Teaching a Preteen Child to Be More Responsible

The preteen years are the calm before the storm of the more tumultuous teen years. But that doesn’t mean that parents can sit back and relax.

The preteen years mark a time in a child’s life when children are no longer completely dependent upon their parents, nor are they quite ready for the more independent world of the teen. Many families find these years to be the calm before the storm of the more tumultuous teen years. Still there are hurdles to overcome and many of those have to do with responsibility, explains parent educator Diane Loisie. “Generally the most common obstacles that come up for parents in elementary and junior years is homework and household chores; how much the child is helping out in the house. So if you’re wanting to build to more autonomy and responsibility, remembering that this child will one day leave your house, you’re going to want to increase the level of responsibility that they have, and let them define them.”

While setting ground rules around issues like homework are important, it’s equally as important to refrain from being overly strict with your preteen. Loisie says that in the long run this can backfire. “If you’re too rigid as a parent then you’re going to have children very compliant when they’re young because they want your approval. Then when they get to be a teen they’re going to be wanting the approval of the peers and they won’t have the internal mechanisms to make their own choices and will be led by what their peers are deciding for them. ”

During the preteen years, spending a little extra time with your child can really pay off later. “We can really give our kids a sense of understanding, guiding and mentorship in how to solve the social problems that come up when they’re at school, because that’s what’s going to come up and keep them from learning – the obstacles with friendships. So if you can, validate their feelings and be a sounding board”.

Still Loisie adds that this support shouldn’t go so far that we “try to solve their problems for them”. The goal should be that the preteen child learns to handle life’s ups and downs, while feeling supported at home. This will best prepare them for the challenges down the road.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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