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Tuesday
Mar192013

The Clean Room Dilemma

If a glance into your tween’s room reveals a neat, clean and organized sanctuary then there is no need for you to read on. If however, you are a parent of tween who’s room looks more like a battle field than a place to rest and relax it may give you some solace to know that you are far from alone.

When your children reach their tween years sometimes the first thing to change is their rooms. As they strive for self-expression they take a greater interest in personalizing their personal space. Your obedient, organized child may seemingly transform over night into a well, a slob. Middle school brings more work, work often bring more papers and folders and binders. The floor or a pile on a desk may look like as good as a place as any to store all this stuff.

Maybe your tween has become more invested in his outward appearance resulting in a recent amassing of clothes. During the tween years it is not uncommon for kids to grow quickly, this can also translate into the need for more clothes as your tween quickly goes from one size to the next. While you would probably prefer he store all of his clothes neatly folded in his drawers, the floor or the closet may look like as good a place as any to put them.

If you are tired of redirecting, nagging and/or on occasion yelling about the unsettled state of your tween’s room, it may be time to take appropriate action. Here are some helpful hints on how to address this common challenge.

1.)  Define Clean. While you may assume your tween understands what you mean when you tell him to clean his room, in reality what you are looking for may get lost in translation. In order to avoid unnecessary arguments be clear and concise when explaining what you mean by clean. Your version may entail neatly folding and stacking clothes and other items while your tween may believe that shoving everything in the closet makes his room look clean.

2.)  Establish specific rules and consequences. Work with your tween to come up with the rules and consequences regarding her room. Agree on a specific day and time by which her room should be clean. Have her suggest an appropriate consequence if she does not meet this deadline. You may want to suggest for example, that she cannot go anywhere until her room is cleaned.

3.)  No nagging usually gets the job done faster. Don’t let your own anxiety get the best of you. It is important to give your tween a chance to follow through on the system you have set up together.  Constantly reminding her that she needs to clean her room or face the consequences is a natural turn off. In fact it may have the opposite affect on your tween; she may avoid doing the job, or, at least wait until the last minute just to spite you. If you really can’t help yourself, when establishing the ‘clean room rule’ incorporate the right to offer a few reminders as part of the deal. Explain to your tween this will make you feel better. If you however, establish a set number of times you are allowed to remind her, she will be less likely to get annoyed. Be sure to stick to your end of the bargain.

4.)  Take the emotion out of situation. Once the rule and consequence is established, the consequence should automatically be instituted if the rule is broken. If for example, the rule states that his room is to be clean at 8PM on Wednesday and at 8:01PM his room looks like a tsunami hit, simply remind him of the consequence and let it go. If he begins to argue, do not engage him. Even if he argues or yells, try not to respond in kind. Later on when things have calmed down, sit down and discuss with him what happened. Re-remind him that he was part of the rule and consequence process.

5.)  Positive reinforcement is the key to keeping it clean. If your tween successfully follows through on keeping it clean, be sure to validate her. A little bit of positive reinforcement can go a long way. Validating her efforts will not only make her feel good but it will also make you feel good.

6.)  Consistency is the key to success.  In order to ensure follow thru, you must keep it consistent. If the rule indicates that you regularly check his room, you must keep up your end of the process. If he does not follow the rule you must consistently implement the consequence.

7.)  If it’s not working; re-group. Sometimes even though you have followed the process thru, developed rules and implemented the consequences consistently, it just isn’t working. If your tween is truly unable to clean her room the way you had discussed, it may be time to step out of the box and come up with a different solution. Some tweens for example, have difficulty following through on such a large tasks because it seems so overwhelming. You may need to break the chore down into pieces. Try for example, requiring her to pick up the clothes off the floor one day, and clean up her desk another. Regardless of how you decide to approach the problem the point is that, re-looking at a different way to solve it is far better than constantly having to institute consequences.

Keeping her room clean may seem like such a small thing to ask. Depending on your tween however, it may be a larger challenge than you realize. When you work with your tween to be successful in the seemingly simple things, you encourage him to feel good about his capabilities. In turn this confidence can often translate to larger challenges. 

Monday
Mar112013

Tween Time: Keeping up with their Interests

Image courtesy of photstock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether you are a dance mom, hockey dad, or a baseball family, keeping up with your tweens commitments can be challenging.

