Tom and Katie Underwood's 11-year-old daughter, Amber, has undergone a surprising transformation. Until recently, Amber was a sweet, compliant child. But lately she's been defiant and disrespectful and seems intent on challenging her parents at every turn.
Tom and Katie wonder what has happened to their little girl. Is her surly attitude due to the onset of puberty? Has she been hanging out with the "mean girls" at school?
Amber is going through a normal stage of development. As a preteen, she's pulling away from her parents as she attempts to establish her own identity.
If this sounds like your tween, here are a few ideas for weathering the emotional storm.
Be the parent. As your tween establishes new boundaries, she still needs to respect you as her parent. Respond to angry outbursts, back talk and deliberate defiance calmly and firmly, implementing consequences for inappropriate behavior.
Don't overreact. It's natural to feel sad when the closeness you shared with your son or daughter seems to have disappeared. But this phase is a critical milestone on the road to adulthood. Don't allow your own feelings to hinder the process — if you react with hurt or anger, you will only exasperate your child (Ephesians 6:4).
Understand your changing role. When your kids are young, they need you to remain firmly in control — teaching them, training them and keeping them safe. As they move closer to the teen years, transition your parenting into more of a coaching role. While retaining some measure of control, begin to put more emphasis on guiding your tween in the context of a loving, supportive relationship.
This article appeared in the January/February 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Bill Maier. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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