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Challenging Yet Normal Tween Behaviors

min read

By Debbie McGauran

Tweens are children between the ages of 7- to 12-years of age. They’re no longer small children and not yet teenagers. This age group still wants to please their parents, but at the same time may pose difficult and challenging behaviors. For instance, tweens may be subject to mood swings and resisting parental authority. A once sweet and compliant child may suddenly become willful and defiant.

The onset of adolescence appears to be taking place at a younger age than in previous generations. By the end of elementary school, girls will have started breast development and some will even have started menstruation. Their bodies and brains are changing due to increased hormone production. Peers play an ever increasing role in their social development. Here is a list of six common challenging tween behaviors…

1. Not Listening

Children in this age group appear to become more self-absorbed. With the advent of electronics such as iPods or cell phones, it’s extremely easy for a tween to tune out their parents. It’s not uncommon for a parent to have to call several times when dinner is ready, only to be ignored multiple times before their child actually comes to the dinner table.

It may be frustrating, but parents should keep calm, speak quietly and may need to make eye contact to show they mean business. Parents should avoid nagging or getting angry as this may only encourage a tween to tune you out even more.

2. Talking Back

Tweens often talk back and challenge parental authority. This is a normal part of trying out adult roles and asserting their independence. It’s important for parents to stay calm. Don’t let your tween get under your skin.

Stay polite and respectful in your response. Don’t take it personally. Talking back is an annoying, but common behavior in tweens. As a parent you will need to pick your battles as to what is and is not acceptable and then stay firm.

3. Refusing to Do What’s Asked

Refusing to do what you have asked is also a common behavior in tweens. They are questioning your authority and testing limits. It may be time to review whether your request is age appropriate and renegotiate.

Be careful of your own tone of voice. Children still want and need clear boundaries. Setting boundaries shows you care and can help your child grow into a responsible citizen. Tweens want a say in rules that affect them. Parents can allow some flexibility around rules as long as safety is not compromised.

4. Swearing

Parents should be careful that they aren’t setting a bad example themselves by using bad language. Children are great at copying. A tween will be all over a parent who chastises them for swearing, but does so themselves. Parents need to lead by example.

If you have a no swearing rule in your home you must also clearly spell out the consequences of breaking this rule. Some parents find a “swear jar” effective. Each time your tween swears they will need to add a pre-set amount of money to the jar. They will be sure to insist any other family members, including yourself, who swear must add money to the jar.

5. Lying

Children at this age can be secretive or engage in lying. This may be due to peer pressure or the normal increasing need for privacy and independence as children mature.

Many parents find this behavior particularly difficult to handle. The first step is to stay calm and let your tween explain their reasons for lying or keeping secrets. This will open the door for continuing dialogue.

6. Keeping Secrets

Closely associated with the previous slide, tweens may keep secrets. They may not wish to tell you every detail of their lives and forcing them may lead to more lies.

You can discuss with your child why lying is wrong and stress the value of honesty. The most important thing is to keep the doors of communication open and keep the trust between you intact.

Debbie McGauran


Debbie has been a registered nurse for over 25 years with experience in geriatrics, medicine, surgery and mental health. For the past four years, she has practiced as a crisis nurse in the ER. Debbie lives on a farm with her family, two dogs, a cat, and four horses.



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