Parenting a Tween Boy – my top tips!
Parenting a tween boy is the latest parenting adventure that we are navigating and this one should totally have come with some cliffs notes as it is a tricky business! So I thought I would share what I have learnt about parenting a tween boy through both my research and my real life experience as a mum.
If you have boys you may have noticed that their hormonal development seems to be slightly shrouded in mystery. A big deal is made of girls hormones and the start of PMT etc…, but less is said about boys and their hormones. It is almost like the menopause – we all know it happens, but we don’t really like to talk about it. My theory is that this happens with boys and their hormonal development because in our society it just isn’t the done thing for boys to be emotional right?!
How crazy is that in this day and age????
All this means if you are parenting a tween boy you are likely to feel in the dark about what to expect. It is totally unhelpful for us mothers of boys as of course we didn’t experience their version of puberty and so we can’t draw on that experience in the same way that mums of girls can (In case you aren’t a regular reader I have two boys and two girls with less than 4 years between them all so the puberty stage is not one I am looking forward to :)). Anyway when my eldest boy turned around 8 years old I started to see changes in his emotional behaviour and this got me started on researching boys hormones and now I am far more equipped to deal with his ongoing development and am sharing my knowledge in the hopes I can help another mummy.
What is a tween?
Lets get back to basics and start with what defines a ‘tween’ and so what I mean when I talk about parenting a tween boy. A tween boy is one who is between around 8 and 12 years old according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Other sites suggest that it means a child between the ages of 9 and 12 or even 10 and 12. It basically refers to that period before they become a teenager, but they aren’t a little child anymore. To be honest when I first heard the term tween I thought it was a nonsense word; made up to define something that didn’t need defining, but then my eldest turned 8 and I started to change my mind…
Now that my eldest is firmly into this tween boy age group (he is 10) I can see that this is a very tricky time for him. He is full of emotions that he doesn’t necessarily have the emotional intelligence level to deal with. He is caught between being a child and a teenager and it is confusing for him. Honestly I am confused by what is going on with him and I am supposed to be the one steering this ship…
As I said lots of websites and books suggest that the tween period is from 10 years old, but there is a wealth of evidence that suggests that boy hormones and emotions start to go into flux earlier than this. That has certainly been our experience. I wrote all about 8 year old boys hormones and adrenarche here, but to give you a quick idea (for a formal definition see here https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/adrenarche) it is a change in hormonal levels caused by the adrenal gland starting to produce androgen – listen I am not a scientist so I recommend reading a study undertaken in Australia which specifically looks at this stage that comes before puberty proper and how it can affect emotions and mental health. You can read it here: https://bmcpediatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2431-13-160
What you may experience when parenting a tween boy
Ok that is the formal referencing done now it is about the reality of parenting a tween boy and the experiences that we have had which I wanted to share with you. As your son enters into this time in their life you may notice an increase in their emotionality. Anecdotally speaking to other parents this is something we have all noticed with our boys over the past couple of years.
My tween flips between being very child like and desperately needing to be with me, to cuddle me and tell me he loves me; to being infuriated by my very existence! He literally goes from cuddly toddler to out of control moody teenager in seconds. Sometimes it is like he doesn’t know who to be. We get tears, tantrums and anger sometimes all in the same minute… It can be exhausting and disruptive for the whole family. Parenting a tween boy can be like living in the path of a tornado – you aren’t ever sure if its path will deviate and miss the house or take you all out in one foul swoop…
So what can you do to help when you are parenting a tween boy? Well you will be relieved to know I have been working on this now for a couple of years and you will no doubt also be relieved to know that in those two years there have been long periods of calm. Our lovely little boy has not been consistently over emotional for two years that would have been a lot, but there have just been periods when he seems unable to control his feelings and overreacts to the smallest things. I have a whole load of tips for you to help when it is your turn to parent a tween boy.
