Discipline and Your Tween

If you're at a loss with your tween these discipline tips may help

If you have a tween, you're up against some serious discipline challenges. Tweens are known for testing the boundaries, and they should be very aware of the consequences of their actions and behaviors. If you're the parent or caregiver of a tween, these child discipline techniques will help you teach discipline and develop a plan of action.

Child Discipline: Why Tweens Misbehave

Mid adult woman arguing with daughter in kitchen as father tries to settle dispute
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Most of the time when a tween pushes the limits, it's perfectly normal. Tweens need to know what they can and can't get away with, and the best way for them to find out is through experimentation. Your tween wants to test his independence and acting out is the result. Acting out can include lying, copping an attitude, using bad language, failing to finish homework, or any number of behaviors.

It's easy to lose patience with a tween whose broken the rules, but parents should keep in mind that while tweens can at times be very mature, their brains are not yet fully developed. The result is they don't always make good decisions. When you teach discipline, children have a better understanding of where the boundaries are and why they are there.

Discipline, Children and Rules

The best way to teach your child discipline is to prevent bad behavior before it starts. Explain exactly what your rules are to your tween. Assuming he knows that he's not allowed at a friend's house after school without permission is assuming a lot. Unless you've specified that he must call first to ask permission, he won't necessarily make the connection.

When it comes to discipline children need specifics. Be sure you explain why the rule is in place, so that your tween understands you're not arbitrarily coming up with rules for him to follow.

Be Specific About Consequences

When you discipline children it's also important that you communicate that actions come with certain consequences. If your tween has been told time and again to clean his room, but doesn't, it could be time to dole out a disciplinary punishment. One word of caution: when it comes to punishment, let the punishment fit the crime. You might say, "If your room isn't clean by dinner tonight, there will be no television for you later this evening."

Enforce Your Rules

When it comes to discipline, children understand punishments. Often times, the threat of losing something is enough to motivate a tween into action. But not always. If normal disciplinary measures such as taking away treats, television, time with friends, or other consequences don't jolt your tween back to his sweet self, it may be time to take a harder look at what's going on. Angry, defiant behavior can be a sign of something more serious. Your tween may be acting out because he wants your attention, or because he's having trouble at school. If your attempts to get to the bottom of the situation don't work, it could be time to seek professional help from an expert who can offer additional child discipline strategies.

Allow Mistakes

Sometimes, experience is the best teacher of all. Allow your child the opportunity to learn by mistake, as long as that mistake won't put him in jeopardy. And remember that teaching a child discipline can sometimes be harder on you than it is the child.

Rewards Still Work

When your tween was a preschooler or in Kindergarten he probably came home with stars for good behavior. Rewarding good behavior still works with tweens. When your child goes out of his way to be thoughtful or helpful, or cleans his room without being told, be sure you acknowledge his behavior positively. You can say, "I saw that you helped empty the dishwasher, and I want to thank you for being so responsible and helpful." A hug is also a great reward, as is a little time alone with mom or dad playing cards, listening to music or watching television. Remember, sometimes discipline, children and parenting requires positive reinforcement.

Be Careful What You Say

Tweens are very sensitive and may assume that you're disgusted with them, rather than disappointed in their behavior. Make sure you criticize your tween's actions, not your tween. For example, you could say, "Skipping school was a very bad decision," rather than, "You're so bad for skipping school."

Also, make sure you engage your child when you're calm and reasonable. It won't do you any good to impose an unreasonable consequence, only to take it back when you realize you went too far. If necessary, discuss the situation with your spouse, parenting partner, or a friend before you sit down with your tween. Keep your tone calm, and do not allow your tween to push your buttons. Remain in charge, firm, but kind.

Review Family Rules

One reason tweens act out is because they are ready for a little more independence. Every now and then review your family rules to see if you can give your tween a little more wiggle room. For example, if your tween is refusing to do his homework, ask him for suggestions on how he might tackle the project. He may decide to finish homework after dinner, or take it in bits and pieces over the course of the evening. Giving him some control over the situation may help him adjust his attitude.

Remember Safety

Parents are wise to choose their battles carefully. Giving in a little on small infractions may keep the peace in your family, and show your tween that you're willing to compromise. But when a tween engages in behaviors that are dangerous or puts his safety in jeopardy, it's up to you to put an end to that behavior, right away. The hardest part about discipline, children and parenting is being consistent with your rules, rewards, and consequences.

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