Teenagers (13-18)

5 Ways to Build Independence in Your Tween


The tween years are a time when our kids begin to yearn for more independence. It’s a natural, good thing that we can use to help them acquire the skills they need to actually be independent one day with success! Teaching children independence can be tricky, so here are 5 ways you can utilize their desire to get out of the nest a bit, without turning over too much control.

1. Academic life. Without a doubt, by the time your child is in middle school, they should be managing the daily responsibilities of their academic life without your constant oversight. Instead of hovering over them every evening asking which assignments are due and when the next math test is, help them develop organizational skills to manage it themselves. This is a high priority at this age, since the academic rigor of high school will demand that they be on their game. Do yourself a favor—be the “bad cop” and let your child suffer the consequences of a lack of responsibility or organization and learn from it before freshman year, when those grades begin to count toward college opportunities and scholarships!

2. Communication. If your child is allowed to spend more time with friends or outside your constant supervision, make him take responsibility for communicating with you about those things. Good communication skills will help him in every relationship and professional situation he ever encounters. Establish the expectation in the tween years that he is responsible for letting you know where he is and all details. Think about this with relation to extra-curricular activities, too. A tween is old enough to let mom know when the coach has scheduled an extra practice and should take responsibility for communicating that to the driver (mom) before the last minute. A failure to do so should result in a loss of privileges.

And if your tween has a cell phone or will be getting one soon, use our Cell Phone Contract  to set boundaries.

3. Money. Letting kids gain experience in making and managing money should start before the tween years, but if you’ve gotten behind in this department—get crackin’! You’ve only got a few years left before you’ll be asking your kid to manage a checking account, debit card, and a budget for a semester of college life. It’s not fair to throw them into the deep in of the pool all of a sudden at 18! Start now with smaller numbers, shorter budget periods, and simpler tools (maybe stick with cash for now), and ramp up to more real-world financial management methods in high school.

4. Social life. You definitely want to be involved in your tween’s social life, because knowing her friends can enable you to guide her away from negative influences and toward positive ones. But be careful about being a “helicopter mom” who gets too involved in the social drama of middle school. Don’t get us wrong, we understand that middle school is super tough: kids hurt one another’s feelings, everyone is insecure, etc. But by being the voice in your child’s life that says, “Take a deep breath, this too shall pass,” rather than, “I can’t believe she said that and here’s what I want you to go back and say to her,” can make her more emotionally mature and independent sooner. Give her good advice about how to handle situations, but let her do all the talking.

5. Home Alone.  Laws vary from state to state, but many moms let their children spend some time alone at home starting at age 10.  You’ll have to make that decision based on your child’s own maturity level, of course, but iMOM’s Home Alone Rules Printable provides guidelines for when you do decide to make the move.

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