Tween Discipline: Strategies and Challenges

Discipline methods that were successful with younger children are less effective with tweens and teens. Children who are on the cusp between childhood and adolescence may display different types of misbehavior that need to be corrected.

At the age of 10, kids start to look up to their peers more, care more about how they look, and may even start to challenge authority as they try to find their own way. Parents may find it difficult to deal with this. “This is a time of great psychological and physiological transformation,” explains Joanna Fortune, MICP, MIFPP, CTTS, a professional psychotherapist and attachment specialist with specialization in child and adolescent psychotherapy based in the UK.


The good news is that if you employ effective methods of discipline, you can deal with your child’s behavioral issues without sacrificing your relationship with him or her. Your tween can develop the competencies necessary for success in the adolescent years and beyond with your guidance and support.

Many of your tween’s actions will be consistent with those of other kids their age. Your tween is likely to have swapped baby babble for backtalk and toddler tantrums for sulking. All of it is perfectly natural and expected as they grow up.

Hormonal shifts and physical development, as well as peer pressure and increasing homework, are just a few of the challenges that tweens confront.

Additionally, it is very uncommon for tweens to prioritize their friendships over their relationships with their parents and siblings. Don’t be too taken aback if your 10-year-old suggests going to a friend’s house for pizza and a movie instead of spending the evening with you and yours. Dr.

Janet Fortune, author of the “15 Minute Parenting” books, argues that preteens and teenagers are “experimenting with who and how they are,” and that they are looking more to their peers for validation and approval.

Challenging tween behaviors can include:

  • Becoming angry over seemingly small things
  • Questioning and challenging authority
  • Becoming argumentative and seeking out loopholes in your rules
  • Misbehaving in order to fit in and impress friends
  • Thinking they’re able to do everything on their own

Make sure your methods of discipline are appropriate for your youngster. If your child is misbehaving or breaking the rules, try to correct the situation in a way that will help them learn from their mistakes and make better decisions in the future. Here are a few tried-and-true strategies to try.

Engage in Problem-Solving

Your approach to parenting should evolve and change as your child does. To put it another way, telling your tween what to do isn’t as effective as it was when they were younger, and problem-solving together is much more productive.

Raise an issue and solicit their thoughts on how to solve it. Instead of telling them how much time they can spend in front of the device, ask them. Dr.

Pressman adds that just because you and your tween are on the same team doesn’t mean you have to agree with your tween when he or she requests five hours of screen time a night. “But you’d be like, ‘OK, I get it. You want X.’ Then you can question my reasoning. Slightly more discussion and teamwork occur, but this is not a democracy; someone always has the last word.

Your child may be more motivated to change their conduct if they have a say in what can be done about it.

Use Natural Consequences

Tweens often assume they can handle things on their own because their thinking and problem-solving skills have improved. Even if it goes against your better judgment as a parent, you should give your tween some freedom to explore their interests and learn from their mistakes.

Dr. Fortune argues we must give people “more time” to figure things out on their own, explore options, and make decisions before intervening. This is letting your kid experience the positive or negative results of their actions.

Just let them forget one day and you won’t have to keep reminding them to bring a snack to school. A lesson learned from forgetting to bring a snack the first time could prompt them to do so the next time.

Rethink the Reward System

An easy incentive system can be the key to keeping your tween motivated. On the other hand, this isn’t always the best technique to discipline kids who are still developing. Dr.

Pressman warns that “if you utilized a behavior modification form of punishment with prizes and incentives when your kids were smaller, it usually doesn’t work with older kids.”

“It is crucial that we provide them opportunity to self-correct their behavior by reminding them of our expectations,” adds Dr. Fortune. I guess you’ve forgotten how we talk to each other in this family; would you like to give it another shot?'” Give them credit if they get it right the second time around, then move on.

Create a Behavior Contract

Consider implementing a behavior contract if a serious discussion with your preteen isn’t working (or if they aren’t ready for that level of maturity). An improvement over a simple incentives system, a behavior contract spells out the specific actions your child must take to earn and maintain privilege increases.

