Positive Parenting Your Tween

Written by MHCS on . Posted in MHCS Together

By Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting.com and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life Parenting preteens, or tweens, can be a challenge. Discipline, school, homework, time with family — everything is renegotiated. Hormones kick in as puberty approaches, and the pressures of the peer group magnify. Many moms and dads react to their tween’s moodiness, focus outside the family, increasing independence and maturing physical body by distancing somewhat from their child. But tweens need to feel they have a secure nest as they launch themselves into the exciting but scary world outside the family. Kids who feel disconnected from their parents lose their anchor and look for it in their peer group. The only way to make it through the tween years with a firm foundation for the teen years to come is to fiercely maintain a strong bond with your child, even while you encourage age-appropriate freedom. In fact, much like the toddler years, parents play a major role in whether the tween years are turbulent or terrific. Here are 12 tips to positive parent your child (and maximize your influence!) as she moves toward the teen years.

1. Stay connected

by having dinner together every night, or as often as possible. Kids who have dinner with their parents do better in school, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, are less likely to have sex while in high school, and are less likely to experience depression or anxiety. Check in with your tween every single day by spending some private time together; many parents find that fifteen minutes at bedtime is grounding and most intimate. But car rides run a close second, probably because kids feel less threatened when you aren’t looking directly at them. Schedule regular longer alone-time with each parent, such as monthly brunch with Dad or weekly walks with Mom. Don’t expect your son or daughter to invite closeness or volunteer vulnerable emotions at each interaction, or when you expect it. But if you set up enough regular opportunities to be together, and you mostly listen and love (rather than lecturing or quizzing) it will happen.

2. To reduce rebelliousness, recognize and work with your tween’s need for independence.

Be aware that as we feel less powerful as parents we often compensate by becoming overprotective. Instead of breathing down his neck, agree on and enforce standards. Set reasonable limits (no texting during dinner and after 8pm, no online chatting or TV until homework is finished) and be sure to offer empathy when they hate your limits. It’s their job to test limits, and yours to set limits based on your values.

3. Re-think your previous ideas about discipline.

Power-based punishment strategies stop working as soon as your child gets big enough to say “You can’t make me.” Even consequences will only work a short time longer, because many teens simply refuse them, and any kind of punishment makes them better liars. You never win a power struggle with your child. The only leverage we really have with our preteens and teens is their love for us, which becomes a more potent motivator over time. That means the best way to get your tween to follow your rules is to maintain a strong bond with him.

4. Don’t underestimate hormones.

Your child’s body is changing, creating mood swings, distractibility, competitiveness, and preoccupation with the opposite sex. What’s more, their brains are undergoing an extensive re-wiring, which can make them emotionally volatile. Tweens can even find themselves in a full-blown tantrum without understanding how it happened. Kindly tell your tantrumming preteen that you see how upset they are and you want to give them time to pull themselves together before you discuss whatever the issue is. Ask them if they want you to stay, or to leave the room to let everyone calm down. Your preteen doesn’t understand his or her moods any more than you do right now. Later, give them a big hug, and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you can’t agree with their position, acknowledge your child’s perspective, and work to find a win/win solution.

5. Don’t take it personally!

When your tween yells at you to drop dead, don’t over-react. When they hurt your feelings and you’re tempted to withdraw, take a deep breath and stand your ground calmly. That doesn’t mean you don’t kindly demand civility, and it doesn’t mean you can’t use strategic withdrawals as a chance to regroup, but that you continue to reinforce your love for and connection to your child. Your best way to get your tween to act respectfully towards you is to extend respect to her, and to calmly expect it in return.

6. The tween years are the perfect time to teach values

… which is best done not by lecturing, but by asking questions. To get your child talking, become a brilliant listener, empathizer, and question asker. Preteens are usually curious about your own early years; those can be great opportunities to reassure them that even their parents were insecure, as all tweens are. It’s also an opportunity to teach; don’t be afraid to share real life examples of teens who died from drinking and driving, or became addicted to drugs. It’s best, though, if stories about your own life set a positive, rather than negative example, such as having struggled and overcome obstacles.

