Solving Communication Problems

Maintaining a good relationship with your child is important for getting him to do things that he prefers not to do and being able to influence him. Even tweens with an overly developed conscience are still at the stage where they do the right thing to avoid displeasing their parents, teachers, and other authority figures rather than because they can readily tell the difference between right and wrong.

A big problem for parents is getting tweens to listen when they are being spoken to. In fact, many parents are so used to being ignored, they automatically raise their voices when asking their tween to do something, as if speaking to someone who is slightly deaf. Most tweens dislike being shouted at and ordered about. It makes them resentful, and as they mature, they begin speaking in the same disrespectful ways to their parents.

Most tweens prefer negative attention to no attention. If you think your tween misbehaves just to upset you, you could be right! To improve your relationship, make a concerted effort to acknowledge and appreciate any small things he does that you feel good about.

Your child may undergo a marked personality change during the tween years. Rather than overreacting to squelch defiance or assuming that if you do nothing he'll eventually mature, realize that he is beginning to have more opinions of his own and needs to learn to express them properly.

For many parents, the biggest challenges are remembering to treat their child respectfully on the one hand, and demanding that their child treat them respectfully on the other. Modeling is the most potent form of teaching. If you yell and scream out of frustration, apologize later, just as you would expect someone else to do if he lost his temper with your child, and just as you would expect your child to do if he took out his crankiness on you or his teachers. Down the road, he'll need to be able to handle himself appropriately with bosses and employers.

Parents get cranky from time to time. Taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, meditating or doing yoga, and keeping your schedule under control aren't just ways to pamper yourself. They're ways to make you a better parent.

Respectful Communication

If your child continues to argue and questions your decisions, it is understandable that you'll feel defensive, especially if you are unsure about your decisions in the first place. No parent can ever be 100 percent certain. Child rearing is an art, not a science. Give your youngster reasons for your decisions, but do not argue about the fairness of your rules and whether things are better in other households. To do that is to sink to your child's level. Instead, empathize with the fact that she would like things to be different and use these opportunities to teach lessons about conflict resolution. Remember:

  • Allow your child to state her point of view.

  • Remain respectful.

  • Accept her point of view as valid.

  • Insist that your child stick to the issue at hand.

  • Insist that she communicate respectfully.

  • Let your child know that personal attacks hurt your feelings, which is unacceptable.

  • Terminate a conversation that is degenerating or going nowhere and agree to resume it when you both have had a chance to calmly think things through.

  • Empower your child by offering several options to choose from.

  • Compromise if you can; agree to disagree if you cannot.

  • Just as an effective way to respond to a toddler's screams for a cookie is to let her choose between apple slices or some cheese, offering tweens choices allows them to save face and gives them a sense of control. If you don't allow coed parties and your tween is demanding one, offer her a choice: girls only or a small family celebration. This won't cause her to be joyous if she really wants boys there, but by letting her choose she participates in the decision. It also enables her to explain to her friends, “I decided just to invite girls,” or “Instead of a big party, I decided just to have cake with the family.”

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