This developmental stage is often referred to as the “tween” years. These pre-teen years can be a very difficult time for parent and child alike. Relationships can be volatile, bodies begin to change and intense emotions are often a poor match for under-developed social skills. Many parents find that it is during this stage that girls become more difficult while boys may recede from the limelight. Every stage of parenting brings its own unique challenges. Here we will explore some training and discipline techniques specific to this age group.
Gradually extend opportunities for increased responsibilities and independence. During this stage it is important that your child develops a solid foundation of trustworthiness. This will become the basis of your relationship in the coming teen years. In order to establish this quality, you will need to provide him with plenty of opportunities to earn your trust. Send him on errands to a well-known neighbor. Let him go to a nearby friend’s house with a watch and a set time to return home. Let him know that each success gives you a greater sense of trust which will ultimately translate into more freedom in the future.
Allow him to experience consequences from his actions. Avoid the desire to rescue him. If your child forgets his textbook at school, let it stay there. You want him to learn personal responsibility when the cost of his mistakes is small.
Help him get organized. Kids of this age have a lot to manage but often lack the skills to do so. You can help by providing a structure without needing to micromanage. Get him a daily planner or calendar and teach him how to use it. Let him manage his own finances, guiding him in the principles of saving, giving and managing the remainder.
Get to know your kid’s friends and their parents. You can do this by becoming the “fun house.” Invite a group over after school or on a weekend. Provide plenty of food and kid-enticing activities. Invite the parents over for a cookout during the summer.
Allow adequate down time. Homework and school pressures increase for many kids during this time period. Between school work and extra curriculars, there is often little time left to play. Make it a priority.
Maintain your relationship through common interests and activities. Don’t allow your relationship to slip during this stage. Find things that you both enjoy doing together and do them often.
Let him know you are able and willing to talk about any subject. Even THAT subject. If you haven’t had the birds and bees conversation yet, now is the time to do it. He is going to find out one way or another – the only way you can ensure the information is accurate is if it comes from you. Let him know periodically that you are always ready to talk about any questions he may have about his changing body or feelings. If you are uncomfortable, feel free to say so. However, you also need to let him know that correct information is much more important than your comfort.
Don’t give him too much freedom with social media and technology. Society says that this age group is mature enough to handle things such as having a cell phone, online-relationships, facebook, etc. They are NOT. Limit or eliminate these types of activities despite peer pressure. A child of this age does not NEED a cell phone. Use it as a chance to help them differentiate between a need and a want.