7. Be aware that the more popular culture your child is exposed to, the more risk she runs

…of drug and alcohol use, depression and early sexual experimentation. Tweens want to feel grown up, so naturally they ape adult popular culture. Yes, they have to fit in with their friends, but they count on their parents to keep them safe and let them know what’s age appropriate. They aren’t ready for the attention they’ll get when they wear that revealing top or sing that inappropriate song at the recital. They need you to enforce strict rules regarding internet use and what movies are appropriate. Tweens want and need your guidance, even if they can’t show it.

8. Preteens are actively shaping their identity.

Support their experimenting and exploring, even when they’re into a new fad every few weeks. Don’t comment on their fashions as long as their body coverage is appropriate, and keep an open mind about their music. Especially support the deep passions into which they really pour themselves; those are protective during the tween and teen years.

9. Stay aware of your tween’s schoolwork

…offering help as necessary in developing time management skills, insuring that homework gets done and big projects are worked on over time. Be aware that how hard your tween works at school will depend on whether his peers do, and try to have him attend a school where the kids consider good grades cool, for both boys and girls. Maintaining high expectations and insuring that homework doesn’t get neglected in favor of evening screen and social time is critical.

10. Teach your tween good physical self-management:

at least nine hours of sleep every night, regular protein and low glycemic snacks, regular exercise. Instilling these habits can take real creativity on the part of parents, but they greatly reduce moodiness and you’ll be happy they’re well-established when your child hits the teen years.

11. Don’t be surprised if your preteen son or daughter develops some anxiety or dependency.

It’s not at all unusual for preteens to get scared by all the changes in their bodies, the peer pressures to grow up, or the fear of separating from mom and dad. This is most often expressed as separation or sleep anxiety, and if you empathize and let them cling to you a bit, it probably will not last long.

12. Be aware of the special needs of your son or daughter as they grow into adults in a culture that perpetuates unhealthy attitudes about men, women, and sexuality.

Girls will need your help handling media images of women, cultural expectations about attractiveness, the pressure to be sexy, her relationship with food, the concept of consent, and her body. Remember that girls naturally fill out before they shoot up, and be careful not to impose society’s insistence that only thin is attractive. Notice any issues you have as her body blossoms. Be aware of the research showing that most tween girls are very anxious about the bodily changes ahead and the sense they have from the media that becoming a woman puts them in danger from men. Girls particularly need their fathers to continue offering physical hugs and open admiration for what a beautiful daughter they have, in an atmosphere of total safety and appropriate boundaries. Boys need help integrating their sense of connection, tenderness and vulnerability — which are a part of all human relationships — with societal images of manliness. It’s normal for boys approaching their teen years to act cool, indifferent, and invulnerable with their peers, even when they’re actually highly sensitive kids. A responsible, affectionate father or uncle can be a critical teacher as a boy learns how to be a good man — while fitting in with the guys. It’s particularly valuable for Dads or male role models to talk with sons about the idea of consent and respect for women. And Mom needs to keep warmly talking and listening with her son about his experiences and interests, without jumping in to solve his problems. http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/tweens/tweens-preteens…  

