Pre-teens behaviour: what to expect
Developing independence and responsibility is a key part of growing up.
To do this, your child needs to test out independent ideas and ways of behaving. Sometimes this involves disagreeing with you, giving you a bit of ‘attitude’, pushing the limits and boundaries you set, wanting to be more like friends and even taking risks.
Although it can be stressful for you, this is all a normal and common part of adolescence. And this phase will pass.
Some of the changes in teenage behaviour are explained by the way teenage brains develop. The parts of the teenage brain responsible for impulse control don’t fully mature until about age 25. The brain changes offer upsides and downsides – teenagers can be imaginative, passionate, sensitive, impulsive, moody and unpredictable.
have the ability to avoid people and situations that aren’t right for them, and to find those that are. You can build your child’s confidence by looking for practical and positive activities that give your child a good chance of success, and praising your child for putting in a good effort.
Behaviour management for pre-teens
Encouraging good behaviour in pre-teens is about using effective discipline. And effective discipline for pre-teens focuses on setting agreed limits and helping children work within them.
Rules, limits and boundaries help your child learn independence, manage and take responsibility for her behaviour and solve problems. Your child needs these skills to become a young adult with her own standards for appropriate behaviour and respect for others.
Teenage discipline is most effective when you communicate openly with your child, are consistent and keep up a warm and loving family environment.
Praise and encouragement
powerful motivators. At this age children might seem more
self-sufficient, but your child still needs your approval. When you
praise your child for positive behaviour, it can encourage him to keep
behaving like that.
Handling disrespectful behaviour
Rude or disrespectful behaviour is pretty common in children in the pre-teen years – although not all children behave this way.
If this kind of behaviour is an issue for your family, setting clear rules lets your child know what you expect. For example, you could say, ‘We speak respectfully in our family. This means we don’t call people names’.
Involving your child in these discussions means you can later remind her that she helped make the rules, and that she agreed to them.
Modelling these rules in your own behaviour shows that you mean what you say.
If you need to talk to your child about some rude behaviour, staying calm and picking your moment will help the conversation go better. It can also help if you focus on your child’s behaviour. Instead of saying, ‘You’re rude’, you could try saying something like, ‘I feel hurt when you speak like that to me’.
Common concerns about pre-teen behaviour
Fighting with siblings
Teenage sibling fighting can be stressful, but it’s normal and helps children learn important life skills – like how to sort out problems, deal with different opinions and treat others with respect.
When you coach your children in sorting out their conflicts, you help them develop these skills. You can also motivate them to resolve fights themselves. For example, if they’re fighting over the computer, you could take away their access to it until they can work out a solution together.
Peer influence is when you do something you wouldn’t otherwise do because you want to feel accepted and valued by others. It isn’t just doing something against your will, and can actually be positive. Sometimes it might involve following scenes, trends and fashions to feel part of a social group – this is normal for older children and teenagers.
If your child is confident, with a strong sense of himself and his values, it’s more likely he’ll know where to draw the line when it comes to peer influence.