7 Challenging Behaviors in Pre-Teens, and How to Cope With Them

Everyone talks about how hard the teen years are, and they can be brutal! But have you ever met a pre-teen or tween? Those not-kids-but-not-quite-teens aren’t exactly a walk in the park, either. Between the ages of 9 – 12, tweens undergo a lot of changes: physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. The sweet, engaging kid you knew is now sullen, craving independence, and rocking an attitude. It can be a difficult parenting period, for sure. If you’re looking for some help with dealing with these challenging pre-teen behaviors, we may be able to help.

There are plenty of challenging pre-teen behaviors to contend with.

1. One of the hardest to deal with is the back-talk and general attitude they suddenly exhibit toward you.

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Image: Giphy

The eye-rolling, the talking back, the deep sighs and mutterings under their breath: these tweens are not having it anymore! It’s hard to not want to put them back in their place, especially because their “place” is changing. They’re growing and maturing, and trying to find their individuality. It’s totally normal, but yes, it can drive you crazy and make you question your parenting skills. The biggest thing to remember is that you shouldn’t take it personally. But you also shouldn’t let your pre-teens walk all over you! Try to keep your own attitude in check when addressing these little outbursts, and don’t overreact. That will only make it worse.

2. Your pre-teen might start trying to relate to you on a peer level, and not a child-parent level. Don’t fall for it.

Yes, we want to be friends with our kids. And eventually, we will be! But in these crucial formative years, it’s important that we maintain our status as the parent. They’re going to be looking to you for guidance, advice, and support as they navigate some tricky social situations and try to deal with these newfound feelings. They may not act like it, but they will need the wisdom of your years to learn some really important coping skills.

3. Another one of the challenging pre-teen behaviors to watch for is their sudden desire for independence. In other words, your road dog might not want to roll with you much anymore.

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They’re not rejecting you, even though it can certainly feel that way. At this age, our kids start to turn away from us and rely more on their friends. And that’s fine! They’re finding their place in this world, and beginning to build a peer support system that is super important during their adolescent years. Allow them that freedom and independence, but make sure they still know you’re there for them and always will be. Carve out some time for the two of you as much as possible, and try not to be too intrusive. They may not feel comfortable spending time with you and opening up to you if you’re constantly trying to force information out of them.

4. Tweens and social media aren’t always a good mix, but it’s suddenly a huge part of their life.

Sure, you want to give your tweens and pre-teens access to social media. And it can definitely make life easier, as far as keeping tabs on what’s going on with their friends and in their social circles. But there need to be some hard and fast rules from the get-go. Passwords should always be shared, accounts need to be set to private, and you should make it a point to regularly check their posts, messages, and friend lists. If they try to hide anything from you, that’s the end of social media for them!

5. You may find that your go-to punishments don’t have the same oomph as they used to, and it might be time to switch it up a bit. Same goes for rewards!

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Image: Giphy

“10 minute time-out, young lady!” just doesn’t have the same effect on pre-teens and tweens as it does smaller kids. Likewise, stickers and a lollipop for a job well-done may not elicit the same joyful response! As your kiddos get older, you have to try to respect their interests and sudden maturity, and work on that level. Grounding, taking away phones or tablets, or requiring your tween to write an apology letter are always good punishments. But you have to stick to them! Just like toddlers, when your tween spots a weakness, they will exploit it.

6. Challenging pre-teen behaviors can manifest in them showing a complete disrespect toward you, family members, and other adults.

It’s important to explain how their behavior doesn’t just effect them, but everyone. Explain (calmly) that when they yell or scream at you, it’s hurtful and not at all helpful. And then make sure you don’t give it right back in the same way. Yes, your kids should show respect, but they also deserve respect. Don’t feel too high and mighty to apologize when you’re wrong or when you’ve crossed a line. Remember, they’re watching and learning from you.

7. Finally, now is the time you need to set some clear boundaries. Because your tweens and pre-teens will be pushing against them like their lives depend on it.

And I’m not just talking about how late they can stay out or how long they can spend on their phone. They need clear boundaries and expectations for what they’re required to do at home, at school, and when they’re not with you. There’s no reason a tween or pre-teen shouldn’t be responsible for a pretty hefty chore list, especially when it comes to their own rooms or laundry. They need clear and non-negotiable expectations for their grades and participation in school, with swift punishments or corrections when warranted. It’s just like Sebastian said: you give teenagers an inch and they’ll walk all over you.

These challenging pre-teen behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg. But as scary as raising a tween can be, it can also be so rewarding. They’re on their way to becoming amazing adults. You’ve just got to help them get there!

(Image: iStock / vadimguzhva)

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