Questions to Ask When Choosing a School for Your Child

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1. What are the school’s mission, philosophy, and values? From Kindergarten through 8th grade, a student will spend over 10,000 hours in school! Considering this magnitude of influence, it is important to choose a school that reinforces the values that you are teaching and modeling at home. Thoughtfully consider the things that your family values most – faith, relationships, learning, health and fitness, serving others, etc. Now think of these things in the context of your child’s school experience and ask, “How will this school support and reinforce the things we as a family value most?” 2. Are the faculty qualified and committed to helping each student discover and achieve their unique potential? Teachers should not only be qualified by virtue of education and credentialing, but they should also possess a passion for teaching, a love for children, and a sense of calling to serve their students and their families. They should be involved in ongoing professional growth and demonstrate a desire to know each student in order to most effectively help him or her achieve their full potential. 3. Is this a school where my student can thrive? The one-size-fits-all concept simply doesn’t work when choosing a school. Just because a school is a good fit for one child doesn’t mean it is the best choice for another—even within the same family. Consider your child’s personality, learning style, interests, and academic capability when looking at school options. 4. How large are classes, and what is the teacher/pupil ratio? Class size is a key consideration in choosing a school. For some children, a small class size makes the difference between success and ongoing struggle. Fewer students means more focused attention toward teaching students and less time spent engaged in simply maintaining classroom order. 5. How does the environment support each child to achieve to their potential? If a school’s culture embraces the uniqueness of each child, believes in that child’s God-given purpose, strives to know and appreciate each student’s uniqueness, and creates a save, loving environment, a child is free to learn and grow to their potential. A visit to the school and conversations with current parents are effective ways to learn if the school’s culture creates this kind of environment for their students. 6. Is parent involvement encouraged? Studies show that students in schools with high parent involvement earn higher grades and test scores, attend school more regularly, have better social skills and like school more. High parent involvement helps maintain continuity between home and school and creates a relational community in which families feel a sense of belonging. 7. What extra-curricular opportunities are offered? Athletics programs, chess club, pottery class, and other activities apart from the regular school program allow students to explore various interests and learn new skills as well as build relationships with the other students they may not see during their regular school day. 8. What enrichment programs are part of the school curriculum? Programs such as PE, art, music, technology, and foreign language help develop well-rounded students and expose them to areas that may ultimately become careers or life-long interests.

Reflections on Prayer – December

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By Lisa Espinoza What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received? An “As Seen On TV” gadget that never worked like it did for the guy on TV? A necktie featuring patterns that likely originated at Woodstock? Eau de toilette that evokes memories of the last time you cleaned the bathroom, or perhaps a piece of fancy cookware—even though you haven’t technically cooked since the 90’s? I’ll never forget my first birthday as a mother-to-be. My dear husband, a man who typically spoils me with fantastic gifts, presented me with baby monitors. Bless his heart, he meant well. He just didn’t quite understand what I needed at that point. Men, there’s just no better way to say to your pregnant wife, “Honey, you’re not a woman any more…you’re a mom!” than to present her with baby supplies. Or maybe that’s just me. When it comes to giving gifts, God really knows how to spoil us. He knows exactly what we need, and he fills that need with His own Son. He knows we need hope that doesn’t waiver, that is the same today, tomorrow and forever. He knows we need peace that pushes past our circumstances and deep into our hearts. He knows we need love that sees our failures and embraces us just the same. This month, we celebrate the gift of Christ who is our hope, our peace, the One who loves us beyond comprehension. Week 1 “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17 One day this week, sit down with a cool glass of water. Read over this scripture slowly, then take a drink of water. Think about how this water is providing your body with necessary hydration, helping flush impurities, refreshing you. Now meditate on how Christ is living water for your soul. Week 2 This week, ask God to help you notice where you can bring His peace, hope and love to others. Maybe He will place some unmistakable opportunity right in your path—a stranger who needs a car battery charged or a family in need of groceries.  He may open your eyes to a child in your very own home who needs reassurance, a teen struggling to find identity, or someone at work who would get a glimpse of God’s love through your simple offer to pray for them. Week 3 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 In the midst of holiday preparations that can sometimes seem less than “peaceful,” take time this week to reframe your activity. Rather than looking at your busy-ness as something that prevents you from spending time with God, make your activity a prayer to God. I don’t mean pray about your activity. Instead, offer the activity itself to God as a prayer with an attitude of thanksgiving…all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Week 4 What gift would you like to give to God? A quiet walk together, a poem, a phone call to a friend who needs encouragement? Maybe God has been asking you for something and you’ve been resisting. What better time than now to offer your “yes” to Him as a gift. Whatever your heartfelt offering, be assured your heavenly Father will respond, “That’s just what I wanted!”

