You can expect your preteen to be more demanding, rebellious, and moody. But there are also many positive sides to parenting preteens. They’re curious and learn new things all the time.
Each child is different and your child may not go through all of these changes at the same time, or in the same way as other children their age.
Parenting preteens can be a challenge. As you learn to set boundaries and deal with conflict, you’ll also see new strengths emerge in your relationship with your child.
Many parents find this stage particularly difficult because their preteen’s behavior may be unpredictable. One day they can seem quite grown-up, and the next they seem more like a little kid. This can be frustrating.
To help you parent your preteen, we’ve gathered together expert advice on everything from knowing when your child is ready for independence to dealing with body image issues.
Tips for Parenting Preteens
Parenting a preteen is a time of transition, setting the stage for adolescence. Your 10-, 11- or 12-year-old is moving away from the simple, concrete world of childhood and toward the complex, abstract world of adolescence.
It’s a time when your child develops his own identity and friendships become more important than family.
Set aside special time with your child
Preteens often feel left out by their parents as more attention is given to younger children. Try to set aside time each day to spend with your preteen alone. It doesn’t have to be a long stretch of time — 15 minutes is enough for most children.
Don’t take it personally
Your preteen may act out or lash out at you. Keep in mind that much of this is the result of hormonal changes, not because your child is unhappy with you or wants to hurt you.
Don’t be overly judgmental
Try not to judge your child too harshly or criticize them unnecessarily. Avoid labeling your child as “bad,” “stupid,” “lazy,” “loudmouth,” or other pejorative terms, even if they are acting that way at the moment.
You want your child to know that they are cared for and loved unconditionally.
It’s always changing
It’s important to remember that the transition from childhood to young adulthood isn’t always easy. You might have good days and bad days — even good and bad moments within the same day. Your child is probably feeling a variety of emotions, as well.
It may be difficult for him or her to understand why things are changing so quickly. Try not to take it personally if your child is moody or testy; he or she is simply adjusting to adolescence.
Communication is vital in every family
Communication helps you to stay connected as a family, helps you understand what your child is going through, and helps them develop the skills they need to express themselves effectively.
Effective communication can prevent misunderstandings and help strengthen the bond between you and your child.
Remember that you are role-modeling behavior
Your preteen is watching you closely — not only to learn how she is supposed to behave but also to see if your actions match your words.
If you want her to be honest, kind, respectful, and responsible, then model these behaviors yourself.
Help your child develop her own style
Preteens want to express their individuality by developing personal styles in music, clothing, hairstyles, and other areas.
Your responses to these choices can help shape your child’s sense of self-confidence and self-respect.
If you express disapproval, for example, you may send the message that it’s not okay to be different or unique. Instead, try being supportive and curious about what it means for her to have chosen a particular look or style.
Encourage physical activity
Preteens should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. If your child isn’t very active, start slowly and keep it fun. For example, take a walk together after dinner or sign up for a class that interests him or her.
Help her develop healthy, realistic attitudes about her body
Eating disorders are more common among teens and young adults, but they sometimes start in childhood. Preteens who diet often begin to diet more severely during their teenage years and may be at higher risk for eating disorders.
Help your preteen enjoy a wide variety of foods as part of a balanced diet and keep portion sizes in check.
And take time to talk about how media images can influence body image — both positively and negatively — by affecting the way we see our own bodies.
Talk about love, respect, and values
At this stage, you may find your preteen’s not interested in talking about or her feelings. But if you talk about love and respect — two things kids are passionate about — you may find that your child opens up more than you expected.
It’s the perfect time to teach values
As your child grows older, so do his or her thoughts on life. This is the perfect time to stress values such as honesty and integrity.
Share your own stories of growing up
Preteens often feel that they’re the only ones facing certain challenges — or that their problems are unusual at this age. Remind them that everyone goes through similar struggles and experiences as they grow up.
Prepare them for peer pressure
Preteens are at an age when they begin to worry more about what their friends think than what their parents think. Now is a good time to talk about peer pressure and how to overcome it.
Give plenty of hugs, kisses, and other affectionate gestures.
Be physically affectionate with your preteen in ways that are appropriate for his or her age. Physical affection reassures kids that you care about them and will put up with their less-than-perfect behavior at times.
Show how much you appreciate your preteen by doing things together and making time to listen.
By spending quality time together and listening closely to what preteens have to say, you send a powerful message that they matter to you — even if they sometimes act in ways that drive you crazy.
Make time for fun every day
Preteens aren’t too old to have fun with their parents — they still like playing games, riding bikes, and hanging out together. And taking part in fun activities together will bring you closer together as well.
Talk honestly about drugs and alcohol
Studies show that if parents talk openly with their kids about not using drugs or drinking alcohol, the kids are less likely to use them. So start talking early and often so your child knows where you stand on this subject.
Preteens often act out for attention. They may say or do things they don’t really mean just to get a reaction from you or another adult. When this happens, stay calm and try not to take their words personally.
Try the indirect approach
Your preteen probably isn’t interested in talking with you about his or her feelings or problems. Your best bet may be to “talk around” the situation.
For example, if your child is struggling with friendships at school, you may want to bring up the topic in general terms without focusing on your child’s situation specifically.
If your child brings it up later, you can help him or her brainstorm solutions or other ways of looking at the situation.
Focus on health rather than appearance
As young people go through puberty, they become more self-conscious about their bodies as they develop and change physically. But too much emphasis on appearance can lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and other problems later in life.
Talk about sex and sexuality
When your child goes through puberty, you’ll probably be faced with some intense conversations. Your child will likely have many questions about sex and the changes their body is going through, but they may not know how to ask them or even how to express what they’re feeling.
Teach good learning skills
Your child is going to be expected to do enormous amounts of schoolwork throughout their academic career. They’re going to need good study skills that they’ll use throughout their lives, which means they need to learn those skills from you.
Punish them effectively
Many parents struggle with how to punish children who misbehave. Start by making sure that your punishments are understood; it won’t do much good for your child if they don’t understand what they did wrong or what the punishment is supposed to accomplish.
Is taking away a phone a good punishment?
I think that taking away a phone is not a good punishment. Also when you take away someone’s phone they will get mad at you and will not learn their lesson. It is like they are just not going to do what you want them to do so that they can get their phone back.
Hopefully, the ideas we’ve covered above can help you to forge a meaningful relationship with your preteen, so that you can work together to tackle those difficult teenage years. Remember, these are only suggestions, and you should adjust them based on the needs of your child.
Also remember that every relationship is different, and what works for one family may not work for others. However, these parenting tips for preteens are a great place to start, and they’re sure to bring out your child’s inner genius.