Q&A: How Do You Parent Pre-Teens?

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“I have twin step-daughters from my husband’s first marriage. Before that, I wasn’t a mom. We had been dating about six months (we have been together four years now) before I met them, and at about a year of us dating, the kids asked if they could start calling me mom; I had told them they could call me whatever they choose, but of course, I’d never replaced their mother. Their real mom had custody at first, so it was hard because we knew she’s was abusive, but we could never prove it until we could. Then not long after, Covid hit, and I convinced her since we don’t live in the city to let them stay here, and she could continue to collect child support. She agreed. They have been with us a year now, and we just had our first daughter together not too long ago. The kids have stepped up and love being a big sister and absolutely love their sister, they are excelling in school, and they have been gaining weight that was needed. But they are going to be turning 11 this year, and I know there are about to be a lot of changes. And with their dad being gone for a week at a time for work, I’m on my own. Does anyone have any advice? How do I discipline them when I know they grew up? Be firm but not too firm? Be understanding and gentle but not too gentle to where they don’t take me seriously? They don’t have phones and don’t really have any kids their age to hang out with either. I do make time for them, and we have ‘girl time.’

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Q&A: How Do You Parent Pre-Teens?
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Community Answers

The following top answers have been selected by a moderator from hundreds of responses to the original question.

“Trust your instincts momma, the fact that you are so sensitive to their situation and how to best approach it means you are doing it right!”

“I find the most important part of any punishment is the conversation after. My kids are 13 and 10 and punishment is usually taking away devices. The initial response is always them (and me) being upset. There is not a lot that can be communicated when emotions are running high. Once things cool off I have the “you are punished because the rule is x and you did y.” Then finishing up with “because as your mom it’s my job to teach you… “ and lastly “because I love you very much.”

“Have them write apology letters to who they hurt in whatever they did…be it themselves, you, dad, neighbor, whoever.”

“One thing you don’t want to do is use their past as an excuse to let them get away with stuff. Be a parent and don’t be too soft or they will walk all over you. Of course be fair. Children needs discipline, rules, and structure. Oh yeah and also be fun.”

“Be firm, and understanding. But not a pushover. It’s a fine line between the two. I find alot of the time I get further with my 13 year by having a conversation.”

“Love them like your own. It sounds like you are off to a good start. Communication is important!”

“Learn their love languages. “Can I have a hug”=touch…”do you like my picture”=words of affirmation…”will you push me on the swing”=quality time… “Is that present for me”=gift giving… “Can you do my hair”= acts of service. Listen and do. Sanitary products in the open. Menstruation is nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Options! Tampons! Reusable items like period panties or cups! Panty liners! Have the sex talk cover sexuality.”

“Talk to them, like they are real people…..all the time and don’t stop.”

“This worked for my son , it’s not for all kids but if he had to go to his room / time out he would just yell he wanted out well my rule was your time [doesn’t] start till your quite, this did not work for him and I felt he was focused more on getting out then why he was in . So I started tell him he could get out when he could write a paper / story abt what he did and what the consequences could be and how he could do better. I started this at abt 2nd grade and expected more as he got older. It did two things 1. He was now in charge of when he got out , no more yelling. 2. He had to think abt his actions and solutions abt his actions. He was a smart young man and this worked wonders. Plus I keep it all in a note book so we could read it later and see his growth.”

You may get lucky and not have a lot of issues. I have twin daughters (now almost 18). One, I’ve not had a single issue out of. The other, I had some attitude issues mid-teens, but other than that, no issues. I’ve always been extremely open and honest with my girls and in return, they have done the same. If you aren’t so lucky, just use compassion, you were a pre-teen/teenage girl once also. Always make the punishment fit the crime.”

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