“It’s Inevitable, Mr. Anderson”
What Agent Smith was really trying to tell Neo in The Matrix, is that as your child creeps up to being a teenager, that teenage attitude comes well before the age. Some days, my ten-year-old is going on sixteen. For my twelve-year-old, the attitude isn’t as frequent and is usually limited to short responses to the conversation at hand. The season of tween attitudes is here!
My ten-year-old, on the other hand, goes from zero to sixty in a heartbeat. For him, it’s about feeling like his actions were validated. If one of the other boys put their hands on him, he has to put his hands on them. I try my best to encourage a hands-off home, but with three boys it’s hard. When the attitude arrives is when I talk to him about his actions, and what other choices there may have been to handle the situation.
Another example is bedtime. Every parent deals with this, and it’s the same song and dance. Why do I have to go to bed? Why can’t I stay up late? My friend Johnny Phillip Bob can stay up later? Why can’t I?
It’s a constant struggle, as all things as a single parent are, and I always strive to improve the way I handle these situations. Here are five ways to get a better handle on tween attitudes!
1. Be the Parent
This can be taken in many ways, but what I mean here is don’t lose sight that you are the parent. If you have a child that needs that explanation to accept an answer, you can easily find yourself sitting down negotiating and trying to back up your decisions. Your decisions don’t need backup. You are the parent, and they are the child. That’s all the reason for the choices you need. Adjust this as you see fit. My ten-year-old often tells his school friends on Fortnite that he has to go to bed. When they ask why he says I don’t know. To him, it doesn’t make sense. Now and then, I expand on my decision that he goes to bed at 9 pm, with the reasoning being that he needs proper sleep and I won’t let him sacrifice it. He still doesn’t accept it, but I never let the conversation get into a zone where my decision turns into a maybe. Stick with your choice. Modify it as you see fit, but don’t modify it because of their behavior. Make sure it makes sense to you.
2. Call a Timeout
You know the threshold of your child. If you believe things are going to blow up in your faces, take a step back and let your child take a few moments to sit and think about the matter. When things get close to that stage at home, I tend to acknowledge that they are too upset to talk about this right now, so what I want them to do is take some alone time in their room to calm down, then we can continue talking. It can be hard to do this, especially if you’re frustrated, out of patience, are trying to cook dinner, have another child needing help with homework, and the laundry needs swapping. Listen, the goal of your conversations with your child should be positive and a chance to turn things into a learning piece. That is what we’re here for – to teach our children, help them grow, mature and turn into responsible adults who won’t turn into Green Bay Packer fans. Well, that’s my goal. A timeout doesn’t only help your child, but it helps you too. I don’t know how many times I re-think things when they are doing the same, and I find another angle to approach the conversation. When I talk to my kids, my goal is understanding, even if they don’t agree.
3. Bring Back Family Time
Family time is hard, let’s not sugar coat it. I get off work at 5:30, then it’s dinner, cleaning up, showers, and before I know it, we’re doing bedtime routines (complete with “tell me about aliens Dad, because that talk will let us stay up later). In all honesty with you guys, I fail here. Family time is rare in our house; a house of four kids and one parent is busy. Having more family time is a commitment I’ve made in 2019, and you can too. How does family time help tween attitudes? I’m glad you asked! In today’s world, life is outside of the home. It’s on the internet, in a phone, on a PlayStation, with friends at school. When we as adults make sacrifices in screen time and replace it with family time, we’re showing our child it’s important. More than that, we get to reaffirm to our child that this place and people – home – is where they can be themselves. They don’t have to pretend to be someone else, like how they are tempted to when they are with friends, or on the internet. They can be themselves, and see that it’s okay and fun to be.
Now, does family time by itself improve these attitudes? No. But make it a habit, and watch connections get stronger, trust is more significant, and attitudes change. All you have to do is start. Us? It began with a game of Uno. I lost. We don’t talk about it.
4. Stay Calm
This should be number one because it is a must if any other tip or strategy is going to be used. If your child sees you blowing up over any and everything, it’s showing them they can too. Then, when the “discussion happens,” it’s an argument right from the start. Staying calm teaches respect. It says “we’re having a bit of a problem here, but my voice and body language are treating you with respect”. Remember, at this age, they are starting to hear about “dating” and liking other people, so the way we treat others is going to be a huge influence; in a good way or bad.
5. Address The Behavior, Not the Child
Finally, if we can understand that it’s the child’s behavior you aren’t happy with, and not the child specifically, you maintain the respect you’re aiming for, and you don’t beat your child down emotionally. It’s similar to when I talk to the kids about wrestling characters. Anytime I would say something like “Man, I can’t stand John Cena,” the kids would ask “Is he a bad person or something,” and I would have to explain the character, acting, etc. Okay, so that may be a horrible reference, but still. Keeping criticism fixed on the behavior will prevent your child from reading too much into what you say. If I were to say “Dang it Andrew, why do you always do this?”, I’m attacking him, not his behavior. Not to mention, that phrase right there is common among people who are emotionally abusive.
Our kids are growing. We can’t stop it, though I miss when there were nap times. What we can do, is teach. We can educate them on how to be the best they can be, and that it takes effort. I tell my twelve-year-old all the time when he tells me about the things he hears in middle school, that his path as a Christian is going to be difficult, but he is not alone. None of our children are alone; we are here.
What are some strategies you use to handle your tween behavior?