It’s not easy to maintain discipline with our tweens!

Maintain discipline with our tweens : Our children are developing beings, and discipline helps to show them what is acceptable in the family or in society, and what is not. Discipline is the teaching of basic rules and values. Since we’re talking about an apprenticeship, it’s normal for our youngsters to confront our authority, especially at the age of puberty and adolescence.

It’s important to distinguish between repression and discipline, especially with this age group. While repression consists in preventing any expression of opposition and is limited to criticizing, blaming and punishing, discipline is more about teaching rules and enforcing values. During preadolescence, it’s essential to teach children that their actions and choices have consequences.

Why is discipline important in the home?

Of course, we want the best for our young people and, above all, we want them to grow up feeling loved and unhindered in their development. But we must remember that their development also depends on education, which includes learning rules and limits, and which requires a minimum of supervision. We must therefore ensure this discipline and impose our rules and limits consistently and firmly on a daily basis. It’s one of the most important parental roles, but probably the most demanding and the most difficult to assume with any regularity.

However, discipline must evolve over time, according to the age of our children. Pre-teens don’t need the same supervision as 6-year-olds. They already know what’s right and what’s wrong, and how to avoid certain dangers.

It’s not easy to maintain discipline with our tweens!

discipline with our tweens : It's not easy to maintain discipline with our tweens!

Some parents don’t dare say no for fear of not being loved by their children, of “bullying” them in their development, of being too strict, or simply because they want to avoid arguments or crises.

Others want to be their children’s “friends”. They put themselves on the same level as their children, and lose some of their parental authority in the process. But young people don’t want you to be their friends; they want strong parents who can guide them, support them and show them the way.

Other parents will give up on discipline for lack of time, preferring to pretend they haven’t seen or heard anything. Unfortunately, this attitude can have harmful long-term effects. At some point, they risk losing control and becoming exasperated by the undesirable behavior of their youngsters as they enter adolescence. It will then be more difficult to impose supervision and new limits without an over-reaction on the part of the youngsters, or without their being a little confused by this change of attitude or sudden relentlessness on the part of the parents.

In short, disciplining your child is not always easy. Pre-teens are notorious for mood swings and unpredictable behavior. The discipline we instill in them will help them better manage their emotions and live more easily with the rules of life applicable at home and in society in general.

How do we enforce the rules?

While we all agree on the importance of imposing limits on our youngsters and teaching them the right rules of conduct, applying this discipline effectively and consistently can prove very difficult in everyday reality. In fact, it’s all a question of balance (between what’s tolerated and what isn’t) and dosage (how we apply the discipline).

Rules that are too rigid and imposed in a climate that is constantly negative (by being disrespectful, denigrating or even verbally or physically abusive towards the youngster) can hinder our pre-teen’s development, bully him and seriously undermine his self-esteem.

A lack of discipline or supervision can be just as damaging. What’s more, youngsters who have never been told no lose their bearings, don’t know what the acceptable limits are, and find it hard to cope with the fact that their requests are sometimes refused (even once they’ve become adults). Some of them then find it difficult to socialize properly with their peers.

Here are some things to consider when applying discipline:

  • Agree among parents on the rules to be respected.
  • Make sure the rules are age-appropriate.
  • Limit the number of rules (it’s hard to enforce a large number of rules without failing).
  • Don’t hesitate to reiterate instructions; repetition is inevitable!

Overly rigid parental authority in pre-adolescence (and even worse in adolescence!) leads to a dead end. Just as much as we need to be firm on certain non-negotiable issues, we also need to open a dialogue with our youngsters on everyday questions. Let’s not forget that our pre-teens need rules to be supervised, but also freedom to respond to their growing need for self-assertion.

Do all young people oppose the rules?

All preteens tend, to varying degrees, to oppose or challenge rules. Oppositional behavior is normal, whether it’s occasional, sustained or occurs over short periods of time. All children of this age feel the need, at one time or another, to challenge the authority of their parent (or other authority figures, such as caregivers or teachers). This level of opposition and frustration is part of the young person’s affirmation phase, and helps to define and build his or her own personality on the road to adolescence.

These “misbehaviors” are generally provoked for the following reasons:

  • Impulsiveness.
  • a need to understand the reasons behind a rule they’re questioning.
  • need for attention.
  • need to confront authority.
  • to test the limits imposed on them.

Some young people will also clash with their parents to get their attention. If we forget to praise them for good behavior or give them attention in a pleasant, positive way, they’ll tend to behave in unpleasant ways to get our attention… even if it’s negative!

