Habits Your Tween Should Break Now

Certain bad habits have to go

Three tween girls laughing in the backseat of a vehicle

Compassionate Eye Foundation / Rennie Solis / Getty Images

Children, like adults, can acquire some pretty bad habits, and breaking any habit takes dedication and hard work. If your tween has picked up a few bad habits it's important that you help him break them as soon as possible, so that he starts off the teenage years in the best possible way.

Common Habits That Tweens Should Avoid

Below are a few common habits tweens might need to leave behind.

Bad Eating Habits

If your tween would rather reach for the potato child over the fresh fruit, he's not alone. Who doesn't love junk food, but the reality is your child's body is still growing and needs healthy food to do all the things he needs to do and to keep himself healthy and strong. Be sure you limit junk food options and encourage healthy eating whenever you can. 

Blaming Others

Your tween is old enough to begin taking some responsibility for his own actions. If your child tends to blame others (teachers, siblings, friends) for everything that goes wrong, you may need to encourage your tween to spend a little time considering his own actions. Don't allow your tween to scoot away from consequences.

One way to head off your child's blame game is to vocalize upfront what the consequences will be if he fails to do his homework, clean up his room, or break his curfew. 

Letting Others Do Things for Him

Some tweens are impressively independent, while others will allow anybody (parents, grandparents, or siblings) to take care of things for him. Be sure you resist the temptation to clean your child's room, do his homework or enable your child to wiggle out of his responsibilities.

A chore chart and a homework chart will help your child stay on track of his obligations and duties. Be sure you provide reasonable reminders to encourage your tween to follow through, as well as consequences if he doesn't.


Your child will likely hear just about every curse word there is at school or while riding the bus. But if you don't put a stop to the cursing now, you're unlikely to ever get your tween to stop. Be sure your child knows how you feel about cursing, and that it's impolite to curse because it makes others feel uncomfortable.

If you tend to curse every now and then, be sure to recognize your mistake and let your tween know that while it might be hard to eliminate altogether, it's important to try.

Constant Complaining

If your tween has nothing positive to say, it might be time to help your child exercise an attitude adjustment. If you don't do it now, the teen years will be that much more difficult.

Try to point out the positive in any situation, and let your tween know that how he chooses to react to challenges is something he can control. Be positive yourself, because your tween is paying attention to your actions. 

Bad Hygiene

Tweens aren't always as hygienic as we would like them to be, and puberty can make it all the worse. If your child plays a sport or is very active, hygiene is that much more important. Be sure you provide your tween with the knowledge and the products he needs to practice good hygiene.

Stock your child's bathroom with soap, towels, shampoo, and conditioner, and be sure he showers regularly and particularly after sports or exercising. 

Sleeping Late

Your older child may need to get to school earlier than in elementary school, and that means getting out of bed could become a real challenge. If your child is sleeping in and missing the bus, you can help get him or her back on schedule. Be sure your tween lays out clothes the night before, packs his or her lunch, and has everything ready for the next day.

Keep your tween on a strict sleep schedule, by gradually turning off electronic devices at night, getting him or her into their bedroom, and encouraging sleep and rest. Be sure your tween does not have a television set, or a computer in the bedroom, as that can tempt your child and delay bedtime. 

If your tween is still sleeping in, you may need to set consequences for his or her inability to get things moving in the morning. 

Having All the Answers

Don't be surprised if your once delightful child decides he or she now has all the answers, and that you don't know nearly as much as you used to. Your child may cop an attitude towards you, your spouse, his or her grandparents or teachers. It's embarrassing when a child is rude and disrespectful to others, but if you let your child get away with rude behavior, he or she is likely to continue it.

Be sure your child knows and understands your family values and your personal expectations regarding his or her behavior towards others, particularly other adults. Model good behavior and if your tween is caught being rude or disrespectful, don't make excuses for him or her. Instead, follow through with reasonable consequences and talk about what you want to see going forward. 

Eating Unhealthy Foods

Today's tweens are snackers, and unfortunately, they tend to snack on foods that have little or no nutritional value. Busy schedules can be partly to blame. It's much easier to reach for a bag of chips when you're running from one event to another than it is to make a healthier snack. If you want your child to embrace nutritious eating, you'll have to make it a commitment.

