Memoirs of a Psychologist: Pre-Teen Parenting Tips for Understanding Your Son or Daughter

The following is a piece on pre-teen parenting tips, co-authored with psychologist Robert Erdei. We partnered with Dr. Erdei to create a series of blog posts geared specifically toward the difficult parenting challenges we were experiencing ourselves. We call this series, "Memoirs of a Psychologist". We hope you enjoy this piece and please don't hesitate to leave a comment below with your thoughts.

The physical and emotional development of children fosters the desire to seek and the ability to acquire greater knowledge. They begin to desire more independence and start to question the norms, values and standards around them. These changes are most apparent in the family and can create some very challenging issues for the parent-child relationship.

Family is still the safe haven for them, but certain storms are apparent on their sea.

While their true self may still only be a glimmer in their eyes, kids are certainly taking the first steps into that direction. Family is still the safe haven for them, but certain storms are apparent on their sea. Parents and family members are the ones who provide support, have the greatest responsibility for their preadolescent kids, who turn to them when they are in need.

Children may think differently, but the role of family and parents as the most important influence is difficult to debate.

Need Help Overcoming Parenting Challenges?

Memoirs of a Psychologist is a series of post in partnership with Dr. Robert Erdei. Memoirs of a Psychologist doesn't just scratch the surface of your parenting challenges. We dig deep, seeking to help you create the change needed to be a better parent and have better relationships with your children.

Click below to visit the Memoirs of a Psychologist blog post series home page for more parenting tips and resources.

As Teen Years Approach, Conflict is (Almost) Inevitable

Despite the importance of parents, several conflicts between pre-teens and parents can surface. Tweens are not little kids anymore; they have clear (ahem) expectations and wishes. Often times these expectations and wishes focus mostly on more independence and freedom.

This is the time when most of  kids start to disagree with parents and formulate their own opinion about a variety of things. Disagreements with family members usually stem from the differences in the wishes of the tween and the expectations of parents.

Preadolescents can act like real adolescent in some sense. They might want more freedom and the right to decide, but they are reluctant to accept increased responsibility for their choices.

On the opposite side, parents often feel the need to restrict them (sometimes even more so) and teens & pre-teens could feel that these rules are unjust. They choose to rebel, which can result in a number of behaviors from disrespectful attitudes to even more dangerous behavior.

[bctt tweet="#Tweens are at the age when many of kids start to disagree with #parents." username="dadtography"]

Is More Freedom for Teens & Tweens a Solution or a Cause?

Parents may consider allowing their tweens and teens more freedom - IF they see responsible and trustworthy behaviors. But, let's be honest - that's a big "if".

It is very important to understand the dangers of disagreements. This time can signal the beginning of a deep rift forming in the relationship between youth and their parents.

Disagreements and misunderstandings can lead to less communication, the blaming of each other and the loss of all positive bonds among the members of the family. The time of (pre)adolescence is often a perfect storm on both sides. It's natural to feel that you drive each other crazy (yes, your child feels that too), but this does not have to mean that you do not need to love each other. You just have to be aware of the change of circumstances.

Familial rules, roles and boundaries are not there to restrict kids unjustly, but to provide them safe and secure environments to experience and grow into their new minds and bodies. Parents have a very important responsibility in marking the boundaries and have the challenge to find the happy medium between allowing more freedom in certain areas and being stricter in others.

A 12 year old needs different limits than a five year old. The developmental levels are different and the expectations, the opportunities and the methods of control should be different as well. It is very useful to involve the developing child into the creation of the rules regulating his or her behavior. If the tween participates in the construction of the rules, they would be more acceptable. Moreover, the child feels that his or her opinions are valued and respected.

[bctt tweet="Is more freedom for #tweens and #teens a solution or a cause? #parenting" username="dadtography"]

Adding Family to the Mix Complicates Pre-Teen Parenting

The family usually does not just consist the parents and one child. Siblings, grandparents and members of the extended family are all present. Siblings can be rivals, but children can learn a lot from each other too, such as sharing, effective communication and cooperation or empathy.

