The Most Effective Ways to Discipline 11-Year-Olds

Disciplining an 11-year-old should be about teaching, not punishing.
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Raising an 11-year-old presents some interesting parenting challenges. No longer a ‘little kid,’ but not quite a teenager, many 11-year-olds feel a little lost—and their parents often feel a little lost when it comes to finding age-appropriate discipline.

While some 11-year-olds are still playing with dolls and toy trucks, others are more focused on looking cool. So while some parents of pre-adolescents are trying to “tame the boy craziness,” others are still trying to get their children to take baths.

What You Should Know About 11-Year-Olds

Age 11 is usually a time of rapid growth—physically, socially, cognitively, and emotionally.  And sometimes, kids seem to take two steps forward and one step back in terms of their maturity.

The tween years are when most children begin to think more about how others perceive them. They worry about what their friends think of them.

And friends become very important at this age. Many kids prefer to start spending more time with their pals and less time with their parents. Some of them begin to show an interest in romantic relationships too.

Children vary greatly in terms of physical development at age 11. Most of them have already entered puberty and they may be confused by the physical changes they’re experiencing.

It’s common for them to become self-conscious.  One child may feel insecure because her friends are developing faster while another may feel bad she’s developing earlier than her peers.

By age 11, many kids start showing a lot more responsibility. You might be able to trust your child to stay home alone for longer periods.

The Most Common Behavior Problems

One of the most common behavior problems parents of 11-year-olds experience is the ‘know-it-all’ attitude. While a child’s reasoning and problem-solving skills become more advanced around this age, many 11-year-olds think they’re able to do everything on their own.

So don’t be surprised if your 11-year-old says, “I know!” whenever you remind him to pick up his socks or wash his hands before dinner.

It’s also common for 11-year-olds to become argumentative. Your child may start to question your behavior by asking questions like, “You said you were only going to talk to Grandma for a few minutes. So why did you stay on the phone for an hour?” or, “You always say it’s not healthy to eat junk food. So why do you keep a bag of chocolate candy on your desk?”

Your child may look for loopholes in your rules as well. If you say, “No TV after dinner,” he may try to delay dinner as long as possible so he can watch TV longer. Or, if you tell him to stop watching TV, he may say, “I’m not watching TV. I’m watching my tablet.”

Be prepared to have conversations about the household rules and the importance of enforcing them. It’s also imperative to continuously address issues like kindness and respect.

Most Effective Discipline Strategies for 11-Year-Olds

It’s important to make sure your discipline strategies match your child’s needs. When your child breaks the rules or misbehaves, use discipline strategies that will teach him to make better choices in the future.

Here are the most effective discipline strategies for 11-year-olds:

  • Create a behavior contract. Create a behavior contract that outlines what he needs to do to earn and keep extra privileges. If he wants a smartphone, explain how he could show you when he’s ready for that responsibility. Write down the behaviors you’d need to see from him, such as getting his chores done on time and putting away his other electronics without arguing.
  • Take away privileges. When your child misbehaves, remove a meaningful privilege. Take away electronics for 24 hours or don’t allow her to go to friend’s house over the weekend. Removing those privileges maintains your authority and sends a message that privileges must be earned.
  • Reward good behavior. Provide extra incentives that will keep your child working hard. Give her an allowance for doing her chores or let her invite a friend to the movies if she gets all of her homework handed in on time.
  • Provide pre-teaching. It’s likely your 11-year-old will start doing more things on her own. Before you send her into new situations, talk about the rules and your expectations. Spend some time reviewing how she might handle specific problems that could arise.
  • Engage in problem-solving. Rather than tell your child what to do, give her an opportunity to engage in problem-solving with you. Point out a problem and ask for her input by saying, “You keep forgetting to bring your basketball sneakers with you to school. What can we do so you’ll remember?” If she weighs in on the possible solutions, she’ll likely be more motivated to improve her behavior.
  • Let her face natural consequences. Step aside and let your child make some mistakes. Allow her to face the natural consequences of her behavior. So rather than remind her repeatedly to pack her snack for school, let her forget it one day. Not being able to eat a snack may remind her to pack it the next day.

How to Prevent Behavior Problems Before They Start

Many 11-year-olds start to value their privacy more. They may want more alone time in their rooms or they may want to hold conversations with their friends out of your earshot.

It’s important to give an 11-year-old a little privacy. Allowing her to have her own space can give her a sense of freedom and independence.

Just make sure you don’t give your child too much privacy. Monitor her online activity and insist that she tell you who she is spending time with and where she is going.

Get to know your child’s friends and their families. Don’t be shy about calling other kids’ parents to ensure they are going to be home before your child goes to their home.

It’s also a good time to start talking about peer pressure. Without the appropriate skills, children at this age may be pressured into making poor choices.

Make sure your parenting strategies are teaching your child the life skills she is going to need to become a responsible adult. Help her sharpen some of her skills, like conflict resolution, emotion regulation, and impulse control.

Additionally, start handing over more responsibility to her. Assign more complex chores, expect her to do her homework with fewer reminders, and give her more chances to be independent.

Creating charts and checklists can help your child be more responsible. Rather than remind her of each chore to do after school or each item to pack in her soccer bag, tell her to follow through with her checklist.

Spend quality time together. Maintaining a healthy relationship is the biggest key to preventing many behavior problems.

Maintain Healthy Communication With Your 11-Year-Old

Although a lengthy lecture isn’t likely to be helpful talking to your 11-year-old about making healthy choices is imperative. Just make sure that you aren’t the one doing all the talking. Show that you are interested in hearing her opinion.

When you show that you value what she thinks, she’ll start to value her own opinion. That’s important because you want her to be a critical thinker who knows she can make healthy decisions.

If she’s confident in her ability to make good choices, she’ll trust herself to do the right thing, even when you’re not there to tell her what to do.

So ask questions about movie characters, what her friends are doing and how she feels about current events. Ask her how she arrived at her decisions and why she thinks the way she does.

She’ll start developing some of her own values and beliefs soon, and many of those might be different from yours. So now is a great time to help her understand why she thinks the way she does—not simply because that’s what someone told her to think.