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6 Tips and Tricks for Parenting a Troubled Preteen

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A lot gets said about teenage mental health and maladaptive behavior.

For instance, every day in the US, around 1,500 teenagers attempt suicide, over 15,000 have their first experience with drugs, and almost 2,800 teenage girls get pregnant. As you can imagine, both being a teenager and parenting one isn’t always easy.

However, parenting a troubled preteen can be just as difficult.

Preadolescence is a time of confusion, change, high emotions, and instability at the best of times. Throw social, behavioral, and psychological problems into the mix, and everything gets even harder.

Is your preteen struggling in a wealth of ways that make you feel powerless as a parent? Are you worried about their future and are confused about the best course of action? Let us help!

Keep reading for 6 tips and tricks for parenting preteens and teenagers in trouble.

1. Communicate When You’re Calm

Communicating with troubled teens and/or preteens is never easy. But it’s downright impossible when you’re upset, stressed, or seeing red!

Alas, they might know exactly how to push your buttons. They’ll cause a stir, act out, rile you up, and do what they can to push boundaries. Staying calm and in control of your emotions in these circumstances can be hard work.

Sometimes, it’s better to wait a while before you address the issue. Step back, take time out, and get your emotions back under control. Only then should you open up a conversation with your child to tackle whatever problem/situation has occurred.

2. Get Better at Listening

Troubled preteens are less likely to open up to you than their younger selves would have been.

Remember, they’re changing in every single way—physically, mentally, and emotionally. They might not understand their experience of the world and the emotions that arise. They may retreat inwards and build impenetrable walls that are hard for parents to see past.

It can be increasingly rare for them to come and talk to you voluntarily. Every now and again, though, they might start talking. And when they do, it’s of the utmost importance that you put down what you’re doing and listen.

If they feel anything other than respected and understood, then they’ll be even less inclined to open up in the future. Don’t judge, interrupt, or mock them in any way. Give them time to express themselves and all of your focus.

3. Be Prepared for Roadblocks and Rejection

Did we mention that parenting a troubled preteen isn’t easy? We know—you’re the last person we need to tell twice. You know already just how challenging the task can be.

They’re misbehaving, out of control, and getting in trouble at every turn. You worry about their safety, blame yourself for their misdemeanors, and feel at a loss in terms of what to do.

Our best advice? Learn to be patient.

The truth of the matter is that there’s usually no easy solution. Expect roadblocks, problems, and a whole host of rejection along the way. With time, care, patience, and perseverance, though, your child will come through the other side.

4. Set Clear Boundaries

Setting behavioral boundaries is all-important.

You must, in the clearest possible terms, explain to your child what is and isn’t permissible. Have a conversation about it when they’re calm and agree upon a set of rules for positive behavior.

They should know that their actions have consequences too. If they push the boundaries and break the rules, then they should be punished appropriately.

Consider creating a sliding scale of punishment. In other words, minor infractions would lead to a reprimand of equal proportions (e.g. early bedtimes and loss of privileges); major issues would have serious repercussions.

It’s your job to outline such consequences in advance and enforce them every single time. That second part’s important. Just like training a pet, consistency is key!

It sends a clear message that a) their actions have consequences and b) helps them separate right from wrong.

5. Understand the Warning Signs

Troubled pre-teens can seem like a total mystery to their parents.

Your once angelic child has, for one reason or another, turned into something altogether harder to understand! It’s natural to feel nonplussed by their behavior and uncertain about how to help.

However, most children have certain warning signs that occur before they act out. A child that gets angry, for instance, might pace angrily around the room before it boils over. Knowing that in advance would enable you to intervene before the situation escalated.

Try to learn their triggers too. What sets them off?

Is it being spoken to in a certain way? Being unable to get their own way? Being criticized or spurned?

Figuring these things out will help you avoid such triggers and steer clear of issues in the first place.

It’s an approach that bears resemblance to the behavior management strategies for k12. You piece together the triggers that lead to a particular reaction, the early warning signs that precede it, and the particular response that’ll mitigate the problem.

6. Give Them Space

The best solutions are often the simplest, right?

Giving your child space might be the last thing on your mind when they’ve done something wrong. Your instinct might be to raise your voice, demand an apology, and give them a piece of your mind.

But it’s rarely a good idea. A better approach is to step back and give them space.

Let them go to their room, into the garden, or for a walk. Chasing after them usually only makes things worse.

Remember These Tips for Parenting a Troubled Preteen

The pre-adolescent years are a difficult time for children and parents alike.

However, that’s particularly true when the child struggles with behavioral and psychological challenges. Suddenly, the usual developmental changes are accompanied by anger, depression, and a variety of misdemeanors.


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