When your little one was fussy, cranky and having a tantrum, that used to be a cue that she just needed to have a nap.
But what if your kid is no longer a toddler and is actually reaching puberty soon?
No amount of breastmilk, pacifiers or naps is going to help calm her down or get her to stop talking so rudely to you.
You understand that hormones are playing a part in this poor behaviour, but you are also worried that if you don’t nip this sassiness in the bud, it may stick for life and your tween will grow up to become a rebel without a cause.
So what should you do to curb the backchat and make sure that your tween doesn’t turn into a wild child?
What is a tween?
If you have a child who is around 9 – 12 years of age, then they are considered a “tween“, as they are still between childhood and the teenage years.
Other terms for tweens include preteens, middle schoolers, tweenies, pre-adolescents, and tweenagers.
As for their cognitive development, tweens have entered the period of “concrete operations“, where they are developing their capability of organising their thought processes as well as deductive reasoning so they can anticipate consequences and outcomes.
Tweens are in between chilhood and adolescence.
Preparing for puberty
Puberty is another milestone in your child’s life as they transition from childhood into adolescence.
Changes will occur at different times from person to person, but generally, all tweens will go through similar developments which include:
- Growth spurts
- Body odour
- More irritable or grouchy
- Mood swings
- Friendships become more important
- Less respect toward parents at times
- Introduction of peer pressure
- Increase of testosterone (in boys)
- Increase of estrogen (in girls)
- Breast development (in girls)
- Interest in the opposite sex increases
- Personality traits become more defined
- Rebellious behaviour
Tween boys tend to become more withdrawn than tween girls who will be sassier.
As puberty approaches, boys and girls will not only go through their own physical changes, but their attitudes will also be quite different from one another.
Due to testosterone surges, the sense of fear will be disinhibited, which makes them more susceptible to risky behaviors and prone to anger.
Boys also do not auditory-process as well as girls, so even though they can hear almost as well, they jusy don’t interpret the meaning of the spoken word as efficiently, unless other sensory modalities are engaged (such as making eye contact and touching them while you speak).
Girls will usually enter the tween years about two years before boys do, and their hormonal changes may cause mood swings.
As she becomes more aware of herself and the world around her, she may become self-conscious about her appearance.
Tween girls can also be over-dramatic, self-centred, heavily focused on their friends, sassy and even condescending to their parents.
Common behavioural problems
Whether you have an angsty tween girl or a sullen tween boy on your hands, the top problems regardless of gender may include:
- Not listening to parents
- Answering back
- Keeping secrets
- Telling lies
But don’t take their defiance as a personal attack against you, as tweens are their attitudes are more of a general statement against all authority.
As much as you want to yell at your rude tween, just bear in mind that it’s your duty as a parent to teach your kids how to behave more respectfully and how to function in the real world on their own as adults in future.
The legal smoking age in Singapore is 18 years.
Picking up bad habits
An important way for tweens to learn more about themselves and try new things is to be a risk-taker, which may include:
- Trying dangerous stunts (such as parkour)
- Skipping class
- Picking up smoking
- Illegal drug-taking
- Underage drinking
- Underage sexual activities (including sexting)
You can help your tween to channel his desire to take risks into extracurricular activities instead, or joining in community activities such as sports, music or drama, as research shows that this is an effective way for him to avoid bad habits.
Image source: iStock
Understanding your tween
Before you can start to understand your tween, you have to remember that she is no longer a small child so you will have to cut her a bit more slack, yet still be there to guide her through all these changes in her life.
Focus on the positive
Although tweens may be known to engage in risky behaviour, it is important that you don’t jump to conclusions and accuse her of something she hasn’t done, as this could actually drive her to really do it!
Give a bit of freedom
Tweens are beginning to discover who they are, so give her the freedom to make some age-appropriate decisions of her own, such as choosing her own haircut, or style of clothes – she may even learn from the consequences of her choices (like how wearing a pair of shorts and a cropped top is not exactly suitable for the ice-skating rink).
Know when to step in
Your tween may think she’s all grown up now, but she still has a long way to go so you still need to make sure that she’s not getting herself into trouble or participating in any activities which could be harmful to her health.
Set reasonable rules
Tweens need clear structure and rules to live by, so it’s up to you to set your family’s core values and make it clear to everyone – too little rules may be just as bad as too many rules – so try to find the right balance which works for you and your tween.
Spend quality time together
A great way to get to know your tween and help shape her emerging character is to make some time for her in your busy schedule, as this not only improves your relationship, but you’re also teaching her some crucial interpersonal skills.
Be a good role model
It’s tough to preach about the harmful effects of smoking if your tween sees you go through a pack of cigarettes a day, so you should not only talk the talk but also walk the walk and lead by example so that your tween has someone to look up to.
It may not be easy to parent a tween with surging hormones, but always remember that your son or daughter still needs your love, guidance and support, because no matter how old they are, they will forever be your child.
Do you have a sassy or sullen tween who’s a little hard to handle? What are the challenges that you have faced so far? Share your comments with us below.