If they’re asking for a smartphone, for instance, talk about how they can prove to you that they’re ready to handle the responsibility. Make a list of the actions you want them to take, such as finishing their duties on time and putting away their other electronic devices, without any resistance from you.

Provide Pre-Teaching

The brain of your tween is undergoing significant changes, and with them comes a strong yearning for autonomy. It might be difficult to know when to back off as a parent. Dr.

Fortune warns that this transitional period “may be perplexing for both parent and kid as they look ready for independence in one moment and not at all ready in another.”

Tweens want to feel like they can do things on their own, and you can help them achieve this goal by providing them with safe, stress-free opportunities to do so. Clarify the ground rules and what is expected of you in advance. Invest some time in going over how they might deal with certain issues.

You can progressively increase your child’s freedom as they prove their abilities to you. Dr. Fortune admits that it might be challenging to give children the independence they need to form their own identities and make sense of the world beyond their immediate family.

You may help your tween develop a strong sense of independence as they near adolescence by modeling responsible behavior yourself.

Take Away Privileges

The removal of a significant privilege should be used as a consequence for bad behavior. This may include not allowing them to go to a friend’s house on the weekend or taking away their electronics for a day. Taking away their rights reinforces your position of power and shows that special treatment must be earned.

But remember how it felt to be harshly reprimanded by your parents when you were young, and keep that in mind when you met out your own penalties. Remember the incident and the specifics of what transpired, as instructed by Dr. Fortune.

“How do you feel now thinking about it, and how did you feel then? If your parents had responded differently to you, how would you say that would have benefitted you the most?” Try to imagine yourself in your child’s shoes and use it as a guide on how to discipline them.

Preventing Future Problems

You can do more than just punish bad conduct if you want to raise a well-adjusted tween. The onset of behavioral issues can be avoided with the help of a few easy strategies.

Prioritize Connection

Having a close relationship with your child is more important than ever, and discipline should never come at the expense of that. If you want to change someone’s behavior, Dr. Fortune advises you should focus on strengthening your emotional connection first.

On the other hand, this is no excuse to be lax with discipline.

Dr. Pressman advises parents to “always prioritize connection” when having punishment conversations. No, “limits and connection” are not mutually exclusive.

An authoritative parenting style, characterized by empathy and firm limitations, is linked to positive health and safety outcomes for kids.

Avoid Labeling Your Child

Try not to label your kid as “the artist” or “the athlete.” Putting people in boxes, even if they’re supposed to be positive, can have negative consequences. Children change their focus and skill set as they develop. Inadvertently or not, the labels you give your child as a child may become a burden as they get older.

Explain Your Expectations Ahead of Time

Explaining your expectations in advance can help avoid many behavioral issues. So, before you set your kid off at the community pool or to a movie with friends, go over your guidelines with them. Specify the behavior you anticipate and the steps they should take in the event of an emergency.

Talk About the Underlying Reasons for Your Rules

Be sure your kid understands the reasoning behind your guidelines. Don’t give them any reason to conclude that you’re being harsh by making them turn in early. Instead, you should instruct them on the benefits of sleep to the body and mind.

They will be more inclined to follow the rules when you aren’t around to enforce them if they know why they are in place.

Monitor Your Child’s Day-to-Day Activities

Your tween will want a lot of independence, but they lack the maturity to handle all of life’s complexities on their own. Monitor their actions closely. Learn about their online activities, friends, and whereabouts.

Give Your Child Some Freedom

Of course you should keep an eye on your kid, but don’t become a lawnmower parent. Children flourish when given room to explore, experiment, and figure things out for themselves. Offering your youngster some say in the matter now can help avert more serious defiance in the future.

Teach Anger Management Skills

Problems with controlling one’s anger are a common source of behavioral disorders. We adults have perfect control over our impulses, while our tween and teen selves struggle with this until their mid-twenties.

As the responsible adult, you need to remain calm and take charge when emotions run high. Instill in your child the tools they’ll need to cope with the inevitable disappointments of childhood, from a bad call in a soccer game to a sudden change in plans. Since “we know that parents who are more self-regulated have kids who become more self-regulated,” Dr.

Pressman explains that your efforts will pay off in the long run.