3 Pitfalls To Avoid With Your Tween or Teen

You may not be potty training toddlers or buckling car seats anymore, but your parenting days are hardly over.

As a parent of a tween or teen, you’re likely faced with a child who used to love to spend time with you—but now doesn’t want to get close as she turns instead to her peers.

It’s possible her rebellious behavior, backtalk, or defiant attitude may be driving everyone in the house crazy.

Don’t worry: not only is this behavior perfectly normal as part of an important individualization process, but it’s also preventable with a few tweaks to your parenting style.

Here are 3 top parenting mistakes to avoid with your tween or teen:

1. Refusing to let go. Kids in this age group are ready for increasing amounts of responsibility and privileges—but parents are often terrified of letting go. We tend to “clamp down,” trying to exert more control over our kids. This is where a lot of heated power struggles come from.

Instead, respect your child’s need for autonomy, and let go a little as he grows older. Look for opportunities to give your kids more responsibility and decision-making opportunities. Make sure he knows the kind of behavior you expect from him, as well as what will happen if he decides to test your limits. With a little more control over his own life, your tween or teen will thrive, and you’ll love seeing his growing independence

2. Bossing around. No one likes to be ordered, corrected, or directed as they go about their day, and this type of communication is almost guaranteed to make your child shut down and not listen.

Think about it: how would you feel if your coworkers or spouse told you when and how to do everything? If we want our kids to respect us, we need to respect them.

Make sure the requests you make of your tween or teen are reasonable, and phrased in a calm voice. With everything, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone requested it of you. You can still hold your child accountable to what you ask, just do so in a respectful way that empowers her to learn from her choices.

One way to limit ordering, correcting and directing is a tool called “Invite Cooperation.” Tell your tween or teen, “I’m slammed with work tonight, so anything you could do to clean up from dinner would really help me out.” Chances are, she’ll pitch in.

3. Playing for the opposing team. So often, tweens and teens feel like their parents are working against them. We do this from a place of love and concern, but we tend to interrogate, order around, and generally mistrust our tweens and teens. They perceive we lack confidence in their ability to do anything right. If we could show our kids we’re actually on their team, we might find them talking openly to us and actually wanting to spend time as a family!

So how do you get on your tween/teen’s team?

One of the simplest ways is to spend 10 minutes once or twice a day doing something he wants to do.

That can be finding new music online, shooting hoops or simply chatting (not interrogating) about his day. This time will go a long way toward increasing your emotional connection and open the lines of communication—and show your child that you’re on his team, and not against him.

By avoiding these top three parenting pitfalls and truly making an effort to be on their team, you can make a huge difference in your tween or teen’s life. Even better, you’ll prepare your child to become a responsible adult.


About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.