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Entries in Tween Attitude (2)

Saturday
Dec282013

Parenting in the Age of Refusal: When Your Tween Says "No!"

You utter the words with respect and parental authority: “Please stop texting and do your homework; please make your bed; Let me look over your homework.” When your tween offers a simple “No,” you are incredulous. Could you have heard correctly? “No,” is not what you expected nor, is this response acceptable.

 

You feel your whole body tense, you fear what is coming next, a battle of the wills you do not have the time, energy or inclination to pursue.

You don’t need pointers on how to parent. If your tween continues to refuse after you have changed your requests into commands, consequences will have to ensue.

Sounds like any easy system to enforce, when you are a parent engaged in the thick of such things however, it can be exacerbating and exhausting.

It is difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that your tween seems so self-assured when she offers a negative response. This is not the caring, and compliant child you have raised.

What black magic took over when she entered her tweens? Who taught her that when something was being asked of her she had the right to refuse? Well, you had a hand in that sort of teaching, something about which you should be proud. “If a friend asks you to do something you know isn’t right, or about which you feel uncomfortable, simply refuse.” When you reinforced this rule however, you did not intend for it ever to apply to the requests of her that you put forth, after all, you are the parent.

We live in a world in which our children have been primed to believe that they have the right to refuse. At a time when all kids get trophies for playing the sport, not just the winners, we have created a sense of entitlement and expectation that is constantly reinforced. Turn on a typical tween targeted television show and you are sure to see an episode on your tween’s favorite sitcom portraying an instance of bucking authority. This is not only presented as possible, but acceptable. Children talk back to parents, teachers, and anyone else in an authority position. Tweens met with negative responses to their own requests negotiate the system to get what they want, or what it is they believe they deserve.

We live in an age that reinforces refusal. Certainly there are many positive aspects of this quality; humans refusing to accept maltreatment for example, or demanding equal access to goods, services and of course basic rights.

How then do parents re-establish respect and the understanding that asking translates into a firm expectation?

Communicating clearly and effectively is a good place to start.

1.) One mandatory mantra: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Toward this end consequences for refusals much be clear and consistent. When you fail to follow through the meaning of your message does not translate clearly to your child.

2.) Use down time to conduct discussions. Calmly affirm what you expect from your child.

3.) If your child protests make it clear some things are never up for discussion. Even if he offers the most astute suppositions on why texting his friend trumps homework time, rules are firmly implemented for a reason. Too many exceptions can lead to failure to follow through on expectations.

4.) Holding your tweens to the rules takes time and energy. If you stay the course however, you will shape your child’s behavior. Remember, they are egocentric by nature. They are also at a point in their lives when they are taking the first steps to affirm their independence. Coupled this means they are often insistent that refusal is their right.

Ultimately, when you just say “no” to “no” you provide the much needed structure, rules, and support your tweens need to negotiate the outside world.

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep082013

Tween Mean: Time to Adjust the Attitude

Making the transition from child to tween can be exciting and anxiety provoking. As children’s minds and bodies march toward puberty, the maturity process leaves many marks. There are the outward physical changes including the appearance of secondary sex characteristics such as pubic hair for both boys and girls. Tween girls may notice budding breasts, while boys may note the growth of their testicles. During these years growth spurts are common and the majority of girls will experience their first period before the age of 13.

Internally emotions are often in a stormy stage. The hormonal changes tweens experience can translate into mood shifts that at times seem to come out of nowhere. A new awareness of the world at large is the result of a growing brain. Suddenly tweens are invested in the world outside their family circles. From a parent’s perspective, they may seem too invested.

It is not uncommon for parents to note that their quiet, sweet, respectful child has developed an attitude over night. Put in simple terms, ‘tween mean’ talk is not so rare. Parents are often shocked and surprised when their loving child utters his first “I hate you!” Especially when the circumstances resulting in the response seem insignificant or even silly. Perhaps even more confusing for parents is that within moments after uttering the offensive emotion charged statement, a tween can seem calm, caring and kind, back to the baseline that his parents know best.

Tween mean is often an attitude reserved for the inner family circle. Parents may be relieved to receive feedback from authority figures outside home such as teachers, coaches, and even other parents, that their tween is indeed a sweet, sensitive, polite and respectful child.

Regardless of a tween’s reactions in other venues, an attitude at home can become unbearable. This is especially true when the flashes of irritability and rude are surrounded by moments of kindness and caring.

Tackling an attitude is not as difficult as it may seem. The first step in intervention and subsequently prevention is helping your tween to identify that the attitude exists. A sensitive approach is required. Remember, tweens tend to be very self-conscious. Their egocentrism encourages sensitivity. This is why an innocuous re-direction is often perceived as a criticism. Explaining concerns through concrete examples is often the best approach. Although a tween is capable of perspective taking, her natural inclination is to see things only from her own point of view. Parents should talk with their tween about attitude concerns when things are calm. If a tween has uttered the dreaded “I hate you,” use this utterance as an example to encourage empathy. “It really hurts when you tell me you hate me.  Even if you are just angry, it makes me feel bad. Imagine if one of your friends said that to you.” Even if a tween indicates that he does not mean what he says, it is important for parents to emphasize that they take his words seriously, this will help validate that he has a voice, that what he says matters.

In order to re-shape an attitude, parents must point out the instances of irritability and unacceptable attitude to their tween. The key is to do this gently. She may find this exercise annoying which can encourage anger however, in time the behavior will hopefully become extinct.

The mix of emotions a tween experiences is very real. Parents should validate their tween’s feelings but encourage alternative outlets to replace a rude response or attitude. Parents should capitalize on a tween’s interests to create coping plans. If for example, a tween likes to write, a journal or diary is a good place to put down thoughts. Creative tweens should be encouraged to use their favorite medium to express themselves through art. Athletic tweens should use practice or exercise to handle feelings of irritability or annoyance.

The answer to extinguishing an attitude of tween mean is to set clear limits. While in the moment it may be easier to ignore or give in to what a tween is asking, in time this plan is sure to backfire. Parents should also avoid responding to a negative attitude with ire or shame. When parents offer calm redirection they model the attitude that they expect from their tween. Research supports the premise that children learn much through observation.

All children look to their parents to guide and support them. Limit setting on an attitude is an important part of this protocol. Although shifting emotions may be a natural part of the maturation process, a mean tween attitude toward parents is certainly not essential or acceptable.