Reflections on Prayer – November

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By Lisa Espinoza It has been said that I’m the only person alive who needs directions to my own mailbox. Indeed, I was the field trip driver who arrived at the Long Beach Aquarium an hour and fifteen minutes late after an impromptu detour through residential San Pedro and the Long Beach shipyards. I arrived 10 minutes after the doors were locked for a college placement test after taking what I was certain would be a shortcut around traffic (HINT: if you’re 8 months pregnant and crying, they’ll probably let you in). I now have GPS. When the lady says, “Proceed to the highlighted route,” in her smug voice, I want to yell, “If I knew how to get to the highlighted route, I wouldn’t need you!” I need simple, detailed directions to get me going on the correct route to my destination. But if I don’t start driving, even the detailed directions will get me nowhere. That’s how prayer is. We need guidance. Even the disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us how to pray.” But if all we do is learn about prayer and never pray, we will only have vicarious experiences of prayer through others. As we begin to pray, the Holy Spirit comes alongside to guide us—much like the GPS lady, only without the smug voice. Saint Gregory the Great said, “You cannot love God’s sweetness if you have never tasted it. Rather, embrace the food of life with the palate of the heart…” This month, may you feast on the food of life as God Himself guides you in prayer. Week 1 “Sometimes prayer seems to go well. The danger is that next time I come to pray, I try to re-create that prayer instead of trying to pray from where I am…I must pray from where I am today.” Michael Casey, Toward God Begin each day this week by telling God where you are—tired, excited, confused, angry, discouraged, hopeful. Share what’s in your heart at that moment. Week 2 Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Each afternoon or evening this week, review the day’s events. What are you anxious about? Rather than ruminate over the details, direct your “worry” to God and make it a prayer. Week 3 “In my experience it is a help to have some sort of structure or routine that jollies us along into prayer before our objections get the upper hand.” Michael Casey, Toward God This week commit to a regular prayer time each day. Begin with 5-10 minutes, once in the morning, once in the afternoon or evening. Try alternating your own prayer with prayer from scripture (such as a few verses from Psalm 119) and make it your own. Week 4 Colossians 4: 2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” This week of Thanksgiving, practice a posture of gratitude. Each day, write an entry in your journal, “God, thank you for___________.” Don’t write everything the first day. Savor a few at a time. If you list people, take time to pray for them. You may even want to make a phone call or send a note to let them know you are thankful to have them in your life.

Family Stone of Remembrance

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Making an Ebenezer Pumpkin

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). Have you heard the name Ebenezer before? Perhaps you have heard it from the famous Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. But do you know what Ebenezer means or that the name Ebenezer has a spiritual significance? The name Ebenezer means “stone of help” and can be found in the book of 1 Samuel chapter seven. In this chapter, the Bible records a specific time that the Philistine army had planned to attack God’s chosen people, Israel. When the children of Israel heard about the Philistines plan, they were afraid. The Bible says that they went to the prophet Samuel and said, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:8). So Samuel made an offering to the Lord and cried out to Him for deliverance. The Lord answered Samuel’s prayer, and “the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel” (1 Samuel 7:10). In response, Samuel set up a stone “…between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). It was not an uncommon practice for Israel to set up stones to remember God’s faithfulness to them or to remind them of His powerful acts. Jacob set up a stone pillar in Bethel after the Lord had made a covenant with him in a dream. Moses set up stone pillars on Mt. Sinai after he received the Ten Commandments from God. Joshua also set up stones as a witness after he said “…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). This fall season, why not set up your own Ebenezer stone as a family…using a pumpkin! Every day leading up to Thanksgiving, have each person in the family take turns writing what they are thankful for on their pumpkin. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). May the Lord bless you as you create your family’s Ebenezer pumpkin.