Is Your Pre-Teen Giving You the Tude?
It’s not just you. When you look with shock, disappointment, disgust, anger (pick your own verb) at the pre-teen child standing before you, giving you the ‘tude.
What happened to the sweet child who used to hug and kiss you? Where did they learn to speak that way to you? Aren’t you supposed to have a few more years of peace before the dreaded teen years?
Somewhere between childhood and the tween phase, a new developmental time period seems to have appeared – I’m terming it the ‘tude years (my sincere apologies if anyone feels they have already coined this phase and I’m stealing their lingo).
Why? Some say it is about this age group asserting their independence. Other say they are modeling behaviors they see on television and in peer groups. Others say it is about anxiety as they transition from childhood to a more mature phase… pushing those boundaries and our buttons along with it.
Anyone else want it to stop? Not the independence and maturity, just the ‘tude!
Here I present to parents a six-step action plan (that occasionally I remember to implement) to help the next time the ‘tude comes roaring at you…
6 Tips to Help Parents Face the “Tude Years”
1. Take a deep breath. Really. If you react right away, chances are you are just going to escalate the situation. Losing it on your ‘tudey child usually leads to more attitude from them and feelings of despair from you.
2. Remove the child from peers/sibling/teammates and go someplace you can talk alone. Otherwise, the child is forced to stand their ground, to continue to be “cool” or to “show off” and is much less likely to be reasonable.
3. Try to help the child see that their comment was rude/hurtful/obnoxious by calmly telling them that the way they spoke to you was not acceptable, and hurtful, and not going to get them what they want.
“Somewhere between childhood and the tween phase, a new developmental time period seems to have appeared – I’m terming it the ‘tude years.”
4. Help the child rephrase the comment into a productive conversation starter. Instead of “No way am I going to do that” which I took as rude and unhelpful, what else could you have said. For example, “I’m in the middle of this game mom, can I do it in five minutes or does it have to be now?” The answer may be now, but speaking to you with respect is going to get a much better reaction than speaking with ‘tude.
5. Feel free to walk away. Take a timeout. Get your cool and then re-approach.
6. If the ‘tude continues, implement a consequence that is reasonable and that you can truly follow up on. For example, “If your attitude does not change you are losing your IPad tonight” is concrete and reasonable. “If your attitude doesn’t change you are never hanging out with your friends again” is too abstract, impractical and almost impossible to enforce.
While I don’t guarantee success, following these steps usually helps the ‘tude comment from becoming the start of a downward spiral. It also sets up learning patterns as this ‘tude stage morphs into teenage years… that you can parent calmly and rationally even in the face of challenges.
Consistency with consequences, if needed, will also set up patterns of behavior that the child can expect. And most of all, remember, it’s not just you!