Why Your Tween Might Think You're a Loser

Sullen teenager with parents.
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It seems like just yesterday that your little girl wanted you to volunteer at school and help with her teams or clubs. Your sweet son used to come to you trustingly with all sorts of questions. Family outings were happy occasions.

So, what happened? What's with all the eye-rolling and sarcastic remarks all of a sudden? Why does your child cringe if you offer to chaperone the school dance? Why does he run ahead at the mall so that he won't be seen with you? Why does she seem to think nearly everything you do is uncool?


Adolescence has struck. The child who found you indispensable for the first decade of his or her life now seems to think you're a loser. Just ask the kid and you'll hear it for yourself: You don't know anything. You're embarrassing. You like all the wrong things. You act dumb. You look wrong. And on and on.

Odds are, you haven't changed at all. But during that difficult period between childhood and the later teen years, changes nearly overwhelm a so-called "tween." The tween phase roughly corresponds with middle school. It may set in when your child is only 8 or 9 years old, but it may last into the early teenage years.

It's normal for a tween to think parents are losers and to act embarrassed by them. That's part of the emotional turmoil they need to mature properly. Tweens are trying (often without knowing it) to separate themselves from their parents and establish their own identity. They care more about the opinions of their peers than those of their parents. Often, they seem to reject their family's values and ways of doing things as they try to figure it out their own. They may be moving toward adulthood, but they're still children and lack perspective. They may think that everything you do is hopelessly outdated. But even as they push for independence, they're afraid of losing the safety of family. Your child may even call you a loser to put the blame on you for something he or she doesn't want to do.

Your child may be just as confused as you are about what's going on. But don't expect your kid to admit that!

Although this is normal behavior for most tweens, it's not fun for the parent who's constantly being criticized. Read on for tips on making the relationship more bearable.


What Makes You a Loser to Your Tween?

When your tween calls you a loser, it might be a sign that the child worries about being considered a loser as well. Tweens desperately want their peers to like and approve of them. They may fear that if their parents stand out, their friends will hold it against them. They may compare you to their friends' parents and think that you're noticeably different -- older, younger, single, married, clunky car, strange hobbies -- and different equals bad at this age. Remember that kids can be cruel to one another. They're quick to point out and make fun of mistakes or anything that doesn't conform to the norm.

It doesn't help that many movies, TV shows and books depict parents as clueless and bumbling. Even if you're a perfectly competent adult, your tween may think you're a loser. It's all part of what enables him to become a mature individual.


There are things you can do to make life more pleasant, however.

  • Be a parent, not a pal. Your tween has friends; he or she needs someone to set rules and limits. Accept that you're not always going to be considered cool.
  • Compromise when you can. Tweens want to feel that they have some input. If your tween daughter thinks your family activities are for losers, let her choose an outing. Or understand that she won't want to be with you as much as before, and let her sometimes do something with her friends instead.
  • Minimize the embarrassing times. If you help with a school event, stay away from your child's group. Become a little less involved in your child's activities, at least in a noticeable way. Let your child handle more of his or her own problems with teachers and other adults. As your child gets older, give him more freedom, especially if he's with friends. If you go to the mall, agree to keep in touch by cell phone and to meet at a certain place and time.
  • Insist on respect. Let your child express differing opinions and comment on your dress, activities and ways of doing things. But insist that he or she do so politely. Point out rudeness and explain why it bothers you. It's one thing to tell you that you need to learn how to use your cell phone correctly, but it's entirely another to call you an idiot.
  • Keep your cool. You might joke about how you embarrass your daughter. If she says only a loser would buy those shower shoes, laugh it off and tell her that she'd better watch out, or you might wear them to her dance recital. The best thing about tweens if that they eventually mature. If you've handled the phase wisely, you'll get your agreeable offspring back.

Keep reading for lots for information on parenting tweens.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Alphonse, Lylah M. "Help! My tween says I'm embarrassing him!" Boston Globe Magazine. (Dec. 29, 2010)http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/family/blog/2009/03/my_tween_says_im_embarrassing_him.html
  • Bitti, Mary Teresa. "Uncool Parents." Canadian Family. (Dec. 29, 2010)http://www.canadianfamily.ca.articles/article/uncool-parents/
  • By Parents for Parents. "When Your Teen Is Embarrassed to be Seen with You."http://www.byparents-forparents.com/teen-embarrassed.html (Dec. 29, 2010)
  • Family Education. "Raising Preteens: Realizing How Uncool You Have Become." (Dec. 30, 2010)http://life.familyeducation.com/tween/teen/51063.html
  • Faulkner, Dewi L. "According to the School Psychologist: Middle School." Education.com. (Dec. 30, 2010)http://www.education.com/print/Desk_Psychologist_Middle_School/
  • Hartley-Brewer, Elizabeth. Tween: Almost Grown Up." Scholastic, Inc. (Dec. 29, 2010)http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=375397&print=1
  • Iowa State University Extension Pamphlet. "Parenting Young Teens."
  • McMahon, Tom. Teen Tips: A Practical Survival Guide for Parents With Kids Age 11 to 19. Pocket Books. New York, 2003.
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  • Nelsen, Jane, Ed.D. Positive Discipline. Ballantine Books. New York, 2006.
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  • Penn State Cooperative Extension. "Understanding Tween Development." Pike County. 2000 Tween Topics.http://pike.extension.psu.edu/Family/TweenTopics/2000/Human.html (Dec. 30, 2010)
  • Rosemond, John. Teen-Proofing. Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. Kansas City, 2001.
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