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Calm Mom: 3 ways to respond to your tween’s negative behavior without losing your cool

It was a typical afternoon. I stopped to pick up my fellas from their school, the car door opened. Getting in our vehicle, my usually fun-loving, mild-mannered tween clearly was in a mood.

“I’m glad to see you,” I said while waiting for my fellas to buckle up.
“I don’t see what is so good about it,” my tween mumbled under his breath while slumping into his seat.

While riding home in silence, it was clear my fella didn’t want to talk. I wish his tween moodiness stopped in the car, but it was just the beginning of a really rough afternoon of eye-rolling, sarcasm, and just an overall bad attitude.

What in the world?

Looking at him, I knew. We have officially entered the hormonal tween stage.

Are you like me?

Has your kind, helpful kid suddenly started having outbursts of frustration, resorted to talking back, or even yelling at you? Sure, you hear your tween mumble in his breath, and you see them throw their things down as they walk away. At that moment, you might be in shock your sweet fella has gone from mellow to mean in the blink of an eye.

Don’t worry momma; it’s not you.

With adolescence tagging along with your tween, your child naturally becomes torn between wanting to be near you and wanting to know who they are without you. They crave independence. Unfortunately for parents of male tweens, boys tend to fluctuate between withdrawing and defiance as a way to exert their independence. Their behavior is not about you momma! Nope. Their behavior is simply your fella’s way of teetering between the world of being a boy and becoming a young man.

In those moments when your teen’s attitude begins to flare, be careful with your approach and words. As moms, we can posture ourselves to show we are the authority. But in those moments of wanting to show our authority to our sons, we can sow seeds of discourse.

God has already placed everything in them to become mighty men of God. As moms, we have the privilege of nurturing the gifts, talents, and personality God uniquely put into each of our sons. We are not at war with our sons. We are one of their greatest allies, so we need to act like it. We need to keep our cool.

So how do we do that?

Praise loudly. Correct softly.

Being a mom four sons, I have made plenty of mistakes walking out this mom journey. Learning how to handle correction and praise, so my fellas don’t shut down and pull away is an ongoing part of my growth as a parent. When our tweens start to act out, I would like to say I praised them louder than I corrected them, I didn’t. I fussed. Fussing never wins over anyone, and nothing ever changes.

Thank God for His grace and mercy. When we decide as parents we want to make a change in how we lead our children; God will meet us right away. Instead of being loud, fussing about all the ways your tween has been challenging to be around and won’t stop lying, praise the good and small improvements. Look for ways to speak positively to your tween. Then when correction is needed, speak softly. No fussing. No nagging. Make an effort to have corrective conversations separately (even away from siblings) and in private. Your goal is to correct the behavior not embarrass your tween for messing up.

Practice the pause

Your child has just accused you of “never listening,” “not caring about what he wants,” or/and “being mean.” If you are anything like me, there are moments I want to react.
When your preteen starts with the aggression or irrational outbursts of emotion, take a moment to pause. Their outburst should not create an outburst of reckless words on your part. As much as you want to defend yourself or put your kid in check, pause. Take a breath. Maybe even walk away from the conversation. As a matter of fact, encourage your child to take the same steps to help diffuse an already emotionally charged situation. Remember, we want to help guide our children not shame or criticize them for feeling big emotions. When our tweens are responding in inappropriate, maybe even disrespectful ways, we need to address the behavior, but you cannot do this if you are losing your cool.

Pausing helps me to remember what is true:

  • God anointed me and equipped me to nurture and love my child.
  • My child is not my enemy. I am not the enemy of my child.
  • My son is a child, responding and reacting like a child who needs love and direction.
  • God has given me authority over my child. I don’t have to prove what I already have.

Don’t take it personally

Your child’s growing attitude is not a reflection of you or how you are parenting your child. As the surge of hormones kicks in and outside influences start to become important, your tween is going to think and feel things that might be contradictory to what you have taught. Don’t freak out!

Choosing to take our tween’s actions personal removes responsibility from the child and can cause you to become insecure, bitter, and make poor decisions. You are not in control of your child’s actions, feelings or behaviors. Even with teaching them proper ways to respond, our children are still going to make mistakes and act out. Sometimes their hormones are just out of control. Even your tween won’t fully understand why he is angry or why he doesn’t want to be around people. Newsflash, your tweens negative behavior usually has NOTHING to do with you. Don’t own their emotions, guide them through instead.

