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When you held your child a little baby in your arms, did you ever have someone say to you, “Oh, she is sweet now, but just wait until the teen years!” When people said that to me as a young mom, I cringed a little. Parenting a baby and then a toddler was hard enough. I didn’t want to wait in dread for the teen years!
As a mom of teens and pre-teens, allow me to reassure you. The teenage years are challenging, but they are not to be dreaded. My husband and I have 5 children through birth and special needs adoption, and we were foster parents to 35 foster children. I’ve done plenty of parenting.
I love parenting tweens and teenagers for so many reasons. One of your greatest joys will be watching your hard work come to fruition as your children mature into amazing young adults with whom you enjoy spending time.
These pre-teen years are an important bridge to the teen years. Here are 3 tips to give structure without being too strict.
Whether you find these ideas overwhelming or a relief, don’t lose heart. Parenting is not about perfection. These 3 tips will help you define a relationship with your child that will carry you through some of the more challenging aspects of the teen years and into a lasting relationship to come.
Tween Parenting: 3 Tips to Give Structure But Not Be Too Strict
- Build your relationship with Christ as the center.
With God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the center of your relationship with your tween, your relationship will have a solid foundation. Pre-teens are beginning the important process of claiming their own relationship with Christ, outside of their parents’ decisions. Help them nurture their faith life by showing how you grow your faith. Talk openly about how Jesus influences your daily decisions.
If there are ways you want to incorporate faith activities into your family’s life, it’s not too late to start now. Family devotions at the dinner table and nightly prayers together are important for pre-teens. Try sharing prayer requests or memorizing Bible verses while you drive to activities.
- Continue to offer firm structure.
Your pre-teen will begin to rebel against some of your rules during these years but continue with the expectations your family has established. Don’t assume that because your tween is balking at your rules that means you are doing something wrong. On the contrary, it means you are probably doing something right.
Kids need boundaries now more than ever before. They will complain, but a loving, nurturing home is one with structure and accountability.
Expect your tween to contribute to family chores and respond to adults respectfully. Rooms are kept neat. Homework is completed. Days are structured with a regular wake up and bedtime routine.
- Widen pre-teen’s boundaries.
The tween years are such an interesting age of not-this and not-that. I remember my mom talking about my 5th grade birthday when I asked for a doll and make-up. This so accurately describes the push-pull of the pre-teen. They are not young adults and they are not little kids.
Sometimes it’s tough to know how to parent a child during these in-between years.
Consider this: instead of letting go of freedoms or relaxing your grip, think of it as widening the boundaries.
As your child gets older and shows appropriate maturity, widen your pre-teen’s boundaries with a later bedtime, more mature television viewing, and more freedom in the neighborhood. If your child shows appropriate behavior, she can continue to enjoy freedom within this new boundary. If this area proves too much for her to handle, bring the boundary back in closer to you again.
By using these 3 tips to give structure but not be too strict – keeping Christ as the center of your parent-child relationship, offering firm structure, and widening boundaries as your kids are ready, you will have a meaningful relationship through the tween years, teen years and beyond.
Which of these will you focus on starting today?
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What an incredible picture of the fine line that we walk as tween into teen parents – centered on the right foundation! Sara’s site The Holy Mess is packed with wisdom and resources in Faith, Family and Fitness from all of her personal experience!
Hop on over and dig in the all of the amazing tips she has on her site and if Bible Journaling is your thing, you can sign up for her FREE Bible Journaling Printables Here!
I love that you included structure with relationship to Christ and each other! It makes me think of the book Boundaries for Teens by Dr. John Townsend.
Parenting requires grace and truth. For us, expanding the boundaries is progressively giving our daughters a “longer rope.” When they are responsible, the rope lengthens. If they are irresponsible, we tighten up the rope!
Yes! Loads of grace and truth! Learning how to balance the tightening and loosening of the rope is hard but so important. Thank you so much for sharing and for your encouragement. Love your site. I can’t wait to dig in more! Thanks again.
Tiffany Montgomery says
Man alive, Widening boundaries is super tough… but I do want her to learn, fail or succeed in a safe environment… but I don’t want her to get hurt… that’s the challenge isn’t it?!?!.
Thanks for sharing this Sara
Firm structure! We desperately need this in our home!
I know sometimes it’s not easy, but providing these loving boundaries is exactly what is needed and is what caring parents do. Hang in there, mom!