Preteen Trouble

We’ve been talking about discipline a couple of weeks ago. We’ve talked about how you must start young, strive for obedience, not give up, and most of all seek God.

Now you have a pre-teen. You realize that you didn’t strive as much as you should have for obedience. You now have a sassy, challenging boy who is taller than you and you can’t spank (without hurting yourself). What do you do?

I’ve been there and I’m still there…I could give you the excuses of why I didn’t have energy to discipline when they were small or why…but they are excuses and we can’t go back. Same for you, if you're here, too. So what do you do?

Spanking is not effective at this stage. (My boys just laugh when I try to spank them. I only spank them, because they were part of a problem with younger ones who were also getting spanked. You know equality of punishment and all that stuff. It ends up they laugh themselves into doing what I told them to do. But you get my point.)

These are not so much principles of discipline, but suggestions for survival, take them if they work.

All my boys went through this stage (I do not like blaming disobedience on “stages”, but this is a definite stage.)
When they reached twelve years old they seemed to challenge me. Not so much my authority, but on why certain rules are important, why some jobs had to be done, why…

James Dobson said that boys break their mom’s heart a little at a time. That way when it's time to let them go, they won’t be tied to their mothers. By then, we, as moms, are ready to let them go.

They are growing up on the inside but their outside still shows a little boy. They vacillate between wanting to be older but then playing childish games. This is a hard stage of everyone.

During these questioning times, I tell them the reason behind the rules.
Ask them how they would solve problems and do jobs. Put them in charge of projects. This helps them develop leadership skills and experience with dealing with people (some not so quick to listen).

Trying to enforce your views may push them to away.
Giving reasons "why" helps them make a better choice. (But recognize they still may not make wise ones.)

Peer pressure is big during these years, even if you homeschool.

Thrift store clothes pants, and jeans don't work. Their preferences catered to friends or their jobs. Fashion seems important. If it's not immodest, and doesn't reflect rebellion, we let them develop their own style (although it's really not their style but adopting their peers' style.)
They grow fast and grow out of their clothes fast.
My motto is buy a few of what they want and wash often. 

This is where school may become frustrating for them, especially homeschooling. They don’t like asking for help (what man asks for directions even when lost?), especially from a female and their mom at that.

It’s helpful to have outside sources, i.e. church teachers, other mentors, even a tutor can help. They don’t take correction from the parents very well. Reinforcing what you say by other adults goes a long way.

They wonder where they fit in the world. What do they want to do when they “grow up”? That can frustrate or overwhelm them, especially if they have no idea.
Giving jobs as they grow up can help direct their interests.

We know by 12 years old, who likes the barn and who detests it.
Who likes machines, and who only works on them to do something with animals.
We knew who has an aptitude for math and who better have a calculator with them at all times.
Most never want to pick a green bean again EVER. But some like to putter around in the dirt and grow some vegetables.

Knowing their interests help give direction and focus.

How do we know those things? We've made them work beside us all their lives. They were given jobs when they were three and four that they could do. As they grow, we give more responsibility and bigger, man-like jobs. When they’ve suggested things, i.e. raising chickens, breeding hamsters, bottle-feeding day-old calves, we ask questions to see if they’ve thought through all the considerations and then allow them, according to their responsibility, to direct or control that project.

Use those interests to motivate them for the things that must get done.
You can’t do taxidermy until school is done. If your school isn’t caught up, you won’t go hunting.

This is not the time to nit-pick them. You are not making them perfect for the world, just ready for it.
They will never have perfect manners, always eat like a gentleman, or treat everyone kind.
If those qualities aren’t in them by now, if you hound them with those things, they won’t listen for the other things that must be taught.

I may recommend certain manners for acceptance with peers and future relationships. Often their older brothers are telling them and I don’t have to---“If you eat like that, I won’t take you with me anywhere.”
That does more than me telling them. (Peer pressure.)

