How To Cope With The Preteen Attitude


I'd been outside, happily gardening, for the last few hours. Getting lost in my garden is one of my favorite past times and one of the few ways I can decompress. I'm not so much a yoga person -- I'm much more a "break stuff and haul it around" kinda girl. It works well.

When I went inside I saw my eldest standing there watching television while the smaller kids both snuggled up in their beds.

"Okay Ben," I said nicely. "Time to brush your teeth and get ready for bed." Not an unreasonable request, considering it was half an hour past his bed time.

"FINE," he nearly screamed, stomping off to the bathroom to brush his teeth, rolling his eyes along the way. Why the attitude?

What just HAPPENED?

The Tween Years. That's what happened. Here's how I am coping with the preteen attitude.

I stay calm ... Even when the kid is so far under my skin, I can practically see him there, I count to ten, breathe, and then continue with my conversation with him. I try not to lash back at him because I don't want a power struggle, instead, I remain calm. Someone has to.

I praise the good things ... Sure, my kid has as much attitude as I did at that age (read: a lot), but he's also a really good kid. Sometimes he does make me want to pull my hair out, but even when he's doing that, I remind him that he is, in fact, a really good kid. Because he is.

I follow through with any consequences ... If I've threatened to take away his sleepovers or his time on the Game Cube, I do so. One of the best ways to reinforce bad behavior is to be consistent part of the time. So I'm not. I'm all in ... or all out.

I work with him on one thing at a time ... Sure, he's rolling his eyes, stomping around, and talking to me as though I'm a small child. But rather than critiquing his entire attitude, I focus on one thing (generally, talking down to me) at a time.

I've developed a thicker skin ... Between a vicious older brother and being a blogger, my skin is pretty think, or I thought it was until I had a preteen. I try to remember that I was once just like him and recall that this phase, too, passed. Everyone was happier when it did. Including me.

So that's how I cope with the preteen attitude. How do YOU cope with it? Any suggestions?

Image via chefranden/Flickr

independence, kid activities, tweens


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nonmember avatar Mike M

I prefer to be as non-authoritative as possible. (I don't have kids but I remember all too well how unhappy I was as a kid to have adults constantly ruling over my life by telling me what to do and not to do.) I feel that giving kids as much freedom as possible (though let them know what your limits are ahead of time and your reasons for setting such limits so they can understand *why* they should do or not do what you want them to do or not do - the more logical your rules are the more acceptable they should be from your kid's standpoint) and allowing them to experience for themselves the consequences of their decisions (such as being tired in the morning if they stay up late) is perhaps the best way to raise a kid who loves and respects you rather than resents you and rebels against you, and it should be the best way to help them learn how to become an independent, responsible adult.

nonmember avatar Lisa

Hey Mike. Become a parent, then offer advice. The author who is a parent is right. And her methods do work for me (as a parent) and a lot of my other parent friends. Set firm rules, stay calm (yes it can be so difficult!) and have real consequences when child misbehaves or treats anyone with disrespect. Our jobs as parents are to lead them to be compassionate, caring and strong adults. Not to flounder and hope they learn on their own. And no, I explain every rule and why. Part of learning respect is learning to trust your parents and follow the rules.

jessi... jessicasmom1

kids learn by examples .. Parents lead them in the right direction

princ... princezzmommie

i agree with everything except the thicker skin. hell no.  respect is the number one rule in this house and i don't care if you are 2 or 12 or 22.  i'm your mother and you are going to respect me. that includes the way you speak to me, your tone of voice and your attitude.  if that's a problem, there's the door.  don't have anyone else willing to put up with you in thier house?  well then, it sucks to be you cause you're stuck wiht my respect rule. 

maybe its harsh. too bad. its harsh for me to go to work sick or stay up until 1 doing laundry.  we all have our crosses to bear.

GlowW... GlowWorm889

I agree with the respect thing, though if I believe it shouldn't just be because I'm his mother. It should be because I'm another human being who also respects him, and therefore deserves respect in return. I heard the "I'm your parent, you respect me!" line from my own parents all the time while they were simultaneously disrespecting me and told myself I wouldn't do that to my kids. Respect is a two-way street.

I also agree with Mike--experience is a great teacher. My parents were a big believer in giving me just enough rope to hang myself. After all--I knew everything, didn't I? If I wanted to stay up all night, that was fine....but I had to go to school, do my homework, do extracurricular activities, my chores, and various other things on zero sleep. See how many arguments there were at bedtime the next night. If I didn't want to do my homework (in high school), that was fine...but I'm the one who had to deal with the failing grade. Didn't want to eat dinner? Fine, but I had to cook my own food or go without. They'd give me the warnings, but if I didn't heed them it was up to me to suffer the consequences. Kids tend to learn better if they experience the consequences themselves rather than being told. Of course, this would always be within reason (no testing the "I can drink and drive" theory), but for most things it works fairly well.

momsa... momsangel143

I am now entering the preteen fun! I will be remembering these tools. The talking back is the biggest problem for me.

nonmember avatar Gwen

When my daughter is being impossible, I tell her I love her. It catches her off guard, and it's hard for her to stifle a smile. She will usually come and apologize to me for being disrespectful.

nonmember avatar amom

HAHAHA Mike you make me laugh. Produce a responsible, independent adult,then give advice. Life's NOT the Cosby Show.


well my peeps i am glad ya'll got the preteen under control cause i dont, my boys were never as moody and aggravating as my daughter. as a matter of fact i dont think my boys went thr pretteen horror. but it slammed full force into my beautiful baby princess. i swear some days i want to rip my hair out from her. and any rule i give her or reason that i give her for that rule is just tossed out the window. she is currently grounded for 2 weeks, had to write 1,000 lines and will not be celbrating christmas (oh yes i did take her presents away). i swear one of us may not make it out alive lol (jk i would never) but my god in heaven, please give me the strength.

nonmember avatar Tracy

This couldn't have come at a better time. I just saw te link on a friends Facebook page. We just got done battling our over stimulated 5yr old. Waffles w/sugary syrup and a bunch of gifts made it too much for him and he turned nasty in an instant. My husband and I have been struggling with how to deal with him whenhe's on one of these benders. I think a calmer approach may help. Thanks!

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