At their worst, a tween can be a mix between a tantrum-prone toddler and an opinionated teen. Their mood can swing from one extreme to another. At times, they may be very tight-lipped and other times they back-talk you at every opportunity.
There’s no doubt, parenting a tween can be a daunting and confusing task. And just think, it’s only the gateway to their teenage years.
Of course, your child may not be near the tween years yet, but time doesn’t stop. The tween years are coming! Not to scare you, but it’s better to prepare now than be stunned later.
Preparing to effectively parent a tween isn’t about controlling. It’s about working together, instilling good values and, most of all, building trust.
Building Trust Now for the Coming Tween Years
When their relationship is based on trust, children actually want to do what their parents ask of them. They don’t want to betray that trust nor intentionally hurt those that care about them the most.
To build such a trusting relationship, you will have to start early to ensure your child will keep talking to you once they enter the tween years. Maintaining that connection will be hard work, particularly with strong-willed children. But it’s well worth it.
What are some ways to lay a good foundation for building that trust and keeping connected?
Make your relationship with your child a priority
Children want their parents to love them, believe in them, and value them. Trust isn’t built, it’s undermined, when you constantly send them the message that other things are more important – work, phones, siblings, etc. So, find regular occasions to spend time with your child. You don’t always have to use that time for deep conversations. Just enjoy them, appreciate them, and take pleasure in who they are.
Listen and try seeing things from their point of view
Be willing to adjust your parenting style as your child grows. Showing empathy and listening creates a connection, a bridge of understanding. The older they get, the more they need that bridge to keep trusting your input and support. Especially when their opinions don’t align with yours anymore. To encourage continuous communication, take advantage of informal moments – when doing chores together or riding in the car.
Model and encourage emotional intelligence
Set the example of how you can express even strong emotions without attacking others. You can’t expect your child to regulate their emotions if you don’t show self-control, nor will they respect you if you throw a tantrum. Offering emotional safety and fostering emotional intelligence builds trust. It helps your child make better choices, especially when you’re not around because they won’t feel the need to prove themselves to others.
Teach, instruct, correct – but stop punishing
Of course, your child needs discipline. But discipline is not punishment. It’s setting limits with empathy, considering your child’s perspective and abilities, and holding your child accountable for overstepping those limits. Punishing and rigidly holding to rules will only tempt your child to look for loopholes. But when they have to face the natural consequences of overstepping limits, they can learn. Seeing that you were reasonable when setting the limit helps their trust in you grow.
Allow for more and more independence
Gradually allowing your child more freedom is like holding a spring down with your hand and steadily releasing the pressure without making it jump all over the place. It’s a slow, step-by-step process that takes patience. You can’t insist on continuously controlling all their choices until they’re adults. To build trust, it’s important to find age-appropriate ways to give your child more independence. Sure they will make mistakes, but they need to develop abstract thinking and decision-making skills to become responsible adults.