Tweens are at the funny age of push and pull. They often shirk at your simple suggestions yet seek out your input and advice when you leave them to make their own decisions. One minute they don’t need or want your help, the next they are hunting you down to show them the way.
It can be really confusing business for a parent. How do you know when to step forward and when to step back?
Tweens demonstrate newfound insights and tend to make astute observations at unexpected times. As their focus shifts to things outside their immediate family their understanding of the world at large expands.
Tweens however, often feel awkward and unsure. Their priorities can seem frivolous and their motivation may appear to wane. It is during the tween years that kids begin to hone in on their interests, they may drop some of their pursuits and fight back if forced to continue on with an activity that no longer holds their interest.
Then there’s the issue of priorities. You and your tween may have very different agendas. Can you however, make your tween care about the things you think are important? Can you sway them to see that their energy is best diverted to activities and experiences you consider valuable and important? Essentially, can you actually motivate your tween to care about the things you believe matter?
The answer to these questions are of course, as complicated as the questions.
During the tween years children begin the search for identity that will take them through their teen and young adult years. It is during the tween years that children begin to turn to peers for direction and approval. Tweens tend to develop friendships based on common interests and values and less out of convenience. When children are younger, parents often pick their children’s friends by arranging the play dates and choosing their activities.
Tweens are at the age of assertion. This becomes more obvious the older they get. They may start to make more of their own choices about friends and interests. It is the values that their parents impart to them however, that have a great hand in determining these decisions.
It is also true that tweens sometimes shirk at their parent’s input. They can seem dismissive or even irritable and, or angry when parents provide advice or opinions they have not requested. Tweens however, internalize far more of what their parents believe than most parents realize. It is not uncommon to hear a tween own an answer that clearly came previously from their parent. Quite often the response is information that the tween seemed to reject or ignore when their parent initially offered the proposal.
If confronted a tween will often deny that their thought or action came from a previous conversation with a parent. It is not because they are lying, trying to take credit for something that came from their parent. More often instead, they really don’t recognize that they have internalized their parent’s recommendation. This is in fact quite common.
Parents then, are advised to be patient. Quite often the thing the parents value are rejected by their tween in the moment, only to be embraced, accepted, and sometimes even celebrated later on.
Parents have far more influence on motivation than they usually realize. This is because the impact is usually indirect. In vein with the Dale Carnegie school of thought, if you want someone to embrace your idea, let him think it was his idea to begin with.
So the take away here then is simple: you can influence your tween’s motivation. You can affect what they acknowledge as important. Consistent interactive conversation is the key to helping your tween internalize your perspective. There will of course always be things on which you do not see eye to eye. When your tween offers an idea that has clearly been internalized, offer validation. This type of encouragement is strong reinforcement. Lastly remember, when it comes to your tween, you are best served letting him believe your idea belonged to him.