It is not uncommon for tweens to try out many different activities. They are older and more aware of the world around them.

Tweenhood is when the journey to identify themselves as unique individuals begins. It is in the business of this quest that tweens try out different roles. This can translate into a little dabbling in many diverse areas and activities.

As a parent of a tween this can result in a lot of running around in many different directions. It can actually get quite exhausting. It is at these times when you feel fatigued and frustrated that you long for the day your tween can drive, but only for a moment. After all, you are dealing with enough stress already!

A few things you should keep in mind as your tween reaches out to grab brass rings in what feels like a hundred directions:

1.) You can and should say 'no' to some things. Whether you are feeling the pull of financial and/or time constraints, be realistic. 

2.) Tweens have a tendency to flit from one fancy to the next. Her lack of maturity may mean she doesn't grasp that it is considerate to keep commitments. If for example, she decides to join a team, it is important to impress upon her the idea that her decision to quit would have an impact on others. Remember, your tween is capable of usung perspective taking, although it may not be her natural inclination.

3.) At the same time he is pursuing new interests; it is not uncommon for your tween to begin to narrow his focus. This may mean he decides to give up an activity in which he has been engaged for years.  As a parent this may feel disconcerting, especially if you have invested a lot of time and money. Remember however, this is probably because you steered him toward this pastime, when he started he was probably too young to know what he wanted. If he chooses to give up an activity at which he is particularly gifted, this can be quite difficult to swallow. It is certainly worth talking to him about it however, in the end, remember, this is his life and therefore should be his choice.

4.) Kids tend to keep pursuing the activities at which they feel most competent. Why she feels more competent in one area versus another may depend on many factors. Some of these factors may be more evident than others. She may for example, feel most competent at the activity at which she enjoys the other participants. This may not be the activity at which you think she does best but it is important that she make her own choice.

5.) Sometimes tweens lose interest when the activity no longer feels fun. If your son is a star athlete but feels overwhelmed by the stress of the competition for example, he may want to throw the towel in. As a parent this can be difficult to accept especially if he shows real promise. It does not have to be an all or nothing proposition; perhaps there is a middle ground. He could for example, join a less competitive team. Talk it out with him. Be mindful of what he has to say; don’t just hear him, listen.

Being the parent of an active tween can be both exciting and exhausting. The hardest task is often helping your tween to strike the balance between happily active and overbooked.

As your tween looks to expand his world through experience, trying to keep up and keep him in check can indeed be a daunting task at times.. In time, your tween will pinpoint his passions; until then he may investigate many interests. Your support and guidance in helping him try out new activities and taking on new challenges is indeed invaluable.

Tuesday
Feb262013

Tween Tantrums

As a parent of a tween there are moments when you find yourself faced by specific situations which seem to belong to the tweenage years. Betwixt and between childhood and the teen years, there are times when your tween may act in unpredictable and emotional ways. One minute she presents as mature and insightful, the next she is screaming yelling and perhaps even flailing when you gently set a limit.

The pre-puberty years can indeed be difficult for both you and your tween. From a developmental perspective, as your child moves from tween to teen there are many  biological changes.  The transformation process can result in an unpredictable storm of emotions and super sensitivity at times when you may expect it least.

Just when you thought he has grown out of tantrums you see that old familiar flash in his eyes and flush on his face. If you are in a public place, you may experience disbelief, embarrassment, frustration, and even anger. This is one behavior you look forward to him outgrowing.

Identifying why your tween continues to tantrum may be less important than learning how to discourage the behavior. The question then becomes how and where do you start?

1.)  In the words of Winston Churchill “Keep calm and carry on.” This should become your mantra during these difficult and sometimes embarrassing situations.  While you may have the urge to scream or yell the simple fact is that this response will probably only escalate the situation.

2.)  Be careful what you say in these heated moments your tween may not be listening to you but he clearly hears what you are saying. The urge to scream out “Stop acting like a baby,” or “What’s wrong with you?” may be strong, but will they really make the situation better? Probably not. In addition, your tween as mentioned above is in a vulnerable developmental stage when his sensitivity is high. He may take your words to heart which will only make the situation worse.

