Today is Tall, my eldest's birthday. Every year I reflect on who he was as a little boy, and who he's become since going through those early, intense years.
I was being wistful about being the parent of an adult, sniff, sniff, until I remembered the later years.
You probably expect me to say that the teen years were just horrible. Yes, the teen years were interesting and intense...and the tween years were just awful! There, I said it—awful!
It sounds like Circle of Moms member Karen C. is dealing with a tween when she asks, "How do [I] get my kid to not be so rude…because I know my son is a decent human being and not this rude person who is here right now."
The tween years made me feel like a failure as a parent. Between the onset of hormones, the snarky words and lack of cooperation, the disrespect and hypersensitivity, I thought I was going to lose my mind and my career.
I kept wondering, "How could my sweet child have turned into this? It must be my fault. I must have failed somewhere along the way. How did this happen?"
What's more, I thought, "If I failed with my child, how could I help other parents? What if parents took my advice and failed too!" I couldn't bare the thought. This went on and on. Until one day I got it.
I hadn't failed. The truth was my son's behavior had nothing to do with me. This is what being a tween is like!
Developmentally, tweens are snarky, disrespectful, demanding, and uncooperative, all attributes my son was exhibiting.
Tweens are caught between being a child and being a teen, hence the word. They're confused, and don't want to behave this way. They resent being treated as a child; yet react more like children do than the teens they're becoming.
The truth is, a tween is pulling away from childhood. It's developmentally predictable. He acts this way so parent and child can revisit the bounds of his budding independence now that he has a new, more adult perspective. It's a rough, unrefined perspective that will be tamed as he becomes a teen, then an adult. No parent likes it. It's frustrating, scary and stinky, and causes lots of arguing. It's also extremely necessary.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
The good news is there's something a parent can do now, in early childhood, that will help. This tip not only helps a parent survive the tween years, it also helps your child learn to manage the emotional turmoil and reactions they're having. The best thing about this tip is parents can use it from ages 5-18, it works perfectly no matter how old a child is.
All parents have experienced engaging a child who is snarky, disrespectful, argumentative, or mean. There's a lovely exchange of anger, yelling, crying, slamming doors, etc that follows. So how does a parent get this to stop without the drama?
When a parent chooses to use silence, they have to be tenacious and simply stop talking. Your silence is far more powerful than you think.
When there's no reaction from you, your child's brain goes into overdrive. At first she'll keep arguing. Then she'll realize that you're not behaving the way you normally do. Then she'll begin to wonder what will happen next.
Silence means there's no one for your child to fight with. There's nothing to rebel against. Now the burden is on her to figure out what to do next. She realizes almost immediately that she has to apologize in order to get you to speak to her again.
For children ages 5-7, you only go silent for about 10-15 seconds. Any longer and they may panic. Older children may use the silence to see who can hold out longer. You have to win this one, or it has NO power.
Older children may say things like, "Don't try that stuff on me!" To which you must remain silent. If you must speak, be honest. "I love you and it's not okay to speak to anyone that way. I'm happy to talk to you after a heart-felt apology."
Once the apology happens you can begin the magic of talking things out.
When silence is used each time a child is being disrespectful, snarky, demanding, or refusing to cooperate, it becomes the boundary that does the teaching. And that my friends, is what will keep you sane during the tween and teen years!
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be, and the founder of Proactive Parenting. Her book and site help parents gain more patience by responding instead of reacting as they deal with the whirlwind of emotions created by raising kids ages 1-10. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.