How to Reach Your Preteen When They’re Pushing You Away


No matter where you’re at on the journey of parenting your preteen, we can all agree that it is hard.

From navigating a new school to dealing with attitudes that have left me perplexed, the preteen years have offered many unexpected twists and turns. However, now that my ten-year-old is almost through his fifth-grade year, I have realized that even though there have been many changes, some of the ways I parent him have stayed the same.

I’m learning that our kids will test their boundaries, but there are ways to stay connected to them even when they seem so far away…

1. Ask your preteen where they sit.

Ever since elementary school, I got into the habit of casually asking my son about lunchtime every day. I carried this onto my list of parenting hacks for fifth grade. I ask him who he sits with at lunch so I can gain insight on the choices he is making in regards to the types of friends he is migrating towards. This year, I have slowly started dabbling with the question of whom he sits with in the gym before school in the morning. These times are considered social times for kids. As I’m sure you will find, several of the same names are mentioned when he discusses this time before school and his lunch hour. The reason why this question is so important is that it shows you who your child is spending the most time with and who is influencing their thoughts and actions.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask.

It’s no surprise that during this transition kids’ attitudes toward parents will start to change. They will push boundaries, and the opportunity for response will begin at home. Most of the time this presents itself in the form of eye rolls, shrugged shoulders, and grunts of displeasure. I had to learn that my son was not directing these expressions at me because he was agitated by something I was doing… It certainly appeared that way. No, this was him simply trying to become comfortable and adjusting to his rapidly changing world. I was almost discouraged to the point of giving up, but I kept asking the same questions. Now, it seems like he is more responsive than he was at the beginning of the year. Entering a new school is scary! I would like to think that he is more open to answering my age-old questions because he has had time to shed any fears he may have had.

3. Remember you are still the parent.

Even though their attitudes and new ways of communicating make them appear more mature, they still need a parent to guide them, and they still need boundaries.1 Of course, they would never admit this, but they crave that type of love. Kids may negatively respond to new rules, but deep down they long to be seen and protected. Most of the time you are protecting them from themselves. They may not appreciate this now, but it will pay off in the long run.

4. Remember grace.

We all make mistakes. You will be given many chances in your child’s life to choose hard-nosed parenting or to shower them with grace. You have been given the role of parenting your unique child, so it’s up to you to make that decision. Some situations will automatically require a parent to take on the “bad guy” role and dish out a punishment. Other times, we have to pause and earnestly consider the best way to handle a situation. If you have the opportunity to show your child grace and mercy, take it. The balance that you strike between the two roles will be key.

Finding the right measure of communication, discipline, and grace for your preteen takes time and effort. You will be pushed away with long sighs and eye-rolls, but don’t lose hope! Keep working at continuing to be a part of their life now and let them know you care by the boundaries you set; physically or emotionally. Get involved and don’t forget the powerful resource of grace!

You will love this episode of our podcast This Grit and Grace Life: When Is Your Teen out of Control and What Do You Do? (with Dr. Zoe Shaw) – 032

You’ll also like 5 Ways to Make Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child EasierThat One Time I Thought I Was Being a Good MomHere’s to Strong Men, and Here’s How to Raise OneWhy Girls Aren’t Just “Drama” and How to Raise a Strong OneI Survived the Middle School Meltdown, So Can You!Should You Train Or Discipline Your Child?, and You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be a Great Mom.

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