Whatever the reasons, we need to realize that opposition from our youngsters is normal during this period of their lives. It doesn’t have to be seen as a direct affront to us. Let’s assume these disagreements that arise in our child’s upbringing, and avoid overreacting and turning the situation into a confrontation. Let’s take a step back, then intervene calmly: “I understand that you don’t agree, but that’s the rule” “I know you’re angry, but I stand by my decision…” “I understand that you want to go to the park, but, as you know, it’s forbidden on weekdays.”

Above all, don’t give in to their every desire: remember, constancy and firmness! If the youngster understands the rules, sees that they are clear and will always be applied (without exception and without negotiation), he or she will accept them and naturally move on. Rules such as what time to come home, when to go out on weeknights, and how much time to spend on the computer or playing video games will gradually become part of his life.

Is it normal to have to repeat instructions?

This is probably a situation that all parents have to deal with: having to constantly remind our youngsters of what to do, repeating the same instructions day after day, what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do. However, there’s a distinction between regularly reminding them of the rules (which is part of the learning process) and repeating the same instruction or request several times before intervening.

When a parent makes a clear request of a child, he or she must avoid negotiating and repeating over and over again. However, our young people know our limits and know very well with which adults or in which contexts they can afford to wait before acting… so why listen the first time? Constant repetition encourages our young people to prolong their reluctance to act and, above all, not to listen as soon as the request is made.

As for rules, we inevitably have to remind our children of them so that they can integrate them into their daily routine. It’s part of their education. Even after many years, we’re sometimes surprised to have to remind our pre-teens of certain rules we thought we’d learned. It’s part of our role as parents, as life coaches! And then, one fine day, we realize that the morning routine has been acquired, that they brush their teeth without our having to tell them to, that they get ready for bed without our intervention, that they are polite to people… Our reward after so many years of perseverance!

When should I intervene?

We all want our children to be well educated, but at the same time, we don’t want to fall into the trap of the parent-policeman, for whom the only interventions are prohibitions or reprimands. The challenge for every parent is to find the right balance.

How do I get there? I suggest the following:

  • Start by enforcing the basic, non-negotiable rules of family life: bedtime, politeness, household chores, etc. Then focus on the behaviors that are most disturbing, that have the most negative impact on family life, or that go against your values or social rules.
  • Then target the behaviors that are most disruptive, that most negatively affect family life, or those that go against your values or the rules of society. A young person who is rude should be taken back, since this behavior will not be tolerated in the family, at school or in society in general. On the other hand, bedtime can vary from one family to another (depending on our rules of life or personal criteria).

Too often, parents tolerate behavior of which they disapprove for a long time, repeat instructions over and over again or negotiate endlessly, only to explode and apply consequences inappropriately and in an undesirable state of anger. It’s best to avoid these situations and intervene at the earliest opportunity.

Preteens are notorious for their mood swings. It’s easy to understand, with all the changes this passage entails. However, they need to be taught to control their anger and, above all, not to direct it inappropriately at us, the parents!

Discipline also applies to household chores. Teaching our youngsters how to do their chores means instilling in them a sense of responsibility and initiative, and, once again, leading them towards self-discipline (being able to take charge of their own lives).

What intervention methods should I use?

Ensuring respect for rules and discipline requires not only consistency and firmness in their application, but also the ability to intervene appropriately. Our interventions with our youngsters must therefore be appropriate to the circumstances, and must respect their development and self-esteem. As there are different philosophies when it comes to education and authority, many parents wonder whether their way of dealing with their children is the right one.

Here are a few examples of intervention methods.

Creativity and good humor

Using a sense of humor to enforce certain rules or guidelines is very effective, as it helps to integrate them into a positive climate. Teasing, winking and smiling defuse many a tense situation. They become important allies in motivating our youngster to respect the rule or modify his or her behavior, all in a harmonious climate.

Thanks to this approach, the problematic situation is quickly put right. This saves us from having to systematically resort to consequences, which certainly require a lot more energy from us as parents, and which might otherwise be reserved for repeat offenders.

Calming down

In the event of intense excitement, anger or crisis, we must remain calm and avoid raising our voice (so as not to turn it into a source of confrontation). Our own calm will have a calming effect on our youngster, encouraging him to listen and, subsequently, to cooperate.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement consists in emphasizing our young person’s good deeds or behaviors. By encouraging him, we give him positive attention that he will want to receive again. It’s also a source of motivation that will encourage him to respect the rules and adopt the desired behaviors. This method of positive intervention is particularly good for our preteen’s self-esteem.

