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Teach Preteens Positive Behavior

Wife of a school administrator, mother of seven children, and grandmother of a growing posterity, Denise understands all aspects of family.

Preteens are anxious to exert their independence.

Preteens are anxious to exert their independence.

Characteristics of Preteens

Preteens are as varied as there are years in the age group. They do have several characteristics in common, however; such as rapid growth and development; changes in teeth, skin, and hair; and the onset of puberty. The changes in their physical bodies also affect attitudes, temperaments, and feelings. Rather than caring about pleasing their parents, they are more intent on pleasing themselves and their peers, even if it means they are at odds with their parents.

This new-found power of the physical body leads them to question authority figures, both their parents and other adults. They may not be obedient unless there is something in it for them. Respect is not necessarily understood, nor given. It is during this period of time that lifestyle habits may be experimental, including personal cleanliness, spirituality, patterns of speech, problem solving, leisure time, eating habits, and peer involvement.

Children learn through gentle direction and persuasive teaching. They search for models to imitate, knowledge to acquire, things to do, and teachers to please.

— Thomas S. Monson

It is necessary to set boundaries for the preteen. They should know what is acceptable and what is not in terms of language, dress, manners, and how they treat authority. Some issues are up for discussion, and the preteen will grow in their understanding of the purposes behind the boundaries. Boundaries will be bumped, both on purpose or unintentionally; but they should never be expanded until the pre-teen shows the responsible behavior necessary for an increased extension of trust.

The preteen years are a time of discovery. Individual tastes become more evident as children have more time with their peer group and less with the family. Social justice may frequently come into question as they realize that their more affluent friends have more "things" than they, or their less affluent friends may want what they have. The issue of resources becomes a matter of family debate, and may lead to future career choices.

Use older teens to mentor younger preteens to help both learn responsibility.

Use older teens to mentor younger preteens to help both learn responsibility.

Strategy: Choices and Consequences

With a strong desire for power, preteens are at the prime time to emphasize choices and consequences. Natural consequences are the most powerful, however, they may not be immediate enough. For consequences to affect future choices, they need to be immediate and consistent. Positive choices need positive consequences. Negative choices need negative ones. Examples are noted below:

  • Choice - take candy from the store without paying for it. Consequence - go immediately with an adult to the store and pay for it. If necessary, borrow the money and do something to earn it later.
  • Choice - invite a friend over without permission. Consequence - have the friend stand outside while the child asks for permission.
  • Choice - call home after school when must serve detention. Consequence - praise for being honest and letting the parent know the situation.
  • Choice - share candy purchased with friends or family members. Consequence - allowed to choose a treat for everyone when at the store next time, without having to pay for it.
  • Choice - cheating on a test at school. Consequence - make arrangements with the teacher to do some extra credit to make up for the lost grade.

May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.

— Thomas S. Monson

Strategy: Graphs and Charts

Children in the preteen years need to visualize their progress. The use of graphs and charts helps them to see what they have done and what they can accomplish in the future. Household task charts, money earned charts, checkoffs for assignment completion at school, and weekly accountability sessions help them review their progress. Children can accomplish truly remarkable things when we give them the tools to do so. As they move into the teenage years, they will be prepared to become independent in both their learning and their responsibility.

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Strategy: Learning to Earn

Learning to earn is another way to help turn preteen behavior into a positive outcome. Preteens want the autonomy of making their own choices in the way of clothing, hairstyles, and shoes. Allowing them to earn money for their work is a great way to give them this opportunity. Aside from their regular daily routine, such as making the bed, coming to meals on time, and personal hygiene; have jobs with money connected to them. It is important to raise the prices as the difficulty level of the job increases, and to teach children the skills needed to complete the jobs successfully. The following are examples:

  • Job - doing laundry. Skills to be taught - use of the equipment, gathering and sorting laundry, proper detergent use, water conservation, sorting items for the dryer, proper folding techniques. Price can be determined for individual components, groups of components, or the entire job.
  • Job - mowing the lawn. Skills to be taught - use and care of the equipment; preparing to mow by picking up rocks, sticks and toys; proper edging; directional mowing; how to tell where mowed last; and putting things away after use.
  • Job - washing the car. Skills to be taught - cleaning out the garbage, vacuuming the inside, wiping the windows, proper dress for water work, use of the hose and soap, where to let the water run, and how to dry the car when finished.

Each of these strategies used wisely will assist parents in teaching preteens the skills they need to navigate the rocky road to adulthood. Although the road is not easy, it is the only way to create responsible citizens in a difficult world.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Denise W Anderson


Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on March 17, 2012:

That sounds like a fun group. Pre-teens need high quality social interaction with peers that helps them make good choices. Parents can do much to orchestrate these types of activities through their community and church.

Emerald on March 15, 2012:

Ihave a group called girls just want to have fun

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on April 14, 2011:

There were times with each one of my children when I feared that they would become delinquents, but after emphasizing positive behaviors and getting to know them better as people, they turned around and became productive adults.

QudsiaP1 on April 13, 2011:

A very useful hub, after all certainly the earlier the better, when it comes to enforcing positive behaviour.

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