Parenting Perspective: Normal behavior for 13-year-olds
The teenage years. How do you handle the highs and lows, the roller coaster of feelings and behaviors that come with your child turning 13? Experts have some pointers, but the best approach is to pack your patience and do the best you can!
This week, Chip Wood, author of "YARDSTICKS: CHILDREN IN THE CLASSROOM AGES 4-14," has some great advice for parents and teachers alike about the turbulent times ahead. There is some hope for surviving it.
First, let's describe the typical 13-year-old and what they're thinking, feeling and going through. Clearly, it's an age of back and forth, where your child seems to regress to childish behaviors one minute, then flip to adult behaviors the next. First, they're bored, then over stimulated. They can be insecure one minute, overconfident the next. Life is confusing to them and certainly for you.
Thirteen-year-olds are excited about new freedoms and informal rites of passage - hanging out just with friends, being in school with older high schoolers, more telephone and computer time. Obviously, girls and boys are going through puberty, which brings huge physical and emotional changes.
This is the time when boys and girls are most different. Don't be surprised if they retreat to their room and constantly redecorate it as they continually redefine who they are and want to be. If you allow them to have a space that is theirs alone, make sure that freedom is coupled with responsibility. Now they have to do their laundry or find their belongings if they're lost somewhere in their room.
Be willing to give in on the territorial issue, with the disclaimer that ultimately parents have the right to knock and walk in if they need to or want to... or at the least parents should be able to ask when is a good time to come back.
Most 13-year-olds are desperate to talk to their parents, but they don't know how to start the conversation. They need you to make that first move.
Chip Wood suggests parents say very little and listen a lot at this age.
But here are some key words to keep your ears open for: "Bored" really means they've been ignored or insulted. In reality, they're seeking an identity - wanting adults to notice them but also to leave them alone. Try to bridge that gap with something in the middle, where you're paying careful attention but appearing to be giving them their space.
Two other books Mr. Wood suggests you check out are HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK, and HOW TO TALK SO KIDS CAN LEARN AT HOME AND IN SCHOOL.
Speaking of school, afterschool activities become especially important at age 13. 13s can tend to hole themselves up and stay on the computer or telephone. But they still need socialization, so try to gently encourage them to attend sporting events, dances, to do community service or be part of other structured activities. That way they continue developing cognitive, social, emotion and moral strength for the years to come.
Here are some typical traits of 13s that mean your child is behaving completely normally:
- They have lots of physical energy
- They're fixated on personal appearance
- They can be quieter than 12s and 14s, moody and sensitive
- Boys travel in groups; girls focus on a few close friends
- They feel and exert peer pressure on clothes, music and conversational topics
- They worry about schoolwork
- They become more sarcastic
- They answer parents with loud, extreme language, and like to challenge your authority.
You'll get through this tricky time& but it does take more finesse than the earlier years!
monica malpass parenting reports, parenting
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