Tops Tips for Parenting a Tween Boy
Be calm for them
When they are out of control you be their place of calm. The calmer you can stay the better as if you lose it you will just end up adding to the crazy and heightening emotions further. This doesn’t mean tolerating terrible behaviour or not setting boundaries, but it does mean not getting angry (** I am no super parent so believe me I know how impossible that this can be, but its needs to be the goal)
Let some stuff go
Again I am not advocating ignoring bad behaviour, but if you pull your tween boy up on every single bit of cheek or moody retort you will create a war zone. You cannot really be your child’s friend you need to be their parent, but you do want them to feel like you are on their side so that they will want to confide in you and see you as their place of safety. It is a balancing act…
I am learning quickly that I need to let some stuff go so that I can concentrate on enforcing the vital rules around being safe, education and being a decent human
Sometimes you just have to walk away to diffuse the situation
Talk about it
In calmer more loving, cuddly moments give your child the chance to talk.
Explain in simple terms what may be going on with their hormones and try to help them forgive themselves for being angry or rude.
Let them know that you understand and forgive, but that any angry behaviour is not ok and that you do expect them to find ways of managing their feelings; research and discuss some strategies that they could use when they feel sad, angry or frustrated
We have definitely found talking to our son about this whole process has really helped. It doesn’t stop him from having emotional outbursts, but he does use some of the techniques that we have suggested. The most effective strategy for him has been encouraging him to go and sit in a quiet place with a movie, a book or a guided meditation. In the heat of the moment he isn’t always keen, but if we can get him to agree it really does help him to reset.
Buy extra food
Our 10 year old is a skinny little thing (*wish I could have as little fat as he does), but he eats like he has hollow legs. Quite often no sooner is dinner finished and he is back for a snack. Some healthier snack options that work to keep him topped him are: watermelon, nuts, boiled eggs, crisp breads, bread sticks and dried fruit. You could also try these Oat Biscuits that I make which are yummy (**warning you may eat them all yourself :))
We have four kids under 10 so believe me I know that being available isn’t always that easy, but I have found that my tween boy needs more attention now than he did at say age 6 or 7. He needs my time and my physical presence. I guess it isn’t surprising when things are confusing that they want to be near their parents; their constants and their safety… I say we should embrace this as shortly they will be off with their friends and won’t want us old fogies around at all.
We have started having mummy and son time after dinner. We only watch something on TV and have a cuddle, but it is just us two and this time is extremely precious to him. It also gives me a time when I can chat to him about his day and how he is feeling etc without everyone else running around as by this time bath and bed is happening for the younger children.
I have also started leaving earlier to take him to football so we can stop and get him a hot chocolate on the way again giving another time for him to talk about anything he wants to when his siblings are not around.
Start to think about the physical changes
It can be a good idea to start looking out for any physical changes in your little boy for example do they need to have showers more often or should they start using a deodorant
I would also suggest having that birds and bees talk with them so that they can understand more effectively what is happening to them and why
Involve them in any other changes
Kids have so little control over their lives and as they enter into this tween period you will likely notice that they start pushing for more control. We have found involving our eldest son in decisions that affect him really helps him to learn to make good decisions and also reduces any frustration. This also helps to build independence which they all need to develop.
Ultimately he is still a child so final important decisions are clearly not made by him, but we include him in some discussions. For example which holiday villa we might choose, where we could go at the weekend or even which secondary schools he likes the look of.
Let them have more independence
This is a tricky one for parents of tweens. Well, for me at least! The hardest thing about parenting a tween boy, so far, has not been his propensity to burst into tears over nothing or have a moody strop; no it has been the fact that he wants to be more independent.
You may notice that your tween boy suddenly craves more time with his friends, they become more important. You may also find that he starts asking to do things by himself. My tween boy has started checking when he will be allowed to do things like go to the corner shop on his own or walk to school on his own. As his mummy I am just not ready. I look at him and I still see my baby, but I know that I have to let him become more independent and so I am trying I really am.
My advice on this is take baby steps after all they need to learn the necessary skills. We started with things like him telling me when he thought it was safe to cross the road. So he didn’t cross alone, but he looked and told me when we could cross rather than the other way round.
We also bought him a smart watch so that I can feel more comfortable about letting him out of my sight.
Recently I allowed him to go to the post box alone (30 seconds round trip from the house) and he was so happy that it made me realise that I need to keep taking these steps forward to allow him more independence and teach him the skills that he needs for the next phase of his life even if it hurts my heart a little.
So that is what I have for you.. my advice on parenting a tween boy. I will update this as I go through this journey and come up against more obstacles and find solutions. If you have any tips for me on parenting tweens then please do share them in the comments. All of us parents are always learning especially with our eldest children so I am always grateful to hear the experiences of others.