Parenting a Preteen: Five Fights You Can’t Let Your Tween Win
I am not a naturally competitive person.
In games, races, debates, etc., I will automatically concede far before an actual defeat.
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So in dealing with my kids, I lean heavily towards letting them learn from the natural consequences rather than debating with them to try to convince them that I’m right.
If my kids choose to forgo the recommended jacket in the winter, they’re cold.
If my kids choose to skip the delicious dinner I cooked, they’re hungry.
If my kids choose to stay awake past their bedtime, they’re tired.
The method is based on the book, Parenting with Love and Logic, and I love it.
However, there are some things you have to take a stand on.
You can’t wait for kids to get wrinkles and skin cancer for them to learn their lesson about the importance of wearing sunscreen.
You have to enforce rules that must be followed for the child’s own good. Especially when the consequences are far removed from the decision.
Here are five things you have to take a stand on when parenting a preteen.
If you missed the first post, Five Fights to Let Your Preteen Win, be sure to check it out!
1. Church Attendance
As a pastor’s family, we are at church almost every time the doors are open. And my kids absolutely love going, and I hope they always do.
But, often as kids grow, they don’t like going to church.
And I’ve heard many parents say they don’t want to make kids go to church because they don’t want to shove religion down their throat so that the children end up hating church later.
Ask any school-age kid if they want to go to school.
I’m pretty sure the answer will be, “no.”
But we still make them because we know it’s important for kids to learn. We wouldn’t dream of letting our children drop out of school in the eighth grade because we know that would put them on a terrible path for life.
In the same way, letting kids decide to stop attending church will leave them woefully uneducated about things of the Bible.
They’ll miss out on opportunities for fellowship, mentorship, and friendship.
The habit of going to church won’t be established and, based on statistics, they might never go back.
Did you catch that?
If you let your child stop attending church, they’ll probably never go back.
So do the hard thing, and demand that they go. Make it a family rule. Ask your Sunday School class to hold you accountable. Yes, it will be hard.
But aren’t your child’s heart and soul worth it?
Kids are gross.
And if yours aren’t, please tell me your secret because mine constantly surprise me with the ways they find to get dirty.
When you add hormones and body changes to their natural grubby inclinations, you get a stinky tween.
Our house rule is that everyone has to shower every other day. If the kids do something extra fun/dirty/sweaty and need a daily shower, we do it.
I let my oldest two (ages 8 and 11) shower themselves.
No, they don’t get as clean as they would if I did it.
Yes there are times she doesn’t rinse all the conditioner out of her hair, or he doesn’t get all of the Oreo crumbs out of his ear, BUT they’re learning.
And it’s really not a big deal if they mess it up.
Her hair looks really cute in a bun and a quick sweep with a baby wipe will clean an ear.
Hopefully, by the time they’re older, they’ll have learned how to do it all.
But they have to bathe.
And there have been many times that our son has gotten in the water for ten minutes and then gotten out, forgoing soap completely.
On those nights, I send him back in, and he misses out on playing Spot It or Uno with us or he uses up his book reading time taking a shower with soap.
See? I’m all about those natural consequences.
This may be the hardest one of all because you can’t make your child talk to you.
But you can make sure that the lines of communication stay open. Even when it’s like pulling teeth.
How was your day?
What did you do?
And when conversations like that happen, let’s be honest. It hurts our feelings and we want to retreat. We want to quit because it’s safer and easier. But our kids need us, so we’ve got to break that cycle.
Depending on your child, a conversation may not be the best way to communicate.
If you hit a wall every time you try to talk to your kid, it’s time to figure out a way to scale the wall.
Some ideas that we’ve seen success with are journaling, devotionals, date nights, games, outrageous conversation starters, and establishing some rules.
You can read about these ideas in greater depth in our post Six Creative Ways to Communicate with Preteens and Teenagers.
This is hard.
Fashion makes it hard.
Peers make it hard.
Society makes it hard.
Our own fallen nature makes it hard.
The best way that I’ve found to combat the pushback to modesty is to simply ask the kids, “Why?”
“Why do you want to wear that shirt that shows your belly button?”
“Why do you want to wear that bikini?”
Their first answer is almost always an exasperated, “I don’t know,” said with crossed arms.
My next questions are designed to initiate a more thoughtful conversation.
“Does that outfit honor God?”
“What are you trying to communicate to the world with that outfit?”
“Is that the best thing to wear for the occasion?”
Talking to kids about their choices often diffuses a fight and provides insight.
My daughter often wants to wear immodest things because she’s seen someone else wearing it. By helping her to recognize and articulate that, we’re able to move forward together.
Setting rules early makes it easier to enforce modesty as they mature.
For example, we never let our girls wear bathing suits that show their midriff. As cute as teeny bikinis are on my toddler, I don’t want my sixteen-year-old wearing teeny bikinis.
So the rule for our family is that all the girls (myself included) wear bathing suits that cover their midriff. I can’t say we only wear one-piece suits because tankinis make restroom trips so much easier.
I could do an end-run and say that the issue is one of safety, but I don’t.
Sure, my kids are fair-skinned. Yes, the sun burns and freckles them to the point that they need to wear wetsuits for full-body protection, but I don’t take that way out.
Nor do I put the responsibility on the school by citing the school’s dress code.
I am showing them that modesty is a virtue.
It is the product of good character and a protector of good character.
Modesty will protect their hearts more than a school handbook. Modesty doesn’t change with weather conditions or at an indoor pool.
For now, I choose what they wear to church on Sunday mornings, and they choose the rest of the week.
Day by day, outfit by outfit, they are learning what it means to be modest and how valuable it really is.
Related Post: The Real Reason I Make My Kids Dress Up for Church
You can disagree without disrespect.
There are tons of books about how to do this best, but the number one way to get respect is to give respect.
Talk to your kids as if their opinions matter.
Listen to what they’re saying.
If they get loud, quietly remind them that you aren’t loud. Show them how to listen and disagree respectfully. The younger you start teaching this, the easier it will be.
Thank God that you have kids whose brains work so well that they have their own opinions based on their own reasoning.
Even when their opinions are DUMB.
You had dumb opinions too.
Statistically, kids who feel heard at home are more likely to come to YOU with the big stuff. That’s ultimately what you want.
Taking a stand is going to cause some turmoil. Lean into it and stand your ground.
God chose you, out of all the people in the world, to raise your child.
You are the best parent for them.
Let me say that again for the people in the back – YOU are the best parent for your kids.
I know that there are times that it feels like you aren’t, but please remember that you are. You love them more than anyone else right now. Every decision you make for them should be made as part of a long-term plan to help them to become successful adults. Don’t give up when it gets tough.
Read your Bible, talk to Jesus, talk to other parents, and be their parent.
Parenting a preteen is tough, but you can totally do it.
What is your biggest struggle in parenting a preteen? Tell us in the comments below!
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