Start with throwing out all the unhealthy snacks, and replacing them with conventional alternatives. Replace chips with crudites or seaweed chips, substitute hummus for chip dip, and stock up on healthy whole grain muffins and bread to replace cupcakes and white bread. Sodas are a no-no. Encourage your tween to stay hydrated by drinking water, and or occasionally a cup of herbal tea. Try meal planning together, and grocery shopping, so that you have healthy foods in the house at all times.

Also, it might be fun to sign up for a cooking class together, so you and your tween can learn techniques for menu planning, cooking and making healthy food tasty. Your local parks and recreation department might be a good place to find such classes. 

Taking People for Granted

Your tween is self-obsessed and probably a tad self-conscious. It's very easy for tweens and teens to think the world revolves around them, and to take family, friends, and teachers for granted. But your child is old enough to begin learning how to show appreciation to those who help your child through the day. Begin by pointing out how others help your tween throughout the day, by driving them to school, teaching or coaching them, or making their meals.

Ask your tween to share stories of people who assisted him or her that day, or extended a courtesy. At the holidays, have your tween make a list of people he or she would like to acknowledge with a card or a small gift. 

Picking at Acne

The tween and teen years can be difficult for your child's self-esteem as acne and other complexion issues can take its toll. Help your tween learn healthy hygiene habits and skincare habits. Your tween should know how to care for his or her skin and learn techniques for dealing with breakouts and acne.

Consult with your pediatrician or dermatologist for tips and product recommendations. Many of the counter products can help with minor or occasional breakouts, but serious or cystic acne may require the advice of a dermatologist. Be sure your tween does not pick at acne, as that could lead to scarring and make matters worse. 

Making Messes

Children make messes, but even toddlers can be taught to pick up their toys and books. Your older child may be forgetting all that you taught him or her about picking up and leaving things the way you found them.

You will have to constantly remind your child that it's everyone's responsibility to chip in and get the chores done. You will also probably have to remind your child that he or she is responsible for any messes they make. You may need to enforce rules and consequences so that your child knows you aren't kidding. 

Forgetting to Practice

Your once enthusiastic piano player may not be working practice time into her schedule anymore. Busy tweens often put off chores and demands that they once embraced, partly due to increased responsibilities at school, as well as new interests and hobbies that take their time. You may need to help your tween figure out how to organize his or her free time, and find ways to get to all those things that keep your child busy and enriched.

If your child can no longer keep up with his or her activities, it might be time to eliminate a few activities from your tween's schedule. 

Being Disrespectful

Tweens and teens are no longer the sweet little children they once were and you may find your child's behavior and language are occasionally not appropriate. Your child is hearing all sorts of things at school and on the bus and practice field, and while you shouldn't be surprised if your tween occasionally lets loose a rude comment or word every now and then, you should do whatever it takes to make sure your child doesn't develop a bad habit that includes foul-mouthed communication.

Teach your tween that the way he or she speaks will directly influence how others view him or her and that the language he or she uses can make others feel uncomfortable. Constant cursing is a difficult habit to break, and it's easier to prevent than to redirect later, so try to help your tween get control of it now, while you still have some influence over your tween's behavior. 

Also, it's important that, as the parent of a tween, you occasionally review how your child treats others, including other children, adults, teachers, and coaches. If your child's good manners occasionally lapse, offer a gentle reminder of what is and is not appropriate. Your tween's behavior now will pave the way for how he or she will behave in the teenage years and beyond. 

Keeping a Sloppy Bedroom

It's totally age-appropriate for your tween to show signs of messiness and his or her room will likely suffer. If your child is keeping a messy bedroom or personal space, try not to make unreasonable demands that his or her room be kept spic and span clean. Instead, require your child to pick up the room once a week. You may consider setting up a schedule or creating a chart chore that will help your child stay on track.

Make it fun and easy for your tween to keep his or her room clean. Offer up bins, hampers, baskets and other storage devices to help your child find ways to organize his or her things. Be sure your tween occasionally goes through closets and dressers to make room for new things, and consider reorganizing a room in order to make it easier for your tween to keep it clean. 


It's hard for a parent when they catch their child lying to them. Tweens may lie because they don't want to get in trouble, they don't want their parents to be upset or disappointed in them, or because they just want to see if they can get away with it. If you catch your tween lying, it's time for a discussion with your tween.

Explain why it's so important for parents and children to trust one another, and that once trust is lost, it can be difficult to get back. Explain to your tween that you would rather know the truth than being told a lie.

If your tween engages in frequent lying, you might need to enlist the help of a school counselor or therapist to help you develop strategies for dealing with your tween's lying and to help turn it around.

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