Discipline takes on new meaning when kids reach their tween years. It becomes less about controlling behavior and more about guiding development. Although I’ve taught youth for over 15 years, it wasn’t until my daughter became a preteen that I fully realized that truth. Timeouts and stern looks were no longer enough. Although she followed the rules, it was time for her to grow in self control and make wiser choices. To effectively guide her, my discipline needed to foster maturity and build her character.
Be flexible in techniques but consistent in following through with discipline. As my daughter changes, my parenting techniques change with her. Regardless of the method, though, she understands that poor choices will result in discipline. That is constant.
Choose your battles. Kids get tired of being told no. Who doesn’t? Discipline your preteen for behavior that is disrespectful or dangerous, not simply annoying.
Get your child’s attention before giving instructions. Don’t compete with television or video games. To ensure my words are heard, I physically get between my daughter and whatever has her attention.
Take a timeout. Sitting in the corner may not be effective discipline for preteens, but separating from each other for a cooling off period can be. After a 15 minute break to regroup, my daughter and I then sit down and discuss the situation more rationally.
Avoid treating your tween like a baby or an adult. Regardless of how grown up they want to be, preteens are still kids. My 10-year-old is intelligent for her age, and I sometimes catch myself placing unfair expectations on her. While I do hold her to a higher standard than when she was younger, I have to also remember to let her act her age.
Evaluate first and then act. Get all the facts and allow your preteen to explain her actions before deciding on the proper discipline. I find that when I take rash disciplinary action, I often jump to conclusions that leave my daughter feeling misunderstood.
Set up your preteen for success. Sometimes kids don’t fulfill responsibilities because they forget. It happens. We use a dry erase chore chart to offer subtle reminders without the nagging.
Use discipline that has purpose. Grounding or withholding privileges from your child just for the sake of punishment doesn’t teach anything. Instead, make the correction fit the offense.
Make expectations clear and expect your child to follow them. If you don’t expect them to follow the rules, they won’t. Explain responsibilities and then back off. It’s tempting to micromanage kids, but preteens need to learn that consequences accompany their choices.
Stay in control of your emotions and words. Words you say to (or about) your tween can hurt, and she learns how to respond to situations by watching you. I remind myself often that I am my child’s example of self control. If I don’t guard my words and temper, how can expect any different from her?
More from this contributor:
Kids and respect: Candid words from a youth worker
How to handle your child’s public meltdowns
Creative ways to get kids to do chores
“Disciplining your child” by KidsHealth
“Five ways parents can control their anger” by AskDrSears.com