3.)  Be consistent and firm. If you want to discourage this behavior in the future, the last thing you should do is give in. Of course this is easier said than done. After all, when your tween is in the midst of an episode, the quickest way to get her to stop may seem like giving her what she wants. In reality the only lesson she will learn from you is that a tantrum is a sure fire way to get what she wants exactly when she wants it.

4.)  Set up clear behavioral consequences with him to prevent another situation in the future. After all, prevention trumps intervention any day.

5.)  Sit down and discuss the situation later. During a calm moment talk with your tween about the incident. Explain your concerns and listen to his perspective about the situation. Validate him by was acknowledging how frustrated and angry he was feeling. Remember just because you are expressing empathy for what he was feeling, does not mean you agree with the behavior.  You may be surprised how far a little empathy can go.

6.)  The good news is that in time this too shall pass. If you remain consistent with consequences and communicate clearly with your tween about your concerns she will grow out of this behavior soon enough.

The tween years can feel tumultuous and tricky for both you and your tween. Often described by tweens as an age of awkwardness, your tween is trying to negotiate between the childhood she is leaving behind and the adulthood she is moving toward. This is not any easy feat for either of you. With a little patience and a lot of love and support from you your tween will start acting more like a teen and less like a child. Some day in the midst of a philosophical argument that you believe you are losing with him, you will look back on the days when a simple ‘no’ was just enough. Enjoy the ride, your tween will get to her destination before you know it!

Wednesday
Feb062013

War of the Homework: Time to Call a Truce

www.freedigitalphotos.netRemember when your kids had homework in elementary school?  Back then, it wasn’t just their homework, in reality, it was your homework too. Perhaps you treasured that time together working with your child, teaching him, helping him. He seemed so eager to learn. Fast forward to today. Now that your tween is in middle school the homework actually belongs to him; and well for many families, here in lies the problem. If your tween is less than excited about his academic responsibilities, you may just have a nightly battle on your hands.

The transition from elementary school to middle school can indeed be difficult. In middle school students are expected to step-up, get organized and become self-motivated. These are not easy tasks. In fact, it is very common for tweens who did well in elementary school, to initially lose some ground in middle school. Middle school is also often the time when your tweens begin to invest themselves more narrowly in their interests. Instead of playing every sport or engaging in every activity, your tween begins to hone in on the area he enjoys most. Quite often these are also the areas in which your tween feels most confident and competent. These interests take on a new importance in his life. The interest can take up a lot of time. This may have been fine in elementary school when you sought productive ways to keep her busy. In middle school however, the importance scale begins to tip in the direction of school, as academic performance becomes more essential.

What do you do however if your tween struggles academically? What if he is not the self-motivating type? What if it seems as if he would rather eat a plate of worms while doing the polka in his bathing suit than start his homework? What if you have tried every approach known to mankind to encourage him to take on the task? What if you are engaged in the ‘War of the Homework’ and you feel as if you are losing the battle?

Unfortunately there is no magic formula to make your tween take on his homework without a hassle. There are some important points to ponder however, that may just result in a cease fire and hopefully a truce.

1.)    Diagnose the difficulty. It is important to be aware of where the resistance is coming from. In other words, is your tween struggling with specific academic subjects? Does she need additional support? Sometimes what looks like a lack of motivation is really a loss of understanding. Maybe, your tween is too tired from her other activities by the time she gets around to doing her homework. Maybe your tween’s affinity for chaos and disorganization is disorienting her. Regardless of the reason, it is important to identify the issues before you develop a strategy to support her.

2.)    Contact collaterals. Talk to your tween’s teachers and guidance counselor. Often it is your tween’s favorite teacher that can provide the best insight because chances are your tween has built a rapport with this person.  

3.)    If you can’t offer support, find a way to have it provided. If for example, you don’t feel equipped to help her complete her homework, ask his teachers to suggest some good resources on the internet. Google the subject content yourself, or even better, encourage your tween to do so.

4.)    New habits are hard to create without consistency. Maybe your tween’s lack of interest in homework is a new thing. Maybe in the past it was never a struggle, or his propensity for procrastination wasn’t really a problem because the volume of homework was less. In order to ensure that your tween gets with the program and takes enough time for his homework, you need to encourage consistency. Ask your tween to create a schedule for himself and make sure he sticks to it.  As a parent this can take a lot of work, but in time it should become easier for both of you.

