You may be getting flashbacks of the toddler years as your defiant pre-teen throws a ridiculous fit. You can’t exactly put him in a three-minute time-out or do the 1-2-3 countdown anymore, however. It's a whole new ball game now, with a different set of rules. Before resigning yourself to being a member of the losing team, take a few moments to choose your next move. Believe it or not, there are ways that you can cope with his ‘tude and still walk away at least with some dignity.
Ensure that everyone gets enough sleep. Not only is dealing with your pre-teen exhausting, it will be even worse if you didn’t get inadequate sleep the night before. If your pre-teen is tired and grouchy, it will only make matters worse. Set a nightly bedtime for everyone, including you, and stick to it. Weekends can have a later bedtime, but during the week keep it on the early side.
Reinforce positive behaviors when you see them. Use kind words or praise to point out those behaviors. Try to ignore the little, annoying comments or eye-rolling as much as you can. The more you avoid feeding into the negative behavior seeking attitudes the better. That’s right -- he may be doing it just to irritate you, so don’t give him the satisfaction of letting him know it worked.
Let him make his own mistakes. If no danger is involved, stand back and permit him to fail. As much as you may want to, bite your tongue instead of saying “I told you so.” The bite of failure is enough of a reminder that his choice didn’t work and that maybe -- just maybe -- your advice does have some merit. Be supportive, but don’t fix the problem or do the task for him.
Separate yourself from the war zone. There is nothing wrong with leaving the room to give yourself some time to cool down. Plus this creates some distance from your pre-teen, so you don’t say words that you may regret later. Don’t lash out, use negative words, call him names, yell or use physical punishment. You want to model the appropriate way to handle a stressful situation.
Take care of yourself. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean that you can’t get pampered every now and then. Splurge on a massage, get a pedicure, go for a walk, have a girl’s night out, attend a cardio kickboxing class or anything else that will help you recharge your batteries. This may just give you the strength to get through another pre-teen attitude fit.
Choose your battles. You may have a whole list of chores that should be completed or several behaviors you want changed, but you can’t have it all. Holding that expectation sets you up for disappointment. Instead, hone in on a few specifics. Create a chore chart or reward system to reinforce positive choices or completed tasks. This will also define what your expectations are so there is no question about what he should be doing or what you expect from him.
Be consistent and follow through on consequences. If you follow through only sometimes, he will view you as a pus- over and will believe he can get away with his bad attitude and poor choices.
If your pre-teen demonstrates aggressive behaviors such as hitting or verbal abuse, or if you suspect a change in behavior may be drug-related, seek the guidance of a professional.