How to Discipline Your Preteen — Yes, It is Possible!
“If you don’t get that homework finished, you might as well forget about playing video games later.”
To your surprise, the ‘magic’ formula of using consequences to discipline your child, the one that you’ve employed for years, suddenly doesn’t work on your 10 year-old son any more. All you receive in response to your warning is a rude reply.
You raise your voice. He reacts with more disrespect.
You yell. He yells back.
You yell louder. He makes a dramatic and noisy exit.
Well, congratulations! You’ve proven that you’re voice is more powerful than his!
And the homework remains undone…
What exactly went wrong?
Of course, you didn’t set out for this to spiral so out of control when you warned of the consequences of his failure to do his homework. You didn’t even raise your voice when you said it. So, what changed then? It wasn’t your approach, that’s for sure.
What changed is that your child is getting older, slowly transitioning from a young child to a teenager – the preteen years.
It’s time to change your approach as well!
You might have serious doubts, but it is possible to discipline your preteen. How?
Proper discipline means that you teach and guide your child to become a responsible and self-disciplined adult. That requires a strong relationship between you and them. This relationship should be established when they are young, leading them to not wanting to disappoint you, even when they enter the transition to the teenage years.
What can you do if you’ve neglected building this strong relationship?
Don’t panic. It’s not too late. There are still things you can do. You just need to stick to the steps – kindly but firmly.
- Have one-on-one time. – Get to know your child and their passions. Make sure you spend time alone with your child every day, mostly just listening. Give feedback only to what they said without making any judgments.
- Show them respect and dignity. – Model the behavior that you want them to show. You want them to be respectful to you, be respectful to them. They deserve being treated with dignity, just like you do. So, stop yelling and start using a respectful tone.
- Involve them in making rules. – Discuss and make an agreement on family rules that are not negotiable. It’s important to allow them some say in setting rules, but keep the number of rules reasonable. Communicating with your child on this and listening to their point of view helps build their self-esteem.
- Praise them for their efforts. – Show that you’re proud of their accomplishments by praising them for cooperating with you and making good decisions. If you must give criticism, don’t use sarcasm or blame, and focus on the behavior, not criticizing your child.
- Teach them to reason and reflect. – Reasoning on possible effects of their actions before they take them helps your child to develop self-discipline. Use well thought-out questions that help them to think about the matter objectively. Reflecting on actions after they’ve taken them can contribute to good judgment as well when you lead your child to consider what they might do differently next time.
- Let them experience natural consequences. – Don’t rescue them when they make a bad choice. You can give them a reminder, but if they fail to turn in that homework assignment or the permission slip for an outing, they will just have to deal with the consequences of their own actions.
- Encourage them to make amends. – Learning that they can take actions to make things better when they make a mistake is a powerful lesson. Teach your child that they can repair some of the damage they’ve done (like an apology) and compensate for possible loss (like paying for something they broke).