I remember the first time it happened… We were at a ballgame, cheering on our team, one of our favorite activities to do together. After a big play, when everyone jumped up to cheer, I showed my age, letting loose with the Arsenio Hall-esque dog pound park, waving my fist as I barked. Even though the crowd around us was not paying any attention to my personal version of “Who Let the Dogs Out,” my preteen nudged me in the side, saying, “Don’t do that, Dad!” Ahh, I knew the preteen years were upon us!
- Listen to what your preteen has to say. He wants you to consider his feelings and not treat them as ridiculous.
- Understand that he is becoming more self-conscious. It will happen as he gets older, his body changes, and others grow at different paces. Kids point out differences, and it is difficult not to feel self-conscious.
- Do your best to build your child’s confidence. Do so by pointing out the special way God created him, his strengths, and his talents. Don’t give false praise. Don’t tease your child about his body. Put his confidence in God, God’s love for him, and the special plan God has for his life.
- Laugh! It is OK to have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Laughter has a way of breaking any tension and putting things into perspective.
- Continue to practice great communication. Treat future requests with respect. Show you care about his thoughts and opinions. Share yours.
- Remember the important role you have. Before you feel any sorrow at your son’s reaction to you, consider the good news: Your child still is most influenced by you! Sure these years are marked by the growth of influence by friends, but you most shape his identity because you are family. Be thankful and tackle any difficulties with unconditional love for your preteen.
William Summey is Project Leader of ParentLife magazine and loves to watch baseball with his boys, ages 8 and 13. Check out the ParentLife blog and get regular updates on the ParentLife Facebook page or from Twitter – @ParentLife.