Understanding Your Tween Boy
How To Navigate Friendships, Puberty and Emotions With Grace
If you have a tween boy then this scenario may sound all to familiar: You pick him up from school and the world has fallen apart. He had an argument with a friend and has an assignment due tomorrow that he is convinced he will fail if he doesn’t get together with his friends immediately to finish it. Life just doesn’t seem fair and things are far more dramatic then they need to be. Honestly if you have a girl this could be the case, but today lets focus on the tween boys!
My son is just about 11 which officially puts him in the tween boy category and I am finding his emotions can be a bit of a roller coaster at times! This has left me feeling frustrated, angry and defeated on many occasions. Through navigating his friendships, emotions and the start of puberty in both grace filled and non grace filled ways I have learned what works best and what just doesn’t! As mothers we don’t want to escalate a situation, but rather be a calm in their storm. While how they are acting or feeling may seem dramatic, we must realize it’s very real to them and be a strong support for our growing sons! This leads me to my first point…
DON’T REACT, INSTEAD RESPOND
When YOU are feeling sad, emotional or upset in any way, how do you want your support systems to approach YOU. Do you want your husband to yell at you, because you’re upset that Brenda bailed on your coffee date? Okay it’s a silly example, I know, but seriously we have to remember that our children are HUMAN beings with valid feelings, hormones and emotions they are trying to navigate. When they are acting out in any way it can quickly make us a mama’s want to react instead of respond. God knows I have reacted and it’s not cool. Now I’m not going to beat myself up for the times I have chosen to yell at my kids as they were good learning lessons and made for good conversations with my kids, HOWEVER, this is certainly not a Christ like way to act and I know it’s definitely not the best way. Be the calm in their storm mama. Instead of saying something like “stop being so dramatic or calm down”, you could say “I can see that your feeling upset, do you want to talk about this in private?” As your son rehashes his problems, it’s also okay to remind him to slow down when he’s talking or to speak respectfully.
I know mama, their attitude of “woe is me” or their own emotional out bursts can turn your house into a war zone quickly, but resist laughing, rolling your eyes or yelling. This will only escalate the situation and model behavior that you don’t want your son replicating in his friendships.
GIVE HIM A LITTLE SPACE
When responding calmly and with empathy to your tween boy just isn’t working, because Lord knows it wont always work, then often just allowing him some space will do wonders to deescalate the situation.
When my sons emotions are high I will often suggest he go outside with his yo yo for a bit, because fresh air and alone time can do WONDERS for anyone’s mood! Or I will straight out say, “It looks like you may need some space, please go to your room to cool down.” He may storm off wildly or walk calmly. I don’t react to any of this, but rather just give him time to cool down and think about it all. Usually within 10 minutes he is ready to talk calmly and more rationally. And he will often realize his outburst was inappropriate and apologize for it.
DO DEVOTIONALS AS A FAMILY
This is my new favorite family and faith building activity we do at breakfast time together. In my Bible App there are tons of devotionals for families. You can work through devotionals about friendships, sibling rivalry and so much more. It’s a great reminder as you start your day together to be anchored in Christ and live intentionally. I will be honest and say that some mornings one child will break out in whining or shouting only 20 minutes later, but that’s when I think as mama’s we need to look at other aspects of our child’s life to see if there is another trigger. Remember that consistency compounds with everything in life, so the more we are praying with our children, spending quality time and having great conversations, the more we are building them up to be better humans! Even when it doesn’t feel like it, your efforts are so worth it and so needed so don’t give up!
IS YOUR CHILD GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP?
Doing your best to stick to a bedtime routine even as your kids get older is, in my opinion, SO IMPORTANT! Sleep is the time when your body gets to really rest and recover. I mean just think about how YOU feel when you’re running low on sleep! You will likely have less patience, feel groggy and maybe even grouchy. The same goes for our kiddos.
I know things can come up during the week that can throw our routines off track, but I would suggest doing your best to have the same bedtime and rising time for both you and your kids. Yes even on weekends! Of course there are always times when this will be broken like a special event or a camping trip, but I am just talking about your regular life and routines. Try starting the bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier each night and see how that affects your child’s mood throughout the week. My kids are 8 and 10 (almost 9 and 11) and as strict as it may sound I have them getting ready for bed at 7 pm. I get them to brush their teeth separately to avoid goofing around or sibling fights and then they are off to relax and read until about 8 pm. After that its lights out. This has been working well for us since they were quite small. I may change the going to bed time a bit with summer approaching and them not having to rise for school so early.
GIVE YOUR SON ONE ON ONE TIME
This is HUGE for both of my children. Kids need time with their parents! It doesn’t even have to be long periods of time. Meal times are a great time to connect. Like I mentioned we do a devotional at breakfast. Dinner time is a great time to talk about the day as well. Bed time is another great opportunity to connect with your son one on one. My son loves chatting in bed. He could go on and on and this is a great opportunity to just sit and listen. I know your tired mama and I am going to address that in a second, but take 5-10 minutes each night to connect with your kiddos. I will also take my kids on solo bikes rides or walks with the dog and find this is such a nice time to move our bodies and talk about anything from his new lego set, to questions about his changing body or how to navigate a difficult friendships.
MANAGE YOUR ENERGY
This is something that has been HUGE for me and I am still learning about it. Girl you must manage your own energy in order to give your best to your kids. Easier said then done, I know, and I will do more detailed blog posts on this, but lets just stick to the basics right now. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep. I know watching that second or third Netflix episode is tempting, trust me I’ve done it many times. And while occasionally its okay, it’s not a habit you want to get into mama! You NEED your rest. Personally when I am lacking sleep I tend to not only lash out more, but I will likely skip a workout or eat foods that also don’t serve my best self. So get those beauty Z’s girl!! Do the most daunting tasks in your home or work life at the beginning of the day and the week. If you are doing a task that is more energy sucking then make sure to do your best to balance it with a life giving task. For me I don’t totally enjoy the email part of my business, so I make this more enjoyable by doing it early with a big cup of coffee then reward myself with a long walk and a good podcast episode. I live out of town and I am an introvert, so driving into town for errands and school activities is also draining for me. I do my best to balance this with a slower day following my errand day. Plan your meals ahead of time, so you are fueling your body properly! Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish girl, it’s a REQUIREMENT to live your best life and bring your best self forward for your kids! Let go of the mommy guilt and take time to do things that fill your cup!! For me this is spending time early in the mornings with God, long walks, date nights, reading on the deck with a delicious drink, writing, taking and editing photos and coffee dates with good girlfriends.
Looking back, I can clearly see how yelling, slamming doors, negative talk and giving out consequence after consequence didn’t result in a calmer kid or happy mama. I’m not saying not to give your tween boy consequences ever, because that is totally necessary and biblical if you’re parenting from a Christian perspective like we are.
Personally, I have to be really intentional with how I am showing up for my kids. Remembering that the goal is to guide my son through his emotions, friendships and hormone changes. To validate his feelings and equip him with tools to grow into a humble, loving man.
You got this girl! God gifted YOU with these amazing little ones, because he knew you could handle it and raise them well. So much love to you always!!!
Other resources for parenting articles that I’ve found useful in parenting my tween boy:
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