“Can you please clean the cat litter?”, I ask as I’m running out to get groceries. My daughter’s response: “No thank you!” I don’t know if she thought adding the “thank you” would soften her response and get her off the hook. Did I mention she’s a pre-teen? Yes that’s right, not a toddler. Remember those fun, strong-willed independent toddler days? Well somehow they crawl back into your life in a larger prepubescent body.
I take great comfort in knowing that pre-teen and teen attitude changes are a very normal part of adolescent development. Phew, my kids are normal. Check!
Understanding that this behaviour is a normal part of child development makes it easier for me to stay calm when I need to deal with it, but sometimes it is hard to wrap my head around the attitude changes; it just seems so out of place. Many parents don’t imagine that their well-behaved child who normally does their chores and homework without a fuss will suddenly assert this strong-willed independence and begin to challenge requests. But they do!
During their adolescent years, children often have a changing attitude along with a stronger sense of independence. Not only is there often a noticeable change in attitude, but also ever-increasing emotional outbursts that can be as explosive as Canada Day fireworks!
But it’s ok! They are asserting that they have their own thoughts and opinions and it’s part of normal growth and development.
You may never really know ‘what child’ you are coming home to that day, but this has to do with brain development and the fact that at this age their emotional brain is developing rapidly, while the rational part is taking a backseat. The rational part may not fully develop until the end of their teen years when your child is navigating a complex world while trying to find themself and where they fit in.
So with changing attitudes and high emotions, what’s a parent to do?
Let’s go back to my earlier scenario: I took a deep breath, remained calm, and told her that the cat litter needed to be scooped and the dishwasher emptied, adding: “Between you and your brother, each pick a chore before I get back home.” I did not engage her in a debate. She ended up cleaning the litter box with no issues and both chores were done when I arrived home.
Some helpful tips:
- As mentioned above, understand what is normal development.
- Get perspective. Try to remain calm and use humour if and when you can.
- Set boundaries. Include your child thoughts when negotiating rules and consequences.
- Help them to cope with their feelings and behaviours. It is not okay to for them to call you names or mistreat you. There is a difference between finding that something is stupid versus calling you stupid.
- Keep lines of communication open. Talk to them often about anything and everything, not just when you have concerns.
- Know when their behaviour is something to be concerned about. The video link below will help you to understand the differences between ‘normal’ adolescent behaviour and when to be concerned and seek help.
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.