‘Tween’ is the sweet age between children and teenagers that spans from 8 to 12 years of age. Parents often face challenges while handling tweens as these are the years during which kids start clamouring for more independence.
What happens during the tween years?
During tween years, children are on the cusp of becoming teenagers. As they transition to their teenage, they undergo multiple physical and mental developments, which impact their behaviour.
Most girls and boys start showing some signs of puberty during their tween years, body hair and growth spurts are visible signs. A large number of girls enter puberty between the ages of 9 to 12.
Here are a few behavioural changes that you can expect in your tweens:
Increased peer influence – tweens start following their peers in how they dress up, their demeanours and how they interact with family members. They no longer like to follow the tastes and preferences of their parents.
Acting like grown-ups – although tweens are not teens, they start feeling and acting like one. For example, your 9-year-old girl might suddenly say no to piggytails and ask for a high ponytail, because she wants to look like a grown-up.
Distancing from parents – tween is when your boy or girl starts developing an individual personality and starts distancing themselves from their parents. They hide secrets and resent when they are reminded to do things. ‘ I know what to do’ is something that the parents of tweens often hear when told to do chores or finish homework.
Reckless behaviour – your 10-year-old jolly-natured child can suddenly become irritable, violent, loud or even start using offensive language. You might keep looking for the reason behind this reckless behaviour, but it can simply be tween tantrums.
Dr Fortune, the author of “15 Minute Parenting” books, explains, “Our tweens are experimenting with who and how they are, and they are looking toward their peer group more for validation and approval,”.
What are the best strategies to handle tweens?
The newly found independence of tweens and their changed behaviour create unpleasant episodes and friction between the parents and children. But, it’s important to note that parents must handle their tweens wisely and patiently to help them cross this sensitive phase of life.
6 tween handling tips for every parent
Have an adult-like conversation – remember that your tweens have already developed their reasoning skills. So instead of saying no to their every demand, have open conversations with them and reason why you should be agreeing to their demand. Reasoning and asking kids to state the logic behind doing something will make them feel mature and less resistant to following rules.
Respect their decisions – tween is the time to allow your kids to exercise greater independence. They feel confident and happy when they do things in their way, so it’s high time you start giving your kids autonomy over things that do not pose serious consequences. For example, they plan their own playdates, and birthday party themes, select clothes, choose authors to read, and decorate their room.
Change your discipline strategy – the ways that you used to discipline your preschooler won’t work on your tweens. The best way is to set limits and rules with the mutual agreement of the child, and not be aggressive or forceful until there is a dire need. Teaching tweens the importance of responsible behaviour will help them develop into responsible adults.
Continue being their support – the irony of being a tween is that though the kids hanker for more independence, they are yet not ready to let the parents be fully detached. Deep in their heart, they need you to still be around for their emotional and mental strength. So, continue approaching them proactively to help them when they look distressed, even if they say no to your help.
Control digital exposure – two-thirds of Singaporean children between the ages of seven and nine reportedly use smartphones every day. We are all aware of the perils of exposure to digital devices and internet. Tween is the time when kids start getting attached to digital devices and start getting influenced by social media. This is the time for parents to put checks and controls so that kids’ attachment to gaming and social media does not take an ugly turn in future.
Counsell and coach – last but not least, a tween boy or girl undergoes massive physical changes like growth in body hair, body odour, height and voice change, which make them conscious about their appearance and also affect their self-confidence. It’s important to talk to the children about age-related physical changes and explain that it’s part of growing up. Experts say that although tweens develop physically, their mind is still young, which poses emotional upheaval. Candid conversations and gentle counselling by parents can help them manage their emotions.
Tweens is also the time when children discover their own sexuality and might sometimes get confused as to where they stand. Some may find the sexual differences confusing and tend to explore the realities in ways that are not desirable. As parents, it’s our role to explain to talk candidly about this before they go out looking for the answers.
There are sure to be many ups and downs when your child enters the tween years, but since parents play a very crucial role in the personality development of their children, this is not the time to alienate or give up on disciplining the children. Instead, parents should modify their parenting style to suit the changing physical and emotional needs of their tweens.
Also, read ‘Are you a Helicopter Parent?’