Tweens – Where did that Attitude Come From?
You’ve got past the terrible 2s, they’re settled into School and everything is bumping along nicely. Then wham they hit the Tween years and your faced with a little one with Tween Attitude!
Obviously, all kids are different, and you may never go through this stage, or you may get this stage earlier or later. But if your Tweens do go through this stage you’ll know about it.
Being a Grandparent means I have the advantage of having gone through it already. I’m certainly no expert and everyone has to parent their own way.
However, it does help to understand why your Tweens do what they do and it’s always useful to have some tips on what you can do help the situation.
There have been numerous books written on the subject of Tween Attitude and I’m sure there will be more to come. I’ve pulled together some of the many thoughts and views on the subject which I feel reflect the reality. I hope you find it interesting and maybe even a little bit useful.
Basic Stages of Emotional Development
BIRTH to 2 YEARS
Kids go through many changes in terms of their emotional development in the first year of their life. As they grow they will start exploring more and develop their sense of belonging in the family.
2 – 5 YEARS OLD
From the age of 2 kids really start to develop their own personality.
At this stage kids start to explore their emotions, and this is when you might find they start throwing tantrums. This is when you start teaching them that they can’t have everything, and they must start accepting No.
Toddlers tend to have rapid mood swings. While their emotions can be very intense, these feelings also tend to be quite short-lived.
6- 12 YEARS OLD
At this stage your kids are getting more independent and social and they’re starting to make real friendships. It’s important to ensure your kids understand accepted behaviour and has a firm set of morals.
This stage includes the Tween Years (8 to 12) and this is when kids are likely to start pushing the boundaries. The tweens’ need to begin separating from their parents and forming their own identities and this is when you may find “Attitude” creeping in.
Parents should “provide praise and encouragement for achievement but must also be able to allow children to sometimes experience the natural consequences for their behaviour or provide logical consequences to help them learn from mistakes” Child Development Institute.
13 – 18 YEARS OLD
Most 13 or 14-year-olds are going through puberty, which means you can expect a slight change in mood, sensitivity, and self-consciousness.
According to verywell.com, most teenagers at the age of 17 “are equipped to regulate their emotions. They’re less likely to lose their tempers and healthy teens know how to deal with uncomfortable feelings. During this stage, they will develop and strengthen relationships with people they feel close to.
What Causes Tween Attitude?
If your kids are giving you Tween Attitude by being rude or disrespectful, giving you back chat or sarcasm it can feel very personal. Especially as at the same time they’re less likely to want to show you affection, they probably don’t want to hold your hand in public or give them a hug. This can feel as though they’re slipping away.
Try not to take it personally, put on a thick skin and recognize that it’s really more about what your tween is experiencing and less about you.
During tween years, kids move from straightforward, literal speech to irony and wordplay; making snide observations lets them feel smart and grown-up.
Susan Galvin, LCSW and Renée Bradford Garcia, LCSW say that most causes of Tween attitude can be attributes to:
- Tweens need to separate themselves from their parents and form their own identities.
- Changes occurring in the tween brain causing increased impulsivity and heightened emotions, leading them to get overly angry or sad and out of proportion to the situation
- A developmental and subconscious need for children to test the limits of their power with parents and in doing so, get confirmation that parents will reliably hold their ground and keep their children safe.
- Tweens and teens being pre-occupied, distracted, and consumed by their ever-changing bodies and social world and not thinking about their parents’ emotions, needs, or reactions.
This really doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do something about their behaviour. But you should understand it’s just part of growing up.
What does Tween Attitude Look Like?
So, if you have a kid with Tween Attitude, what’s that likely to look like. You may experience:
- Eye rolling
- Huffs and puffs
- Back chat
- Questioning why you do things the way you do
- Challenging your beliefs
- Overreacting and easily becoming anxious or angry
- Criticizing and nit-picking
This stage is likely to be a bit of a roller coaster. One minute you’ll have your lovely sweet, loveable kid and next you might have a huff puffy stomping little monster.
It’s a bit like having the terrible 2s all over again. But remember this is just part of them growing up and developing emotionally. It may feel very challenging but it’s also good for tweens to be able to express their emotions and help them develop.
How should you respond to Attitude?
During the tween and teen years are when your kids form habits and attitudes that will last for a lifetime. It won’t be an easy task, whoever said parenting was!
But do try to:
- Have house rules with consequences and stick to them.
- Keep criticisms to a minimum – and only criticise behaviour, not your kids.
- Not react immediately to the behaviour.
- Remember this is just a phase, try and keep calm.
- Take time to calm down if they’re angry – when we’re angry, our brains are taken over by a fight-or-flight response and we can’t respond appropriately.
- Try and help your kids understand how their behaviour impacts others. Talk to them about their behaviour, once they’ve calmed down.
- Communicate, kids need you to understand how they are feeling, and to listen to their views – this helps build self-esteem.
- Try not to overreact.
What can you do to tame the Attitude?
Kids need to learn that their behaviour has consequences. Just think of some of the old sayings “What goes around comes around,” “You get what you pay for,” “You reap what you sow.” All of these mean the same thing — that what you do (your behaviour) determines what will happen to you (the consequence).
If you remember that your tweens are often unaware of their own tone of voice and do not hear the tone in the same way that parents hear it then you need to help them understand.
Parents can help train tweens to tame their responses by looking for opportunities to help them hear themselves and learn how their attitudes are impacting those around them. For example: you could try saying “Can you try that again but without the tone?”
You may want to read ” Don’t Look at Me in that Tone of Voice: Tween Discipline for Busy Parents (Tween Survival Kit) “
But remember you as a role model will need to monitor your own tone of voice as well.
Give them a chance to adjust their behaviour but if the rude behaviour persists then you need to make sure that you follow through with the consequences that you have said there will be. It might be no TV or taking away the computer time for a period. But be consistent and follow through, don’t make idle threats.
And finally, try not to take it personally. Remember that your tweens are often unaware of their own tone of voice and do not hear the tone in the same way that you hear it. Show them you love them but ”Unconditional Love Doesn’t Mean That You Have To Unconditionally Accept Bad Behaviour.” But do reward good behaviour. You’ll get through this, it’s just a phase and if you’re lucky you’ll sail through it.