As always momma, we want to remind our children they are loved, valued, and seen. We want our children to know their bad decisions do not define who they are. Sometimes our kids need to be reminded God uniquely created them with incredible gifts. If we, as parents, can keep our cool then we can look for ways to help our children see their strengths through their negative behavior. We can take a negative moment and turn it around to be a teachable moment.

You’ve got this!

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41 comments on “Calm Mom: 3 ways to respond to your tween’s negative behavior without losing your cool

  1. Loving these tips on how to respond to your tweens negative behavior. I especially love the praise loudly, correct softly. Great post!

  2. danellsteffengmailcom

    This is very helpful- I need these suggestions for my 10 yr old twins!

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Twins, whoa! Bless you momma. Every bit helps when we are helping them navigate through those hormones 😆😆

  3. My kids are still young but this is a great article and have tips that I can put into practice even before they become tweens.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Absolutely Kristal! All of the strategies can work for children of all ages.

  4. I’m glad to have found your post today. With my twelve-year-old stepson, it’s been a struggle lately to know how to respond to his ‘moods.’

    • Mamie L. Pack

      We talk a lot about the hormonal changes girls go through that we don’t talk enough about what boys go through.

  5. Tween parenting seems the same as teen parenting 🙂 My husband always says the 3rd point, not to take anything personally. Thank you so much for the reminder 🙂

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Yes! Sometimes it is hard to not take it personal because it feels that way. Ugh!

  6. Great information my daughter just turned 11-years-old yesterday and I declare the last few months I’ve wondered where my little submissive child disappeared to. The rolling of the eyes and huffing and puffing when she is told to do something a little crazy. So you post is perfect counsel, thank you!

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Yes! Those hormones are no joke. We have to help each other out.

  7. These are great tips for managing teen and tween behavior. It can be so hard not to lose your cool when they’re acting bratty.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Yes. With those hormones you never know when that is going to happen.

  8. peachandbirch

    So beautifully written! My daughter is the tween right now, but my oldest son isn’t far behind. I’m so glad this came to me today, because these are words I needed!

    • Mamie L. Pack

      It is such a difference when girls hit this stage versus boys.

  9. thehabibihouse

    Oh the eye rolling! Thank you for these tips!

  10. I think my 1.5 year old is already a tween, and none of these seem to work on her already! AH! Haha

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Oh, momma!! Sounds like you have a future world changer!

  11. What I appreciate about this post is that it can be applied to a younger child as well. My daughter is 3 and the level of rational actions is minimal. To make sure I reinforce the better behavior I have to keep a better mind. I really like this post.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      You can definitely implement any of these strategies early. Just try it a few times to see what works and how to make it effective in your home.

  12. Wow! I’m at the toddler stage right now, but these are great tips that I can apply now, however, most importantly, when they reach that age. Thanks for the great tips! I like the silence one.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Learning when to speak and when to listen helps especially when our kids are processing big emotions like anger and disappointment.

  13. I know a lot of Mamas will feel a sense of relief after reading your post. I love how this post emphasizes on the reality of parenting! 🙂

  14. These are great tips! I think they can work for all ages too. I can definitely do more of this with my 6 year old.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Yes!!!! The earlier you can start the better.

  15. These are great tips. I have a toddler and feel like some of your points apply to toddlerhood too. Pausing and prayer help me a lot at this stage.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Pausing and praying definitely works for all relationships for sure.

  16. mamawritesreviews

    Can I use these tips for my Three-nager too!? HAHAHAHA. Seriously though, they are good ones. Thank you!

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Ha! Ha!!! Gotta love those three-nagers!


    These are great tips! I’m not at the tween stage yet, but I can already see some of this stuff coming out!

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  19. Parenting tweens is hard! It’s so important to guide them through it, but also difficult to walk that fine line. Thank you for a great post with awesome tips 😊

  20. I like your point about correcting in private. That’s so important! It keeps more resentments from cropping up later on.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Absolutely Margaret! We want to correct the behavior without embarrassing our kids.

  21. Ooh I’m not at the tween stage just yet, but I will definitely remember these tips for when the time comes.

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  23. Parent On Board

    Thanks for sharing this. Tweens and teens are definitely a rough patch in every parenthood journey. There is actually a lot of research to show how much the happiness and life satisfaction drops for parents during the teen years of their kids. And it is so hard not to take it personally but still remember that you are there to guide them and show them a better way of expressing themselves.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      There is a change for sure. I have to remind myself we are on the same team
      Even when it doesn’t feel that way.

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