It's rough when "Mommy, let's hug!" and "Daddy, I want to stay home with you!" gets replaced with talking back, refusing to obey, swearing, keeping secrets and telling lies. While your tween's behavior is par for the course, it may make you want to watch him or her like a hawk. But is hovering over your child really a good idea?
True, the best way to head off bad behavior before it sets in as habit is to stay involved in your tween's life. Studies show that children who are parented with consistency, control and support experience more positive outcomes later in life. But there's a difference between "being involved" and "hovering." Experts agree that parents who over-advocate for their children (i.e. parents who hover) risk raising a child who may be unable to advocate for him- or herself later in life.
So how do you strike the perfect balance?
Staying Involved in Your Tween's Education
They're called "helicopter parents" -- a term coined by college admissions personnel when they began noticing an influx of students with parents who continually intervened in the educational process. After completing a study of college freshmen, researchers found that students with helicopter parents tended to be less open to new ideas, more vulnerable and anxious, as well as more self-conscious than their more independent peers.
Even though this research involved college-aged kids, parenting style is established well before kids leave for college. So how do you prevent yourself from becoming a helicopter parent? How do stay involved in your tween's schooling without hovering?
Here's what you should do:
- Attend school functions. Volunteer for committees or to be a chaperone a few times a year.
- Solicit teacher feedback on your child's progress, and share your opinions on how he or she is doing.
- Be involved when your tween selects extracurricular activities -- share her or his interests.
- Find out what sort of resources the school offers, such as homework assistance or tutors, in case your child needs extra help.
- Allow your tween to suffer the consequences if, for example, he or she forgets to do an assignment.
And, here's what you shouldn't do:
- Don't move to the background once your child enters junior high. Stay involved, but don't feel you have to walk your tween right to the front door of the school.
- Don't dispute grades or mediate arguments on behalf of your child. Talk to your tween, instead, and offer potential solutions.
- Respect teachers' schedules. Don't show up unannounced or call during off-hours.
And what about staying involved in your tween's personal life? Read more about that on the next page.
Staying Involved in Your Tween's Personal Life
It's normal for tweens to want to spend more time with friends than parents. The good news is that most tweens still do need and want their parents' attention and approval -- just not as much. For you, that means keeping those lines of communication open at all times, in case your tween feels like sharing.
Child development experts offer several tips for staying involved without becoming a helicopter parent:
- Observe your child closely when you pick her or him up from school or the bus stop. Does she look happy? Sad? How is he interacting with his friends? You can get a lot of information this way.
- Make meal time family time. Talk about your day, and put a temporary ban on television and cell phones.
- Be a fly on the wall. If you're driving carpool, unobtrusively listen in on your tween's conversations with friends. You'll get a picture of what's going on in his or her life.
- Take 15 minutes or so at bedtime to read together, or just chat about whatever's on your tween's mind.
Remember, if you're constantly harping on your tween to share with you, chances are he or she will clam up. Your tween may be more apt to open up to you if he or she knows you respect his or her privacy. Giving your tween space shows that you remember what it was like to be that age, and that you understand.
For more about family and tweens, check out the links on the next page.
- 10 Creative After-school Programs for Kids
- 10 Great After-school Activities for Tweens
- 10 Things Tweens Actually *Like* to Do After School
- After-school Fun: Making the Most of Your Kid's Time
- How to Get Kids Excited for After-school Tutoring
- How to Make a Schedule for Kids After School
- What are some good after-school jobs for tweens?
- "4 Ways to Stay Involved in Your Pre-teen's Education." Scholastic.com. 2011. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=2164
- Fish, Donna. "Staying Connected to Your Tween." The Huffington Post. April 23, 2009. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/donna-fish/staying-connected-to-your_b_190034.html
- Gibbs, Nancy. "The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting." Time. Nov. 20, 2009. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1940395,00.html
- Hayes, Eileen. "From Sweetheart to Monster - Understanding Your Tween." Supernanny.co.uk. Feb. 26, 2007. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Parenting-Skills/-/Discipline-and-Reward/From-Sweetheart-to-Monster-~-Understanding-your-Tween.aspx
- Lomasi, Lyn. "Remain Close to Tweens by Giving Them Space." Your Wisdom. Jan. 5, 2011. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://yourwisdom.yahoo.com/your-family/remain-close-tweens-giving-space-article-acid.html
- Rettner, Rachael. "'Helicopter' parents have neurotic kids." MSNBC.com. June 3, 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37493795/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/
- Sachs, Shannon L. "Monitoring: Staying Involved in Your Teen's Life." Ohio State University Extension. 2011. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5157.html
- "When Should Parents Stop Hovering?" WKLY.com. 2011. (Jan. 11, 2011) http://www.wlky.com/r/17163553/detail.html