SRSLY, My Tween Is So Annoyed With Me! 9 Tips From a Psychologist Mom
If you’re the parent of a tween (9-12yo), you may feel like they’re annoyed with you. All. The. Time.
And you’re frustrated because they’re still a kid — although not a little one — and not yet a teen, and there’s lots more parenting to do!
But They Seem So Mature?
Here’s the issue: your kid now seems old enough to listen to you vent or express worries about important lessons. You may share your feelings and worries with them in hopes that the sharing will help.
You warn your child about eating healthfully or sleeping enough at an upcoming sleepover.
You tell your tween that you’re worried about how much homework they’ll have this year, and you warn them to think ahead about creating good study habits.
You mention that 7th and 8th grade matters, you know. You better focus academically this year!
You express frustration with a chronically messy room or forgetfulness.
You’re trying to be communicative and honest as a parent, but your tween tunes you out or acts frustrated.
This is not working!
Why Is My Tween So Annoyed?
The tween’s developmental task is to carve out independence--to continue to make mistakes and grow from them.
Your tween wants you to know:
I am going to make mistakes. I want you to be OK with me when I do because mistakes help me learn.
For the most part, I want what you want! I want to make good choices and please you.
I want to feel close to you. I feel close to you when we’re in the present moment.
When I make the right choice or take baby steps towards a big goal, I want you to notice and feel happy with me.
When I make a mistake, I will want to talk to you and get your support to learn from the situation and find a solution.
More than anything, tweens want to share their developmental growth with you even if that means an occasional misstep. And they want you to be in the moment with them, not worrying into the future.
Tweens Crave Connection With Parents
So, what are some ways to continue your work as a parent while also creating a connection with your tween in this impactful development phase?
Be present. If tempted to offer a warning or advice for an upcoming situation, shift your attention to the present moment.
Emotional tending. Be aware of your own emotion (perhaps anxiety) and try to avoid urges to speak or admonish your tween if emotion-driven! Take care of your emotions and return to the conversation with your tween when you are calm, present, and feeling flexible in your thinking.
Positive reinforcement. Focus on what you want more of—what’s going well in your child’s behaviors. Notice what you feel good about and name it out loud.
Flow with praise. You don’t have to gush; simply noticing is enough! Tweens appreciate a low-key vibe, so keep it real and express gratitude as if to a co-worker. For example, “I noticed that you poured your little brother orange juice this morning. Thanks for your help with that.”
Space, please! Give space and project confidence in your tween’s choices. You might say, “I know you want to make good choices at the party. Let me know if I can help in any way.”
Be a resource. If your tween makes a mistake, give them some time and space to process and come to you to sort through the situation. If you’re pressing them to own the mistake, your tween may not feel comfortable using you as a resource.
Invite natural consequences. If your child makes a mistake and suffers natural consequences, these are a gift. Do not get in the way! (Examples may include a stomachache after eating too many spicy Cheetos, an “incomplete” grade due to a missed assignment, etc.)
Give advice sparingly. If your tween wants help or support with a challenging situation, provide information and a listening ear. If you must offer advice, try asking for their permission to offer advice first. Tweens will almost certainly give permission and will be 100% more interested in what you say.
Your tween’s experience is theirs, not yours. Offer a curious, blank mind and collaborative tone when your child wants to talk about their experience.
Why This Works
Timing is everything! If you tell a tween all the things you want them to do in advance, they will short-circuit. This is not the way the brain learns new behaviors.
“...you can work to create solutions and plans for future challenges together as a team.”
But if you “catch them being good” or doing what you want after the fact, and notice that with positive comments, the learning is optimized! With that energy, you can work to create solutions and plans for future challenges together as a team.
That’s how your tween will learn. And that’s how you will feel more connected, supportive, and useful to your tween’s growth!
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