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Tween Discipline Issue1234

Setting Expectations and Boundaries

When it comes to disciplining tweens, you must first set expectations and boundaries for them. After all, if they don’t know what’s expected of them, it’s not fair ​to punish them for violating a rule that is known only to you.

When teaching positive behaviors that you want your tween to use, it’s important to first establish expectations. As we mentioned earlier, children can’t be expected to “do the right thing” if they don’t know what that is in the first place. It should be noted, too, that “the right thing” may mean something different from one family to the next. So it’s up to you as a parent to decide what expectations are right for your child.

Common expectations include having tweens maintain a certain level of academic performance before they can participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. Tying academic performance to their use of a smartphone is another common example of setting expectations. Other examples might include keeping their room clean and performing household chores before participating in social activities with friends. The key is for tweens to understand that to enjoy privilege B, they must complete task A.

When it comes to boundaries — such as how late they can hang out with friends or which video games or movies they’re allowed to enjoy — you must clearly explain those boundaries to make sure your tween understands them. For instance, your tween should know they must be home in time for dinner at 7 p.m. or make arrangements with you ahead of time if they are going to be late. They also should understand that they are not allowed to play video games that are rated M for mature. If you catch them playing an M-rated game and respond by taking away their gaming privileges (which is completely appropriate), then they should never be able to say, “But, Mom, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to play THAT game!”

Tips for Setting Expectations

During a neutral time when everyone is calm, call a family meeting and list the behaviors you expect your tween (and other children) to use. You can even type up and print a “contract” for both you and your tween to sign. This will avoid any ambiguity and prevent your tween from engaging in negative behavior and then claiming they “didn’t know” it was forbidden.

Again, developing and maintaining a positive, open relationship with your tween will make these goals much easier to achieve. It will also make it much more likely that your tween will come to you for help if they encounter a questionable situation rather than simply throwing caution to the wind and engaging in a negative activity.

Teaching Activity

Role-Play Different Expectations

Different adults have different expectations for children. For example, parents expect different behaviors from their kids than teachers expect. Have your tween role-play with you as you pretend to be different adults in your tween’s life. For instance, you can pretend to be a coach as your tween asks to try out for a sport. You can then ask your tween about their academic performance and whether it merits involvement in school athletics. Other potential adult authority figures you can pretend to be include police officers, store employees and teachers.

Social Skill

Asking for Clarification

Many negative behaviors result from misunderstandings and poor communication. Children will naturally push boundaries, and if those boundaries aren’t clear, they will argue incessantly about why they should be allowed to do what they want to do. Teaching your child how to seek clarification can help resolve that ambiguity. Teach them these steps:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Ask if the person has time to talk. Don’t interrupt.
  3. Use a pleasant or neutral tone of voice.
  4. Specifically state what you’re confused about. Begin with, “I was wondering if …“ or, “Could I ask about …?”
  5. Listen to the other person’s reply and acknowledge their answer.
  6. Thank the person for their time.

Coming up in Issue 4

Positive Consequences


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Doing Good Quality Work

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