Maintaining Mutual Respect
If you think your tween would gladly trade you for almost anybody else's parent, it's probably because she has let you know through words, deeds, or “attitude” that she doesn't think much of your household rules (too strict), your financial decisions (not enough spent on video games and clothes), your lifestyle (you watch the wrong television shows), your age (too old), your weight (too thin or too fat), your wardrobe (not cool), your hair (not cool), the way you drive (not cool).
It is typical for tweens to criticize or ridicule their parents' hairstyle, clothes, weight, mannerisms, and ideas. It is also common for them to use words or body language to signal that they think their parents are committing a disgusting social blunder by walking the face of the earth. You need to take these comments for what they're worth, which isn't very much, and make sure that your youngster behaves respectfully.
Tweens need to be able to express their personal opinions, but they need to learn to do so respectfully. Hurting people's feelings by dissing them is not a healthy way to relate to peers, much less to parents and teachers.
Although your tween probably does believe that you could stand some improvement, her negative comments may reflect her idea about how tweens are supposed to communicate with others rather than how she really feels toward you. In most tween circles, verbal posturing and put-downs are commonplace. Most of their conversation is a competition as peers jockey and vie for social position.
If your tween mocks your errors and ridicules your mistakes, she may well be mimicking the taunts and verbal power plays she has seen television characters dole out to one another. The attitudes toward parents expressed in many programs targeted to tweens are demeaning. Don't allow parent-bashing shows to be aired in your home, unless you're at her side to help her see them for what they are: unacceptable.Commanding Respect
Parents are human beings, too, and children must recognize this fact. For your tween to blatantly disregard your feelings is hurtful and can undermine even the strongest parent-child relationship. You need to take immediate steps to stop disrespectful behavior at home while letting your youngster know that mistreating others is not acceptable at home, school, or anywhere else. As she learns to disagree with you and remain considerate, she will learn how to respond to peers who torment her or treat her with disrespect. In other words, by respectfully demanding your child's courteous treatment, you teach her to respect others. Moreover, you model how to command respect from others. Here is what you might tell your disrespectful tween:
How her behavior made you feel — that she hurt your feelings and/or made you angry.
That if she is angry about something, she needs to tell you in a direct, straightforward manner rather than treating you disrespectfully.
That you hope she doesn't treat her peers disrespectfully.
That although her peers may like, accept, or tolerate such behavior, you do not and will not.
That if she thinks such behavior is acceptable because she has seen children on television act that way, she shouldn't watch it anymore.
That you expect an apology.
If your child indicates that she is in fact angry with you about something, tell her you will be happy to discuss it later so as not to cloud the issue at hand: She is not to be disrespectful toward you. If she doesn't think an apology is in order, tell her that your relationship must be a top priority since you're going to be living together for many years to come. Insist that she take time out from other activities so she can give careful consideration to how the two of you are going to get along. Even if her pride won't allow her to apologize to you, tell her you need a promise to treat you respectfully in the future.