The discipline approaches that worked during your kid’s preschooler years no longer apply once she’s in primary school. JASSMIN PETER-BERNTZEN finds out what does work in the turbulent tween years.
The discipline approaches that worked previously no longer apply once she’s in primary school. These are the tricks that do work.
In the blink of an eye, your child is now in primary school. Where have the years gone, you wonder, wishing you could freeze time to enjoy her littleness. At the same time, you’re proud of the person she is growing into.
Tweenhood, the ages between seven and 10, can be a complicated time in a child’s life. Your kid is on the path to selfdiscovery and eager to prove to everyone, especially her parents, that she is a miniadult ready for more responsibility.
“She is also starting to show signs of puberty – wanting to be more independent and thriving for self-control,” notes parenting expert Cornelia Dahinten. This is when her behaviour changes – she wants to be less controlled by her parents and starts testing boundaries, she adds.
Peter Jayan Chelliah, 42, a claims ofﬁcer, couldn’t agree more. Ever since his son Yuvaraj, eight, started primary school, he’s noticed that the disciplining tactics that used to work previously no longer do.
“Things like taking away TV and playground time were enough to get him to behave, but they no longer work now,” Peter says. “Although they are still very effective with my three-year-old daughter!” he quips.
Sharlene Tan, 41, an account manager and mum to Ashley, eight, concurs. When her son was younger and used to misbehave, she spanked his bum lightly or took away privileges, such as buying new toys.
“It no longer works, because what he does now is save his recess money during the week and uses that to spend on himself when he goes out with me,” she says. “Also, I’ve had to give up spanking because he tells me beating is abuse.”
These are typical challenges parents of tweens face, says psychologist Daniel Koh. Not too long ago, your child was completely dependent on you and your guidance to navigate life.
Now that she’s doing more things on her own and has her own circle of friends as a support system, she thinks she’s ready for more independence. However, you may not feel the same way.
“This is when the power struggle and dominance start, which results in more challenging behaviour,” Daniel explains.
“Fear and control used to work, but now it’s become a sore point. Also, the same discipline method will stop working after a while because either the child gets used to it or learns to work around it.”
Does this mean it’s time to start letting your child have her way? Most deﬁnitely not, Cornelia says. Even though she may behave more grown-up, she is not.
Your child still needs a lot of guidance, but in a more liberal manner than previously, Cornelia adds.
“You still see her as your little baby – and she is – but your kid wants to feel that you’re taking her seriously, that her opinion is heard and valued,” Cornelia adds.
“That does not mean, though, that she gets to decide on things, because at the end of the day, she is still a child. As the parent, you decide, but now include her in the thought process and open up for conversation to prepare her for the future.”
If you’re currently in a gridlock situation with your tween, our experts recommend some easy ways to start working through them.
HELP YOUR TWEEN TO FOSTER INDEPENDENT THINKING
The days of “I know better than you” or “just listen to what I say” are over. The harder you try to keep your child under your thumb, the more aggressive she will become.
Instead, use this as an opportunity to hone your child’s critical thinking skills. Guide her as she works through a discipline issue. Ask her to think why her actions might have been wrong, what she could have done better and how she will approach it the next time.
Give her time to process it and keep the communication channels open, so she feels she can approach you at any time. “This will help to foster future discussions,” Daniel says.
This approach worked well on Yuvaraj recently when he was involved in small argument in school and ended up striking a fellow classmate out of frustration.
“We explained to him the importance of patience and not hurting another peer student. We also turned the roles around and made him realise he wouldn’t have wanted to be treated the same way,” Peter says.
“It worked and he apologised to his friend the next day.”
ESTABLISH CLEAR FAMILY RULES, BUT ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO CONTRIBUTE
By establishing clear rules, you are setting the boundaries as a parent. By allowing your child to have a say in these rules, you’re giving her a slice of independence and teaching her how to work with structure and routine – skills that will come in very handy as she grows up. She will also feel valued knowing that she has a voice in family discussions.
GET YOUR TWEEN TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HER BEHAVIOUR
Since your child thinks she’s ready to be responsible, give her a chance to prove herself. Allocate simple chores that are age appropriate.
If she sticks to her end of the bargain, reward her accordingly. For example, from today, your tween is responsible for making her own bed. If she does, she can play with her neighbours after school. By doing this, your kid is learning to earn her privileges.