Communicating with your tween isn't easy. You can be the best parent in the world, have an amazing relationship with your child and still struggle with getting through to your tween.
And there's a lot going on during this period that you should be talking about. It's the age when most kids stop playing with toys, start thinking about the opposite sex and begin yearning for more independence. Understandably, it can be especially difficult to connect with your tween during this time, and many parents go to crazy lengths just to get their kids to pay attention.
But you don't have to yell, tell lame jokes or use bribes to connect with your tween. All you really have to do is share something personal. As a parent, what you say has a profound effect on your child, and just like the rest of us, tweens respect and will respond to honest, open communication.
In this article, we're going to reveal what kind of personal information you should tell your tween to get him or her listening -- and talking. We'll explain why empathy, respect and proper discipline are all necessary for your budding preadolescent and how the message of a popular '60s song relates to your child.
5: When I Was Your Age ...
You don't want to constantly bore your tween with tales of your youth, but if you have a humorous (preferably self-deprecating) story that's relevant, share it! Relating to your child this way will help him or her learn more about you, and it will give you both something to laugh about. The two of you will undoubtedly grow closer as a result, even if it is at your expense.
Need help getting started with these personal anecdotes? Consider telling your tween how you used to dress when you were her age, or what hairstyle you had. Describe how much trouble you had in pre-algebra class -- and spill the beans about the worst grade you ever got on a test. Remember when word got out about that older boy you liked? Share the bitter tale with your tween! That's a great way to break the ice and encourage your kid to talk about any crush-worthy classmates she's been sizing up.
4: I Respect You
Everyone wants respect. Tweens are no different!
You might look at the simplicity of your child's life and smile, but preadolescent life can be rough. This is why telling your tween that he or she has your respect can make such a profound impact.
With balancing homework, chores and extracurricular activities, as well as maintaining a social life and managing family ties, your kid has his fair share of stressors. Many parents don't understand how complicated a tween's life can be, so it really means something when you acknowledge what your kid is going through and tell him that you respect the decisions he's making. We promise that uttering the three words "I respect you" will speak volumes … even if you have to remind him afterward to go clean his room.3: Being the Authority Figure Isn't Fun
Did your parents ever use the line "As long as you're living under my roof …"? What a cliché.
We hate to admit it, but the expression holds water. You don't have recite this line verbatim, but kids need to know they can't just do whatever they want. It's natural for children this age to try to usurp their parents' authority every now and again, but it's you -- not your tween -- who's in charge. Sometimes, you have to remind your kid of that. Establishing firm boundaries and rules shows that you care, and on some level your tween recognizes that.
But no kid is going to show appreciation for parental parameters. In fact, you'll meet plenty of resistance and rebellion as you work through these tween years. It's OK to tell your kid that being the authority figure isn't any fun. However, you take your job as a parent seriously, and you're willing to be the bad guy to ensure your tween stays safe and healthy.
2: I Want to Understand You
It's important to respect your tween, but understanding her is the key to a good parent-child relationship.
We can become so involved with our careers, car payments and social commitments that we lose focus on what it's like to be a kid. Let us remind you: It's really tough being a tween! However, relating to your kid isn't exactly a piece of cake, either. After all, your priorities and problems are so different.
There's no harm in simply telling your tween "I want to understand you." In fact, putting that out there gets better results than guessing at what may be troubling her. Use this sentence to open the lines of communication. No matter how involved you may be in your child's life, it's impossible to shield her from every hardship. But simply being aware of the problems she's facing and trying to understand her point of view might be all she needs to feel more confident. Well, that and a good hug.
1: I Need to Hear You Say "I Love You"
So far, we've shared a lot of ways to get your kid talking about what's on his mind. But your feelings matter, too. That's why it's OK to tell your tween that you need to hear "I love you." Does that make you sound vulnerable? Maybe. Does it subvert your authority? Absolutely not!
John Lennon wrote it for the baby boomers, but the message of the Beatles' hit "All You Need is Love" applies just as much to your tween as it does to you. Love is all any of us really need, and telling your kid how much you care is probably the most important thing you can do as a parent. It doesn't matter if he brought home straight As or flunked out of school, "I love you" is a phrase you can never say too much. When you say it to your kid, he'll say it back. And that will make a bad day at the office or a sunken dinner soufflé seem so much better.