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How to Listen to Your Tween When You Really Want to Give Advice

Your tween is looking to you for advice. They just don’t want to hear it.

Until they feel heard and understood.

Your Assumptions Are Probably Wrong

If you jump into giving advice after ‘listening’ for less than five minutes, you probably don’t understand the real issue.

I’m guilty of this.

My daughter will be telling me about something she’d like to do, and instead of asking clarifying questions, I jump in with an extrapolation of what will happen if she stays on that trajectory.

I get excited when my kids have ideas — my brain instantly develops a five-year plan for how they can move their idea forward. I assume that the idea is the main point. It’s not. And after being told that they weren’t looking for the five-year plan. I started zipping my lips and listening to what they were saying.

It’s hard, but here’s what I’m doing.

There’s Probably More to the Story

I listen with curiosity.

When I listen with intent and curiosity, I can start putting the pieces together. And soon, I begin to see their vision instead of mine.

Listening Will Get You to the Heart of the Matter

Active listening requires thought. As a parent, this is where asking questions based on your knowledge and experience will keep your tween talking.

And if you’re not sure what to ask, do as Michael Bungay Stanier suggests in his book “The Coaching Habit” and ask, “what else?” It will keep you from dispensing advice when you should be listening.

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Your Tween Should Be Doing Their Own Laundry – Here’s Why

If you’ve ever washed your tween’s clean or barely worn clothes. Or had them angry with you because their favorite shirt wasn’t clean – it’s time for them to step up and do their own laundry.

Doing Laundry Develops Your Tweens Scheduling and Planning Skills

My daughters started doing their laundry when they were eight.

Initially, we set laundry days. I showed them how to sort their clothes so they wouldn’t end up with everything a sickly shade of pink. And how to take care of delicate items. They learned how to de-wrinkle stuff in the dryer and discovered that some clothes need to be washed and dried differently – so they didn’t shrink.

And it only took a few times of madly rooting through their dirty hamper and trying to freshen up their favorite shirt before they figured out when they should do their laundry and how long it took.

Responsibility Creates Appreciation and Awareness

When I go to a hotel, one of the things I enjoy most is having clean towels appear each day. I appreciate this because I know the work required to have those fresh towels waiting for me.

When we allow our tweens to do their laundry, it creates an awareness of the work we do as parents. And, on occasion, when you choose to offer to do their laundry for them, they’ll appreciate it.

Laundry is an Easy Step Towards Independence

The stakes are low, and the learning opportunities are high. And, when you transfer this responsibility to your tween, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the subtle shift in your relationship.

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Too old for a nanny but not ready to stay home alone?

When kids hit their tweens, we assume they’re old enough to stay home alone.

The problem with fixating on age instead of maturity means that some kids manage themselves at home alone before they have the skills to do so. Others are prepared to handle the responsibility but are stuck at home with a nanny. Age cannot be the only indicator of readiness. Maturity is harder to evaluate. However, there are a few key indicators.

For example:

  • Doing chores with minimal reminding or complaints
  • Managing their after-school routine independently
  • Able to come up with logical solutions to simple problems

It’s not just about age

Your child’s unique brain, their environment and experiences influence the way they act, think, and feel.

As parents, we can’t control our child’s unique brain – although sometimes we wish we could instantly install logic – but we do have some control over our home environment and the experiences.

It’s about handling responsibility

Giving your tween some responsibilities will help them hit those brain development milestones and set them up for success.

According to the research, kids that do chores are better equipped to deal with frustration, adversity, and delayed gratification. If you take the time to give explicit instructions, they’ll be able to take a few household chores off your plate, and they’ll feel good about contributing.

Age-appropriate responsibilities build home alone readiness

So when you’re trying to fill the after-school/ home from work childcare gap, consider helping your tween develop the skills they need to manage themselves safely at home alone. Your child will thank you – and so will your chequebook.

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Onboarding for the Teen Years

What if the teen years could be good?

There’s a lot to learn before thirteen, and often it’s not until eleven that parents start to stare the upcoming teenage years in the face and panic.

  • What if they succumb to peer pressure and something bad happens?
  • What if they’re unmotivated and their grades suffer?
  • What if they make choices that adversely affect their future?

You’ll miss the opportunity of the tween years if you spend it worrying about the teen years.

You’ll need to change your parenting style.

When my youngest turned eight it finally sunk in that we were headed to the teen years. It was a stage I was looking forward to but knew that the tween years would impact the teen years. And they have. They allowed us to start figuring out how to start letting go and become more proactive parents.

Prioritize Your Relationship

Regardless of where you are in the tween year continuum, building a strong relationship starts with better communication.

During those tween years, your kids are still interested in what you have to say. But, take time to listen. You’ll discover what the world looks like through their eyes. You’ll see their personality develop as they talk through their thoughts. Consider it a privilege to coach and guide them as they start to explore their interests in new ways.

No More Forgotten Middle

Before you’re ready to think of them growing up they’re ready to start spreading their wings. Help them learn to fly. Onboarding starts at eight.

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Should my child have friends over when they’re home alone?

Every parent wants their child to have friends, especially friends that are a positive influence on your kiddo. But when they’re home alone, what do you do? Allow your child to have friends over? Cut off all communication with their friends and ban them from ever coming to the house? 

If your child asks, “can I have a friend over while I’m home alone?” the short answer is, no. Set the boundary from the very beginning that your child is not to have anyone over when they are home alone. 

We know, we know…your kid will think you’re the worst for banning any friends while they’re home alone. But it’s a necessary boundary to set for both your child’s safety, your peace of mind, and the safety of your child’s friends! It might be a tough boundary to set and a hard conversation to have with your child, but safety is the number one priority for your child, especially when they are home alone. 

Kids’ brains are still in the crucial stages of development, and as much as we want to assume they’ll always make the right choice, it is not realistic to expect this of them. Instead of setting them up to make poor decisions while they are with their friends unsupervised, it’s important to take out the variable of having friends over while they’re home alone. If your child knows that this is a non-negotiable from the very beginning, it will quickly become a nonstarter when discussing what they can and cannot do while home alone. 

We always want to create opportunities for success for our children, but allowing friends over while they are home alone is not one of them. As they grow older and more responsible, say after a few years of showing you that they can follow the boundaries you’ve set for them, you can reopen the conversation about friends coming over, but at the beginning, it is important to take it off the table completely. 

Help your kid save face with their friends by making it a rule they have to follow. By being the “bad guy” in this situation, your child will be free of the pressure of explaining why they might not want a certain friend over while they’re home alone. It’s our job as parents to set our children up for success, and not allowing friends over while our kids are home alone is an essential part of ensuring this!

But what if your child really wants to talk to that friend and they think having them over while they’re alone is the only way to achieve this? Offer the privilege of using the phone to call them while they’re home alone (depending on the age of your child.) This shows your child that you aren’t trying to punish them by not allowing friends over and they will start to understand that the boundaries you set are for their own health and safety, not punitive!

And as always, make sure your child knows to never open the door…for anyone. Even if it’s a friend that popped over to say hi. Give them a script to say if this ever happens: “Sorry, I can’t let you in, my mom said no one else is allowed in the house. I’ll call you tonight and we can plan some time to get together!”