Tweens (age 10-12 years)
Today's precocious preteens often shock parents when they begin to act like teenagers. Don't be fooled, they’re still children. They’ll astonish you with their ability to conceptualize, to argue brilliantly, and then to do foolish things.
The Middle School years are a time of magical blossoming, but like all huge transitions in our kids' lives, they’re filled with ups and downs. As with parenting toddlers, parents who don’t accept and constructively negotiate their child's blossoming independence invite rebellion, or even worse, deception.
The biggest danger for tweens is losing the connection to parents while struggling to find their place and connect in their peer world. The biggest danger for parents is trying to parent through power instead of through relationship, thus eroding their bond and losing their influence on their child as she moves into the teen years.
In This Section
Your game plan for the tween years, when your son or daughter isn't quite a teen yet -- but is definitely on the way out of childhood.
Many kids get their first cell phone as they hit the preteen years, because they start to spend more time away from home. That first cell phone needs to come with written rules and responsibilities in the form of a signed contract, so your child learns how to handle it responsibly. If you ask your kids what they think the rules should be, and negotiate until you’re happy, they will “own” those rules. Over the years, my teens have developed these rules for themselves.
The bad news is that your tween’s developing body is flooded by hormones, her need to discover herself and her place in the world takes precedence over the other things she values (like her family and schoolwork), and she probably can’t acknowledge how much she still loves and needs you. The good news is that if you can accept this new situation and adjust your parenting accordingly...
"Because I say so!" stops working with tweens. Your best strategy is a strong relationship, clear limits, and lots of empathy. Here's how.
Every parent's nightmare is that phone call with the news that something has happened to her child. Rest assured that despite the prominent publicity that accompanies tragedies, they are very rare. And even more encouraging, experts say that most abuse cases, abductions, and even accidents involving children can be prevented if parents and children know what to do to avoid them.
Bullying begins in preschool and gains momentum as kids grow. Depending on which survey you read, between 40 and 80 percent of middle schoolers admit to bullying behavior. Not only is Bullying pervasive, it has become increasingly dangerous, so that children are committing suicide or being beaten to death by their bulliers. That's the bad news. The good news is that bullying is preventable, and you can bully-proof your child -- and keep him from becoming a bully.
In this culture, with its emphasis on thinness and junk food consumption, 23% of girls and 6% of boys have eating disorders. Parents have a lot more power than they realize in this area, but it needs to start early. Intervening in adolescence, when kids need to assert their right to control their own bodies, is tricky and less effective. What can you do to prevent your kids from developing eating disorders?
Parents are the most important influence on whether kids drink alcohol, and the earlier you start these conversations, the better. Kids whose parents teach them the risks of using drugs and alcohol are half as likely to use them. Don't wait until your kids are teens before you have these conversations. This is a topic you'll want to revisit over the years as your child reaches new levels of understanding -- and temptation.
The only leverage we ever really have with our children is their love for us. It's never too late to build a great relationship with your child.
Much of the same advice applies that was true when he was a toddler: Reconnect every day, and don't wait when you see that your relationship needs some repair work.
The more frequently tweens eat dinner with their families the better they do in school, the happier they say they are, and the less likely they are to get involved with drugs, alcohol, sex, or vandalism.
Even if you could hover over your child and help him navigate every obstacle, it wouldn't be good for him. The tween years are the critical time for kids to develop their own judgment and learn to draw on their own internal resources.
Ten tips for practicing positive parenting at your house. If you're wondering whether that's a good idea, the short answer is that punishment undermines your relationship with your child, makes kids feel worse about themselves (which makes them act worse) and sabotages your child's development of self-discipline. Isn't your goal to help your child feel good and act better?
How to stay connected with your tween when it's getting more challenging to even get her attention: Becoming a Brilliant Listener, Getting Your Kids to Talk with You, Family Conversations your Tween Will Love, and more.
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Have a question about parenting your preschooler? Questions from readers, with wise and practical solutions from Dr. Laura Markham to the worst problems your preschooler can dish out!