5.)    If you are not the right person for the job, turn to someone who is. Let’s be honest, not everyone is equipped to do battle with their tween in the homework realm. If your approach with your tween is less than encouraging, don’t let frustration and even anger, get the best of you. Turn to your spouse, a grandparent (or other relative especially if she lives with you) his older sibling, or even a tutor to help him get the job done.  No good can from coercion and controversy. If you have had a hard day, step back, take a break, cool down, before you try to entice your tween to complete his homework.

6.)    Incentives work. Help your tween to create a homework completion schedule that motivates him to accomplish the task. Adding incentives into to plan can be quite productive. If for example, your tween has a favorite TV show, agree that he can watch once he completes a specific portion of his work. He must commit to completing the rest of his work once the show is over. For some tweens, frequent study breaks are beneficial. Other tweens are best served getting all the homework done in one sitting. Adding an incentive upon completion validates your tween’s efforts.

7.)    Consequences for incompletion should be delivered swiftly, calmly, and consistently. Have your tween help predetermine appropriate consequences. This way she is less likely to argue once you enforce them.

8.)    Refrain from becoming too involved in your tween’s specific assignment. Basically, you cannot do the work for him. Certainly there may be days when you believe this would be easier. How will he be able to learn the work on his own?  After all, you can’t take his tests for him too. You may want to check the quality of his work upon completion. If he is too resistant to this idea, meet him halfway by simply agreeing to check that his work has been completed. If however, his progress reports from his teachers reflect a lack of quality and/or quantity of his homework, inform him that the procedure would have to change.

The ‘War of the homework’ is not an easy battle to wage. By working with your tween to address the problem you can at least find a peaceful solution which will hopefully help you formulate  a treaty and call it a truce.

 

Tuesday
Jan292013

Peer Pressure: Understanding Why Your Tween Says ‘Yes’ When He Knows Better

www.freedigitalphotos.net by AmbrosIt is not uncommon for me to receive a panicked call from a parent about their tween’s misbehavior. Quite often I receive a call me right after a parent has hung up with the school, or the coach or another parent, etc. The parent often sounds overwhelmed and confused, annoyed and agitated. “Why would he do something so stupid,” a parent will ponder, “I know she knows better,” another bemoans. I can usually attest that the parent is right, that the behavior does not fit their seemingly sensible tween. Of course I always inquire about the circumstances under which the egregious behavior took place. More often than not, the tween in question was with a gaggle of friends when the infraction occurred. Ah, the power of peer pressure.

Tweens are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure. Tweens are at the tender time in their lives when they begin to pull away from their parents in an effort to test the waters on their own. Going it all alone can be too scary, tweens tend to turn to their friends to be find some direction. The difficulty is that their friends are also trying to find their own way. There is always safety in numbers right? Well, usually.

Tweens are also at a time in their lives when they are particularly concerned about what others think about them. They worry that they are always being judged, especially by their peers. Tweens will go to great lengths to avoid being singled out or embarrassed. On occasion, this may lead a tween to act in an uncharacteristic way, especially if he is being encourage to do so by a group of peers. It is at these times that a tween may throw caution, or rather good judgment to the wind.

So, how can you counteract these brief lapses in judgment, how can you prevent such incidents from occurring at all? As always, it begins with a conversation. Communicating your concerns to your tween can make a difference. Despite your tween’s desire to pull away from you, your opinion still matters plenty.

You should speak frankly and clearly with your tween. Let her know you are concerned that there may be a circumstance under which she would be pressured by her peers to act in an inappropriate or risky way. Validate your confidence in his strong values and good judgment. This may empower him to stand on his own.

If your tween does act in an inappropriate manner, be sure to talk with (not at) her. Verbalize your care and concern. Be sure to listen to what she has to say. Discuss the downsides of his behavior.  Be clear and consistent with consequences.

The most important lesson you can impart is that your tween learns from his mistakes. If you can help him acknowledge the power of peer pressure, you can help him focus on prevention. When/if she is in a situation in which she doesn’t succumb to the influence of her peers, be sure to acknowledge her good judgment. A little positive reinforcement goes along way. 

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