Siblings and other family members can be role models for the children at this age. It might sound painful for parents, but their tweens are likely to choose others, even outside the family, as their role models now. It's no longer a role held exclusively by their parents. This new relationship dynamic can have a ripple effect of sorts throughout the family.

Siblings and other family members can be role models for the children at this age. It might sound painful for parents, but their tweens are likely to choose others, even outside the family, as their role models now. It's no longer a role held exclusively by their parents. This new relationship dynamic can have a ripple effect of sorts throughout the family.

[bctt tweet="#Tweens are likely to choose others, even outside the #family, as their role models. #parenting" username="dadtography"]

Responsibility Takes a Back Seat for Tweens and Teens

A tween's ability to identify with the parents is more difficult than before because of the previously mentioned differences in opinions and expectations. Furthermore, family life increasingly represents a "chore" for tweens.

Despite an apparent hatred for duties, their development is indeed served by age-appropriate tasks, which allow them to learn age-appropriate responsibilities as well.

The exact nature of the chores depends on the individual situation of the child and the family, but school-related issues are probably the first in the line for most preadolescents.

Other tasks might include caring for themselves, their stuff, for the house pets, helping parents in chores around the house, such as cleaning or washing the dishes. Tweens are prone to forget about these duties, but it would be impossible for them to imagine that their parents forget about theirs. It's not even fathomable that dad would forget to pick me up, that mom does not cook dinner or wash my clothes.

If confronted with these facts, the results can be somewhat interesting, but nonetheless, likely won't help them remember their duties.

The preteen years are often the beginning of a certain level of disconnect between the child and the family. Shared activities and events with family are no longer interesting to them. They often want to do something else or they suddenly develop a sour mood before an event.

[bctt tweet="#Family life increasingly represents a 'chore' for tweens. #eyeroll #WhatEverDad #Parenting" username="dadtography"]

Parents do well if they can keep the interest of their children and teach them the importance of shared time and experiences. But those are often uphill battles. Children at this age need time alone and time for their friends and hobbies. This need is perfectly normal, in moderation.

However, parents should ensure that their child is as much part of the family as before and participates in the life of the family as well. The willingness of the child to spend time with the parents and other family members is a good indicator of his or her opinions about them; just like everybody else, tweens spend time with others they like. If your tween or teen is reluctant to spend time with you, you may need to consider why that is the case.

Other Memoirs of a Psychologist Posts:

Memoirs of a Psychologist: Divorce’s Effects on Children

One of the greatest risks for children who experience divorce may be that they learn it as the sole solution to marital problems.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Effects of Divorce on Men

Psychologist Dr. Robert Erdei weighs in on the effects of divorce on men with this newest piece in the “Memoirs of a Psychologist” series.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Raising Resilient Kids After Divorce

Another great piece from Dr. Robert Erdei writing about one of his passions and specialties: Raising Resilient Kids After Divorce. How do children of divorce survive and thrive?

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Pre-Teen Parenting Challenges

Psychologist Robert Erdei weighs in with some pre-teen parenting challenges and tips for getting to know your son or daughter.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Help for Parents of Defiant Teens: Part I – Is My Child Defiant?

Part I in our “defiant teens” series: Help for Parents of Defiant Teens: Part I – Is My Child Defiant? Psychologist Robert Erdei sheds light on a common problem.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Pre-Teen Behavior Challenges and Solutions

Dadtography.com presents another guest post from Psychologist Robert Erdei where he helps parents deal with pre-teen behavior challenges and solutions.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: On Childhood Obesity

Memoirs of a Psychologist: dealing with childhood obesity – how to identify symptoms, risks and prevent our children from becoming overweight.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Bedwetting Solutions

Psychologist Robert Erdei tackles the tough topic of bedwetting (enuresis) including diagnosing the condition, explaining the causes and solutions.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Asperger Syndrome in Children

An overview of Asperger Syndrome in children by Dr. Robert Erdei including symptoms, diagnosis and what to expect if you suspect your child has Asperger Syndrome.

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Memoirs of a Psychologist: Selective Mutism in Children

Another great Memoirs of a Psychologist piece is for parents: Selective Mutism in Children. What are the causes, treatments and what to expect.

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What do you think? Do you struggle parenting a pre-teen? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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