needs to improve", lay out each behavior specifically that you would like him to work on.
Finally, make your limits clear. Certain behaviors are nonnegotiable and let your child know that. You may not like him to be at the mall unsupervised or out alone on a date. Be clear and consistent with your limits, too, so there are no misunderstandings. Check out some of our articles on specific behavior issues such as backtalk and lying. Also, we have a great article entitled How Kids Control You With Behavior. In addition you may want to review our article on How To Use Behavior charts. Charts can also be effective for motivating your child to do chores. Set up a chore chart and tell him exactly what is expected. Arrange some rewards such as extra screen time, a sleepover with a friend, a special dinner, etc.
Praise your child when she is behaving well. Don't forget to let your child know when she is doing a great job! Kids respond wonderfully to praise, as we all do. And, parents have a habit of getting so caught up in negative behaviors that they forget the basic concept of praise. Kids will often try to repeat positive behaviors when they are rewarded with praise. Check out our page on 75 Ways To Say Good Job.
Play around with these ideas. Try one thing each day. Please note, the side effects include a happier, healthier child and a closer relationship with you.
Use teachable moments as much as you can. Use teachable moments with your preteen. When watching a movie or t.v. show, open up discussion about an issue that you see in the media or use an example from your own preteen years to share with your child. Remember, you're getting your child ready for independence...help her learn to make good choices by using real life examples!
Avoid negative criticism. Don't criticize. Preteens and teens are especially sensitive and are developing their self concept. They tend to be critical of themselves as it is, and they do not need a parent throwing critical remarks at them. Be accepting, loving, and supportive of your child.
Give your child choices and opportunities to take responsibility for his actions. Give your child some control and choice. Again, he is working toward independence and needs the chance to make some of his own decisions. For instance, with chores you can give him the choice of when to do chores. You might say, "Get the garbage out before bed". And, don't remind him...let your child make the choice when he will take the garbage out. If he doesn't get to it, then he won't be rewarded...plain and simple. Or, give your preteen the freedom to go to the mall with friends on the condition that he checks in with you via phone every hour. Let him know that if he doesn't check in, he won't be able to have the freedom to go with his friends next time.
Preteen and teen years can be tough. But, if you follow these guidelines and avoid power struggles, you can get through your child's preteen years smoothly!
by Joanne McNulty, Free Printable Behavior Charts