Parenting Tips for Tweens: Raising Confident Teens

By Greg Baer M.D.

June 7, 2023

Parenting Tips for Tweens, Guaranteed to Work

People talk endlessly about the difficulties of raising TEENAGERS, but from extensive experience I can tell you a secret: If you’re having problems with teenagers, it’s because you didn’t adequately prepare your TWEENS—ages 8 through 12—to become teens. So, right now, you can learn parenting tips for tweens that will prevent the problems of the teen years.

These Tips consistently WORK—no kidding—but it takes real guts to learn them as a parent. These tips require change from US, not just the kids. Are you up for that?

Tip #1: No More Anger from You.

That’s a really big one: no anger. Right now you probably have NO clue how not to be angry when your tweens argue, live on their phones, refuse to listen, and otherwise act ridiculous. But I will teach you this incredibly important skill shortly. Hang on.

Tip #2: Love Them—Unconditionally, which most parents have never seen.

If you’re here wondering how to deal with your tween, I can promise you that you never received sufficient unconditional love yourself. It’s unconditional love when people care about your happiness without ANY disappointment or irritation. And if you didn’t receive enough, you can’t give it to your child. We’ll talk more about finding that kind of love in a minute.

Tips 3-8

I’m going to skip those for now, because you’re not quite ready for them. But you will be.

Tip #9: Teach Them to LISTEN.

In order for children to grow up to be responsible and happy, they must learn how to listen to others. This is no small skill, and ONE step in teaching them to listen is to stop them from interrupting people.

Parenting Tips for Tweens: A Child Who Interrupts

First, a question:

Why Do They Keep Interrupting?!

I talked to a mother about her 12-year-old son, Aiden. She said, “Aiden doesn’t listen well. His school teacher says that he’s always distracted by other stuff when he should be listening to her. He doesn’t listen at home either. His brother and sister can't get half a sentence out without him butting in to correct them or change the subject or add something.

"It makes them crazy! They can hardly stand to be in the room with him. He changes the focus of everything to himself. I tell him that when he interrupts and changes the subject, it's disrespectful, and other people don't like it.

"He apologizes, but he keeps doing it. He says that it's so hard for him not to interrupt. I feel like maybe he doesn’t understand what interrupting is or when he’s doing it."

“You’ve told me a great deal about your son,” I said, “and there’s a lot here to learn about Aiden—and about yourself.”

“I’m eager to hear it,” Mom said. ”It’s all been confusing to me.”

He DOES know when he’s interrupting. It IS also true that he can’t stop himself but NOT for the reasons you think. It’s not some involuntary compulsion. No, he is filling a profound need. In fact, he is driven by the greatest need in the world for a child.

Mom looked like she’d been hit by a hammer. “What is this greatest need? How could I not have known this as his mother?”

It’s All about Love

“Like all children—like all human beings, actually—Aiden wants to feel unconditionally loved. Very few parents understand what their children need or why they behave badly. It turns out that children of all ages—including your “tween”—need love, but not just any kind of love will do. It must be unconditional, which means love with no disappointment or irritation. Every time a child feels disapproval, disappointment, or irritation, he hears only one thing: I don’t love you. Really.”

Mom looked hurt and confused, so I continued: “You have always done your best to love Aiden. You simply didn’t know HOW to love him because you were not unconditionally loved yourself. Most parents were not. How could we possibly give to our children what we have not received?

“How could I know that you or any other parent didn’t receive unconditional love? Remember in your childhood how many times:

  • your parents and others rolled their eyes at your mistakes.
  • they criticized your performance, especially with a “tone.”
  • they told you they were disappointed in you—with their words, their facial expression.
  • you just needed to talk to someone, but there was no one there.

“On each of these occasions, you were not being unconditionally loved—whether aggressively or by simple neglect—and you FELT the message, “I don’t love you.” Really, whether you consciously remember each event or not. It was like being poked with a sharp stick. Our children have the same pain.

“All of us—including our children—MUST be unconditionally loved and taught:

  • how to maintain our feelings of worth
  • how to develop our creativity, and
  • how to identify and be responsible for our feelings.

When children don’t feel unconditionally loved, they try ANY behavior that will earn our approval or protect them from feeling disapproval. They try to please us, to earn praise. When that wears off, they try whining, complaining, disappearing into screens, anger, fighting, resisting, and on and on. One of the things they do is demand attention by talking.

“Aiden is SCREAMING for anything that will diminish the pain of not feeling loved. He is screaming for ATTENTION because unconditional love, or Real Love, is not available. He can’t listen while he’s in pain and demanding attention. And he’s probably never been listened to himself. People tend not to listen well.

“You probably haven't listened to him. If, for example, he speaks to you while you're on your phone or doing something else, I’d bet that you tend to periodically mumble something like, “Mhm."

"And then you go back to what you're doing. With a child, there is no multitasking, not ever. We have to stop what we're doing and really pay attention to them. He's constantly getting attention because he's not getting the proactive listening and attention he needs.

He's constantly getting attention but he's manipulating to get it. He's taking people hostage to get attention. He's earning it. He's buying it. And if he has to “pay” for people to listen to him, buy their attention, buy their love, then it doesn't count to him. It’s not satisfying to him, so he does it again."

What Can I Do with My Interrupting Tween?

“When he does interrupt, it doesn’t help for you to tell him that he’s being disrespectful. He probably heard you the first hundred times you said that. He just needs to be loved and taught. What would that look like?

  1. You have to speak to him with no impatience.
  2. Don’t just tell him not to interrupt. Tell him what TO do. When he interrupts, reach out and physically touch him. Then tell him, ‘Wait until your brother (or whoever) is finished talking, and then you can talk. I’m actually dying to hear what you have to say.’

“It turns out that Aiden’s behavior isn’t just being disrespectful to the other person. It actually hurts AIDEN. When he interrupts, most people will tend to dislike him and not to listen to him, which will accomplish exactly the opposite of the attention he was trying to get with his interrupting.

“It’s also worth mentioning that when people—like Aiden—demand attention, they can sense, deep down, that they are essentially BUYING the attention. Such attention never feels fulfilling. He makes it impossible to feel loved unconditionally. Tragic for Aiden.”

All this discussion about interrupting has been part of Tip #9 for raising tweens. I briefly mentioned Tips 1-8 before that, and we’ll get to those in future blogs and videos.

What is Tip #10? It’s this: Go to RealLoveParents.com and join the thousands who have learned to loveandteach their children. Learn everything you need to know for teaching children to feel loved, to be loving, and to be responsible. Learn how to raise happy children.

Want to learn more?

Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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