  • “Wow! You emptied the dishwasher… Thank you!
  • “Congratulations! You did your homework when you got home from school!”

Young people often get more attention from their parents when they break the rules. Their need for attention is so strong that they’d rather have it in a negative way than not at all. So it’s important to be attentive to our young people and encourage them, praise them – in short, give them positive attention as often as possible to reduce the behaviors that lead them to defy authority.

Family rules

Preteens are ready for more independence. When your youngster asks for more freedom or “leeway”, take the time to sit down with him and discuss it openly. If, for example, he expresses the wish not to do his homework as soon as he gets home from school, try to be conciliatory and propose an alternative solution: after lunch? By giving him some control over the situation, you’re helping him to take responsibility, recognizing that he’s growing up and has a right to his own opinion. You’re sending him the message that you trust him, and this will help him gradually modify his attitude, if necessary.

How can I make my pre-teen understand that I disapprove of his behavior?

It’s all about how we react and let our child know we disapprove of his or her behavior. Here are a few tried-and-tested methods.


When our child doesn’t respect the rules, we can put him on hold for a limited time so he can calm down. But be careful not to humiliate him! Withdrawal to a corner (facing the wall) or on his knees is not advisable.

Withdrawal to his room is also to be avoided. This room must remain for him a place where it’s good to be. What’s more, if you get your youngster used to isolating himself in his room when something goes wrong, don’t be surprised if he keeps this unfortunate habit into adolescence!

Taking away a privilege

We can take away a privilege from our child, as long as this deprivation is limited in time. For example, avoid withdrawing the right to watch television for two days, or the right to use a bicycle for a week: this is likely to be difficult to enforce, and you’ll lose credibility if you abandon the consequence along the way.

Another important point: withdrawing privileges should never be an emotional punishment. So don’t deprive your child of beneficial emotional moments – for example, a visit to Grandma’s, a field hockey game with you, a board game or a family outing – to let him know you disapprove of his behavior. These moments normally help to establish a good relationship with our youngster and strengthen our complicity with him/her.


Reparation is a consequence directly linked to the act committed: picking up the mess, putting away the books lying around, doing a favor for your brother… When the reparation is completed, the consequence is over and we move on to something else.

This repair allows the young person to make a positive correction, while preserving his or her self-esteem. The message sent to the child is: “You’ve made a mistake (which is normal, since he’s still learning). Now correct it and try not to make it again.

The consequences

When a young person doesn’t cooperate, it’s essential that parents inform them of the consequences that await them, and apply them if they still don’t comply with the rules. For example: “If your room isn’t done before you leave for school, there will be a consequence: no television for you tonight!”

If parents don’t enforce the announced consequence, they risk losing credibility and respect for their authority. What’s more, the preteen, having detected this weakness, will be tempted to disobey again.

You should always warn your child of the consequences of not doing what you ask. Whenever possible, choose consequences that are logical, realistic and short-lived (never more than two days), for example:

  • deprive your teen of the computer for the evening.
  • forbidding him to listen to his favorite TV program or depriving him of television for the evening or for half a day on the weekend.
  • ask him to go to bed earlier than usual.
  • add household chores to those he already does.
  • deprive him of chatting with his friends for the day.
  • forbidding him to visit his friends for an entire weekend.

It should be noted that we must avoid overusing consequences, otherwise they will lose their effect and perhaps even affect our youngster’s self-esteem. We must therefore give our children a certain amount of leeway, adapted to their age group and level of autonomy. If we intervene too much, our preteen runs the risk of becoming “immune” to our interventions, which will have less and less impact. When a parent testifies that, no matter what the consequences, his or her child “doesn’t give a damn”, there’s good reason to wonder: either the child is showing very marked opposition, or he or she is receiving too many punishments in relation to the rewards he or she is receiving.

Permission to make your own mistakes

Sometimes it’s a good idea not to interfere, but to let your pre-teen make his or her own mistakes. For example, letting him decide to leave without his raincoat when rain is forecast can be very instructive: he’s sure to learn his lesson when it rains! Above all, don’t lecture him: “I told you so…”. Nobody likes to hear that, even us!

Which intervention methods should be avoided?

discipline with our tweens : It's not easy to maintain discipline with our tweens!

Certain types of consequences are totally inadvisable for the well-being of our young people. Here are the main ones.

Denigration (verbal violence)

Rules imposed in a constantly negative climate can seriously damage self-esteem. Insults and degrading comments must be avoided at all costs. Even when said without aggression or deliberate malice, they end up giving our young people the impression that they’re a bad person – when it’s only their behavior that’s inadequate.

