Every stage of parenting comes with challenges. There is no reasoning with your child during the baby phase. They need what they need; they want what they want. You are there to satisfy those needs and wants.
The teenage phase represents that final stage before adulthood. Teenagers are so close to independence that your biggest job will be helping them to make the right choices.
The tween phase brings about a frustrating and trying conundrum. Your child should be past the no-reason tantrum phase but their tween brain, high on hormones, can make them appear like a reasonable adult one moment and a defiant toddler the next. Trying to deal with them can make you feel like you are constantly stepping on eggshells.
To follow are some common mistakes well-meaning parents of tweens make that, if avoided or managed properly, can improve your relationship.
- Embarrassing them
You will embarrass them but try to avoid it. I swore when I was embarrassed as a kid that I’d never be that mom, but I have been and I see what it does. The reality is that it will be impossible to completely avoid embarrassing them but what we do suggest is that you reconsider some of the potentially embarrassing choices you might make.
There was a mom at my son’s school bus stop whose tween stopped wanting a hug and kiss goodbye at the bus every morning. Fair enough, but she didn’t like it. So she threatened to do jumping jacks as the school bus drove away if she didn’t get her hug and a kiss. She forced her son to pick between the lesser of two embarrassing things. The poor kid couldn’t win.
She made a choice that caused her son embarrassment. There is no possible way this did anything positive for the relationship between them. I’m recommending that, as parents, we reconsider those choices.
- Being overly protective
There comes a time when you will need to trust that your child can handle certain situations without you. Sure the world can be a scary and dangerous place but your tween has been listening and learning from you for the better part of a decade.
Let them do certain things without you. Work up to specific goals you and your tween both feel comfortable with. At the same time, make sure you establish reasonable boundaries and rules that set your tween up for success. The mutual freedom will benefit both of you.
- Assuming you know what they need
You may think you know your tween better than anyone else, but he or she is changing. It’s going to take some time and effort to get to know this new version of your child.
What your tween needed as a child in certain situations differs now that they are on the brink of teenagerhood. Don’t immediately judge and try to save the day. Tweens aren’t looking for a hero. Oftentimes they just want to be heard.
It’s as important to listen to what they aren’t telling you as it is to what they are telling you. Sometimes the avoided topics are the ones causing the biggest problems.
- Over-explaining/over-rationalizing everything
Your tween will often act like (and you’ll feel like he or she is) the boss. There are times when you should explain the rationale behind your decisions because that’s how children learn, but there are also times when you shouldn’t. Sometimes you are just right because you are the parent. Enough said.
You don’t need to explain why it makes sense to wear boots in the winter or why they can’t spend 12 hours a day on electronics. Your tween already knows why certain things make sense even if they don’t agree with it. Sometimes laying down the law recalibrates things and reminds everyone what the hierarchy is. If you explain and rationalize everything, then this will just be come the very tiring ‘normal’ and your tween will take advantage of it when they can.
You aren’t part of the debate team, and you don’t want to set yourself up this way. Your tween still needs to be parented.
- Punishing them for your failures
By the time your child becomes a tween, they know what activities they like. We parents have a tendency to over schedule our young children but by the time they get a little older, we know what sticks and so do they. Let the other stuff go.
They might not have a future in hockey, piano or art like you hoped they would but your tween will have a different passion. He or she may or may not be good at it but it will be their thing. As long as it’s a healthy thing, it’s your job to help them nourish it.
- Never babying them
This is an important one. Your tween still needs you. A lot. But it’s so hard for them to admit it at times. They so desperately want to be independent but it can be tough, and tiring, and scary.
Your strong-willed, eye-rolling, non-talkative tween might still want to cuddle at bedtime, put their head in your lap during a movie, or cry on your shoulder. Let them do that. Baby them when they need it. In fact, encourage it. (But be healthy about that part!)
Helping them navigate the tween years means helping them become their own person gradually. While they might act very grown up at times, they aren’t there yet and sometimes they just want/need to be babied. It’s a confusing time for everyone but ensuring your tween feels safe as they try to figure it out is paramount.