Managing Your Tween's Attitude Problem

Don't let your tween's attitude get you down

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When your child hits puberty or enters the middle school years, it's possible that you'll notice a change in his or her personality or attitude. Attitude problems are fairly common with the tween age group. Even once loving and easy-going children can become problematic for their parents and teachers. If your child's attitude has taken a change for the worse, you may be doubting your parenting skills or worry about your child's behavior. Before you stress too much, consider the information below on how to manage your tween's attitude issues.

Dealing With Tween Attitude Problems

  • Attitude Problems Are Normal: First of all, it's perfectly normal for your preteen to test boundaries once in a while, and one of the ways they do that is to cop an attitude with mom or dad. Your child may talk back, become moody or disrespect you, your spouse or another adult. These behaviors do not by themselves mean that anything is wrong with your tween. Just the opposite. They show that your child is developing and trying to establish a little independence. In other words, your child is headed towards adolescence and you're in for a bumpy ride. While attitude problems are normal, that doesn't mean that they are fun or easy to deal with it, but as a parent, you must. Helping your child refocus his or her energy will help them learn coping skills, and may help your tween develop a more positive outlook.
  • You Can Set Limits: While attitude issues are normal during the tween years, that doesn't mean that you have no recourse for bad behavior. You do, just as you always had options when your child misbehaved. The key at this age is to help your child find ways to manage his or her moods and disappointments and to know as a parent when you need to step in and discipline bad behavior. Of course, that's not always easy to do. Many parents decide to ignore less offensive behaviors such as eye rolling, sighing or minor challenges to their authority, such as when tweens leave dirty clothes on their bedroom floor after they've been told to pick them up. But children who are rude to others, disrespectful to their parents, mean to siblings or friends probably need some parental guidance. The same goes for children who disobey family rules. Be specific with your child about what you will not tolerate, and also be clear about consequences if your child breaks those rules. Most importantly, if your child does break your rules, follow through with your discipline so he knows next time that you really do mean what you say.
  • Help Your Tween Manage Her Feelings: When tweens behave badly it's often because they are upset and don't know how to deal with their emotions. When your child cops an attitude by walking away when you're speaking to him or her, ignoring you, or yelling at you, your first reaction may be anger. Resist losing your own temper so that you can help your child manage negative emotions. Point out that while you understand that your child is upset, angry or disappointed, that there are proper ways to deal with those emotions and improper ways. Let your tween know that you're willing to discuss the matter at hand when he or she calms down and can discuss the situation without name calling, eye rolling, or rude behavior. For example, you could say, "Even when you're angry, name calling or foul language are not permitted. If you behave that way you will be disciplined or lose privileges."
  • Model Proper Behavior: One of the best ways to teach good behavior to your tween is to model it yourself. By setting the best example you can, you show your child that even when times are tough or when emotions run high, it's possible to disagree with others and still show respect. Changing your own behavior may be difficult, but it's the best way to model the behavior you want to see in your child.
  • When Behavior Is Dangerous: There are times when even the best parent needs a little help from the experts. If your child's bad behavior escalates or if your child becomes violent or a danger to himself or others, it may be time to contact the school's guidance counselor or even your child's pediatrician for advice. Reaching out to others doesn't reflect badly on you. Rather it proves that you're willing to help your child find the solutions he needs to conquer whatever challenges he might be facing.