How do you handle it when your tween starts acting in a way you don’t appreciate? It can be difficult to stay calm when your she can’t do something as simple as put her dirty clothes in the laundry basket. You may remember how excited she used to be to help when she was younger, and now she acts like she can’t even pick up her own clothes. How do they forget their homework all the time? And what’s up with that backtalk?
It just means you have a preteen on your hands. Trust me, you are not alone. So many parents struggle with this transitional period in their children’s lives. It can be very stressful, especially when you don’t know how to respond to potential bad behavior.
When kids reach middle school age, their attitudes begin to change. You may begin noticing a lot of sighs, eye rolling, overreacting, complaining, and challenging your authority when you ask them to do something. They’re also very moody so you never really know what to expect. One minute she may be happy and ready to help with anything and a few minutes later, she’s upset and crying. This is normal for most children, as frustrating as it may be.
While this type of behavior and the crazy mood swings can be very exasperating for parents, the way you handle it is crucial to the growth and development of your child. You may feel like nagging or yelling are the only ways you’ll be heard, but these usual ways of grasping our kids’ attention may not the best answer when dealing with tween behavior. In fact, most children of any age will shut down and completely tune you out when you start raising your voice. So, what can you do to help change tween behavior?
Try a little humor.
Using humor to help redirect tween behavior has many benefits. Your kids may open up more and are usually more willing to listen to you. Hopefully, this will also lead to them doing what you say. Kids can process what you’re saying easier when you use humor, but they shut down when you yell. Feelings get hurt followed by anger and sadness for everyone. However, when you use humor, everyone’s more calm, relaxed, and open to reason.
Here are a few examples of how to adjust tween behavior with humor:
Act like you’re on TV or create a fantasy world. For example, if she hasn’t cleaned her room, go in there with a fake microphone and pretend you’re a tour guide showing a group of tourists her room. Say things like, “Over here we have the pile of dirty laundry, and over in the corner is the famous cluttered up desk.” She will get the point and it’s a great way to let her know the room needs cleaning without nagging.
Exaggerate the situation. You ask your child to take out the trash, and she immediately starts whining and complaining about how nasty it is, what do you do? Pretend it smells so bad it knocks you over or say something like, “The trash is so nasty No One can take it out. Oh no, we’re doomed to live with it forever!” Kids will usually find your little dramatization funny and go ahead and do the chore while laughing and shaking their head at you.
When your tween is sulking or gets upset over something minor or silly, try a little game. Say something like, “Let’s see how long you can go without smiling?” Or, start making funny faces at her to try and make her smile. At first, she may act even more upset and say it’s not funny, but when you add “Go ahead and smile, you know you want to.” It’ll be hard for her not to laugh a little. Once she has started smiling and her mood is calmed from it, offer to listen to what is bothering her.
Having trouble getting your tween to do her chores? Put little sticky notes around the house reminding her of her responsibilities. Draw funny pictures or write something funny on the notes to get her mind off the fact that you’re asking her to do a chore. In many cases, she’ll be so busy smiling inside at how silly her parents are that she will do the chore without really thinking about it.
Kids need to express their feelings and they often do so in ways that are very annoying to parents. Therefore, you need to find ways to connect and communicate with your child that helps to lighten the mood a little, and humor can often be the helpful answer. If you get angry every time your tween rolls her eyes, whispers under her breath or sulks a little, you’re going to waste a lot of precious energy and time being upset.
Humor works better when done correctly, but please be careful when using it to help change your tween’s attitude. Don’t say or do anything that could hurt your child’s feelings. For example, don’t make fun of your child, laugh at her, or make jokes that make light of her situation. Remember what it was like to be a tween? It’s not easy. Much grace and patience are required to navigate these tender years.
Do you use humor in your parenting? How have your tweens responded?