This article was originally featured on momaha.com.
Parents of middle schoolers often find they’re challenged by kids who are 13 going on 30. These children act like they’re older than they really are and demand the privileges of high school or college kids (late curfew, dating, driving, cell phone, no adult supervision, etc.), but don’t have the maturity or judgement to handle it. What’s a parent to do?
Here are a few tips for life with a tween:
1. Fair doesn’t always mean equal. In other words, if your 14-year-old wants the same curfew as her 18-year-old brother, don’t give in just because she shouts “unfair!” Calmly explain your family rules for curfew, and let her know she, too, can have a later curfew when she gets older (not before). Age does have privileges. Odds are, your 14-year-old has some privileges her younger siblings do not. Make sure to remind her of that.
2. If it’s illegal, say no and mean it. Kids who act (or want to act) older than their age may think they have the right to do things that are illegal for them. This is your perfect reason for saying “no” to activities such as drinking or driving. Don’t get sucked in by arguments that their friends are doing it or other parents are OK with it. Illegal means no – period.
3. Tie privileges to demonstrated maturity/responsibility. If your 12-year-old wants an unmonitored smart phone with full Internet capability, wants to start dating or thinks he or she should be able to go places for hours at a time with no adult supervision, ask yourself some basic questions, such as:
• Has she demonstrated through words/actions that she can resist peer pressure, even from good friends?
• Does he take care of his possessions (clothes, shoes, school textbooks, video games, sports equipment) or is he prone to breaking, losing or damaging things?
• Does she always tell you the truth, or have you caught her lying?
• Can he get his homework and chores done without being constantly reminded?
Let your child know you’ll revisit privileges when you see consistent mature behavior. Be clear about your expectations.
4. Keep the lines of communication open and say “yes” when you can. Make sure you always have good reasons for saying no, and look for opportunities to say yes. You may not say yes to an entire afternoon at the mall without adult supervision, but a two-hour movie might be OK for now. You may know your 12-year-old can’t handle the responsibility of a cell phone full-time (she loses shoes, clothes, books, etc.), but you’ll let her have one to use when she’s babysitting next door.
In the end, listen to your parental instincts. If you think anything puts your tween in physical, emotional or moral danger, stop and determine why you feel that way. Then sit down and have an honest talk with your child. Listen to his or her reasons, and explain your decision. Remind your kids that as they get older and show more responsibility, they’ll be rewarded with greater privileges.
Above all, don’t forget to tell them you set boundaries because you love them and want them to be safe, healthy and happy.