Looking the other way helps in a lot of things that I can’t change. God sees all of my mistakes, but He only works on one at a time. I keep that in mind with my teenager.
One thing at a time.
And Good not perfect.
Attitudes are more important than Actions. (With their inner turmoil of who they are and who they should be, sometimes they can't quite get what they should do worked out. I give more grace for their faulty actions if their attitudes are in the right place.)

Not only will they not be perfect for the world, they will not be totally ready for the world.

When my first born was going to college, I panicked. He didn’t know how to grocery shop, he wouldn't know how to do this...and this and this. My list continued to grow until I felt like such a failure that he couldn’t possible exist without me.
Then I went back to the Psalms and gained God’s perspective on life. One day at a time. One lesson at a time.
I certainly didn’t know it all when I entered the world. But God (isn’t that a great phrase?) But God kept me safe from harm (unknown to me most of the time) and continues to teach me what He wants me to learn. Nor does He leave them. But I, the mom, is left behind. That’s where the trust comes for moms. Let go and let God.
And they do make mistakes. They are after all your sons and daughters.

Some things you will not prepare them for the world. God uses those things to remind them to look to Him.
Some of our boys learn by experience. If we tell them, they don’t listen. They must experience it.
I would like to cushion the blows they receive, but if I do, they will not learn. So I let go. And allow them to suffer the consequences of their choices … They are their choices. And I suffer with them. But don't try to take away their suffering.

When I was bemoaning to my sister about how independent our boys were. She laughed and said, “That’s how you trained them.”

Do I want men who live by their word and suffer the consequences, or do I want little boys that blame others and aren’t responsible? I’ve had to let go through the years. Allow them to make choices…direct, encourage, show a better way, but allow them to grow.

Preteens are years of ups and down, emotionally for them and you.

Sleep always helps. They are growing fast. They need their sleep. And more of it. When they have too many late nights and early mornings, everyone pays for their bad attitude.

My husband reminds me that they are growing up and must deal with late nights, but we both agree that late nights every night cause family unrest.

They also need time away from everyone else. Do they have a place and time for quiet thoughts? Always running from place to place doesn’t allow them to process what they are going through.
Sports, music lessons, school all seem to pull them away from the family and even from growing up. Makes sure they have down time.

When my sons are expressing nasty attitudes toward me, I suggest reading. Get them away from others (and me) and focused on something besides themselves.

In this day of cell phones for everyone. Everyone listening to their own music, watching their own things, we have lost the family time of watching a movie together.

There's too much on the internet that you must guard your children’s eyes, ears and hearts.
Pornography is very real---addictive, destructive, and not rated. If they click on one link, sometimes they can't get off of it without seeing all too much. Know what your child watches, listens to and spends time on.

We do not give a phone to our boys until they have their own driver’s license---that way they can text us when they have arrived at their destination (if they have reception) or if they drive off a cliff and must call us.

Most kids argue, “Everyone has one.” Great. Borrow theirs if you need to call me for an emergency. (We used pay phones for that.)

I monitor computer games to 15-30 minutes per day, after school and required jobs are completed. (I make up jobs before they can play. No sense living in a dirty house when they have time to play, is there?)

We allow more privileges with more responsibility. If they don’t show capability, we regulate more.
Each child is different. They may compare another’s freedom. If you prove capable, we’ll reconsider.

I thought I was exhausted with little toddlers!

These years remind me of how much I don’t know, how much I must ask God for grace, wisdom, and strength. I don’t have the answers. And with each child, the questions change. But I do know where to go. Isn’t that what we learned with toddlers? It still applies.
God is still working on me, as the mom, for the obedience He wants. He shows me grace. I try to show His grace to my preteen as he manuevers this difficult time in his life.

Seek God for answers.

Displaying 1 comment

Great article on preteens. Yes, they are at a very difficult time of life, sometimes seem grown-up, sometimes like kids. I've always felt, like you do, that attitude is everything. They can disagree, they can contradict, but they still need to do it respectfully. Thanks, I'm sure this will be good reading for those with preteens. (Our oldest granddaughter is one, no problems so far but she is growing up so fast!)

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And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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