Discipline Tips for the Tween Years

Your child has always been an angel and then they arrive - the dreaded tween years. Parenting expert Eileen Hayes has these discipline tips for children aged seven to twelve

How to deal with the challenging tween years

What happened to your angel? When the dreaded tween years arrive, you may suddenly find yourself dealing with backchat, lying and attitude - not to mention strange new music and fashion. Follow these discipline tips for children aged 7-12.

  • A calm approach works best. Don’t over-react or give it too much attention. Think about your example.
  • When you have to insist on a rule, give reasons, but remain firm. 
  • Natural consequences can be useful. If he doesn’t do his homework, he will be in trouble at school. 
  • Humour can work well for this age group. If children are whining, you can join in with a silly voice. “I don’t want to go to work either – let’s stay and play all day!” 
  • Use rewards. hugs and praise. A special outing, a movie or a favourite meal are all good ways of showing your appreciation of good behaviour. 
  • Put sanctions in place - but only for serious misbehaviour. You could take away treasured possessions for a time, or suspend privileges and pocket money.

Positive discipline is really essential

Give the most attention to good behaviour you want to encourage, and ignore minor misbehaviour as much as possible. It's also a good idea to avoid harsh punishments, and only use sanctions (such as 'grounding') for serious misbehaviour. 

Top ten tips for tween discipline

  1. Understand your child will want to test out his independence. Answering back or disobeying can often be a way of demonstrating this, and showing he has a mind of his own. Encourage as much independence as possible, even if it involves some risks – children need to learn by their own mistakes.
  2. Work at reflective listening - feeding back what you’ve been told and not leaping in with your own judgments.
  3. Use specific praise, describing exactly what it is being given for.
  4. Consistent rules are still needed, but keep reviewing rules and changing them as your child grows.
  5. Don’t give too many orders – these can overwhelm children. Explain why some things have to be, but listen to their views. If you have to overrule, explain that until they are more mature, there are some decisions you must make for them.
  6. Stay calm and avoid arguments as much as possible.
  7. Keep criticisms to a minimum - and only criticise behaviour, not your child.
  8. Good communication at any age is an essential parenting skill. Children need you to understand how they are feeling, and to listen to their views – this helps build self-esteem.
  9. Try to avoid sarcasm, blaming and put-downs.
  10. Remember, children this age still learn most by example – they are bound to imitate what they see parents do. The best way to have children do what you want is to demonstrate it, not order them to do it!

Related links

  • From sweetheart to monster - understanding your tween: It's official. Children really are growing up more quickly than ever before. For parents, the transition from child to teenager brings a minefield of challenges. Parenting expert Eileen Hayes has these tips for dealing with tweens.
  • Surviving the teenage years: During their teenage phase your children will tell you one thing and act in another way. So how can parents survive the teenage years with their relationships and sanity intact? 
  • Peer Pressure: Whether they have fallen in with the ‘wrong crowd’, or started dressing like a slob, peer pressure may be partly to blame for your teenager’s behaviour.

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