As parents, we sometimes have the impression that this method has more impact: provocation will make him want to change. NOT SO! On the contrary, it can sometimes accentuate unwanted behavior.

In all our interventions, it’s important to make our preteen feel that it’s not him as a person we’re questioning, but his behavior.

We must also be careful not to reprimand him in front of others, as this is very humiliating. What’s more, it will amplify his desire to oppose us.

Incessant repetition

Don’t keep repeating the same request. Our young people know our limits and how many times they can make us repeat ourselves before listening to us. Repeating the same thing over and over again encourages our young people to prolong their resistance and, above all, not to obey their first request.


After the many repetitions often come the threats: “I’m warning you, if you don’t come and put your video games away, I’m going to sell them!” “I’m warning you, if you don’t make your bed immediately, you won’t be allowed to play on the computer for a month!” “If you don’t do what I ask at once, you won’t be coming on vacation with us!” These threats often evoke excessive consequences and, as a result, are rarely carried out. The youngster will easily perceive that this type of threat is just that, a threat… that will never be imposed on him because it is unrealistic, even far-fetched.

Once again, your credibility as a parent is at stake when you announce exaggerated punishments. Be careful, however: informing a child of the consequence awaiting him or her is not a threat in itself, as long as the punishment announced is realistic and applicable.

Physical correction

Although spanking or physical violence is increasingly regarded as an archaic practice, many parents get carried away with a slap that “just went away”, or are tempted to use it when the situation seems to have got out of hand. Faced with unacceptable or disturbing behavior on the part of a youngster, some parents are truly exasperated; they no longer know how to react or intervene, feel powerless and end up giving in to anger and slapping. While their feelings are understandable, their actions are unjustified.

Slapping represents a loss of control on the part of the parent, or an ultimate intervention resorted to because of a lack of means to intervene. It is often used as a reaction to rudeness on the part of the pre-adolescent, or as a (ineffective) means of communicating disagreement to the youngster (parents sometimes feel it’s the only way to make themselves understood).

Slapping is a highly humiliating gesture for the youngster, directly damaging his or her self-esteem while breaking the bond of respect and trust with the parent. This punishment technique can sometimes produce immediate results, but only in the very short term.

Excessive explanations

Avoid excessive explanations. Explain concretely what you expect of your child, without getting into endless discussions or lecturing. Young people like to know clearly what is expected of them, then move on.

Indifference and trivialization

It’s absolutely wrong to ignore or trivialize our young people’s undesirable actions or attitudes (in order to avoid intervening). Some parents have a tendency to do this, especially in front of an audience. Feeling uncomfortable, they try to mitigate the effect by laughing nervously or acting as if nothing had happened. While it is indeed advisable not to intervene in front of people, it is highly desirable to bring your youngster into the background to make your point.

Don’t give up or drop your request or instruction for lack of energy (time) or simply to avoid conflict.

Repetitive criticism

Abusive criticism prevents our youngsters from gaining self-confidence. Demanding parents who constantly correct their children end up discouraging them, leading them to doubt themselves. “Stop talking that way. “As usual, you’ve let your shoes drag.” “You’re never on your game, you forgot your signature sheet again.” “Will you speed up, you’re going to be late again!”. Naturally, you understand that such criticism is detrimental to a child’s development, even more so if it’s hurled in public or in front of the family.

Discipline is probably the biggest challenge parents face, and it’s one that requires patience and perseverance, especially in pre-adolescence. The results are worth it, however, since it will be even easier to enforce as a teenager. We are all aware that this discipline, if properly applied and respected, will ensure that our young people behave appropriately not only in our family, but also in society.


  1. Realize that good discipline and clear rules and limits are essential to your child’s development, regardless of his or her age group.
  2. Establish age-appropriate rules.
  3. Apply rules consistently, on a daily basis (don’t forbid something one day and tolerate it the next).
  4. Accept that it’s normal for your preteen to occasionally defy the rules or object to requests, but don’t give in…
  5. Don’t repeat a request several times before intervening.
  6. Inform your preteen of the consequences of non-compliance, and apply these consequences where appropriate.
  7. Agree to review the rules from time to time when your child loudly expresses his disagreement. Discuss the matter with him/her and try to find an acceptable compromise.
  8. Avoid punishments such as isolation, physical or emotional correction and humiliation.
  9. Do not overuse consequences: they will lose their desired effect and damage the child’s self-esteem.
  10. Use positive reinforcement: praise your preteen for good behavior and good deeds.

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