How Do I Deal with My 12-Year-Old Son?

Reviewed on 6/15/2021

During puberty, 12-year-old boys are experiencing a lot of changes and start to mature physically, emotionally, and socially. To help them during this time, parents can try to use an indirect approach with them, don't feel rejected when he asserts independence, allow a chance for a “do-over,” monitor your own tone when communicating, and more.
During puberty, 12-year-old boys are experiencing a lot of changes and start to mature physically, emotionally, and socially. To help them during this time, parents can try to use an indirect approach with them, don’t feel rejected when he asserts independence, allow a chance for a “do-over,” monitor your own tone when communicating, and more.

Puberty for boys usually starts between the ages of 9 and 14 years. During this time, boys are still young and have child-like interests, but they also start to mature physically, emotionally, and socially. 

Pre-teen brains during this time undergo a growth spurt and “remodeling” of sorts, but the part of the brain responsible for decision making, planning, thinking about consequences, solving problems, and controlling impulses — the prefrontal cortex — isn’t quite finished developing. Because of this, adolescents use more of the part of the brain called the amygdala, which is associated with emotions, impulsive reactions, aggression, and instinctive behavior. 

In addition, during middle school, friendships become more complicated and school work becomes more demanding, adding more stress to their daily lives. 

Tween boys may act as if their parents are mean, or uncool. This is normal, and a sign your son is developmentally on track. He is both figuring out who he is as an individual and trying to separate from you as his parents, all while experiencing intense emotions. 

While 12-year-old boys are experiencing a lot of changes and growing up, parents can successfully deal with their sons in the following ways. 

  • Ignore the behaviors
    • Most of the behaviors 12-year-old boys exhibit are normal, and not harmful or dangerous
    • Ignoring the behavior is usually the best option because children repeat behaviors that get them attention from their parents, even when the attention is negative 
  • Don’t feel rejected when your son asserts independence
    • It’s age-appropriate and a normal part of childhood development for tweens to start relying more on friends and less on parents
  • Try an indirect approach
    • Asking direct questions will make your pre-teen son feel overwhelmed and intruded upon
    • Listen, don’t ask so many questions, and let your son feel as if he has permission to talk about whatever he is thinking or feeling
    • He may or may not be open to advice, but what is important is that you listen and support him in whatever he is going through
  • Allow a chance for a “do-over” 
    • Preteen boys may not realize they’re speaking in negative or sarcastic tone of voice
    • Help your son develop more self-awareness and allow him to repeat himself, without the attitude 
  • Monitor your own tone when communicating, take a look at your own behaviors, and don’t be judgmental
    • Sometimes parents are part of the problem
    • If you yell or use sarcasm, your son is more likely to copy your behavior
    • Children notice how judgmental parents are and take their cues on how to behave from that
    • Speak calmly and respectfully and your child is more likely to do the same
    • Always speak to your child respectfully, even when angry, to model the behavior you want to see
    • Don’t react to your son’s attitude with your own attitude because that only makes things worse
    • Don’t overreact to your son’s attitude
    • Don’t engage with your pre-teen’s bad attitude or give it more attention than warranted
  • Discipline using logical consequences
    • Instead of taking away privileges, try using discipline that helps your son connect cause and effect
    • For example, if your son refuses to clean his room, this means you might have to do it, which means you won’t be able to drive him to his friend’s house
  • Pick your battles
    • Parents can ignore an occasional sarcastic or negative comment 
    • Not everything has to be a teachable moment
    • Focus on the issues important to you, and let the rest go
  • Connect with your son’s interests 
    • Tween boys want to talk about their interests with adults who are willing to listen
    • Learning about your son’s interests shows him you take his opinions seriously
    • Watch what he watches along with him
      • This is a way to connect and discuss difficult subjects
      • You can also help your son recognize and understand how the media instills a gender code that tell kids what it “means” to be a boy or a girl and that they can be themselves and not what the media says they “should” be
  • Schedule positive, one-on-one time
    • Sometimes your pre-teen son’s attitude can be exhausting, and you may not want to be around him as much, but this can strain a relationship
    • Despite the attitude, your son still craves your time and attention
    • Dedicate special time to spend with your tween where he gets your undivided attention
    • Find activities both of you enjoy doing together so you can give your son the attention he needs
  • Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations
    • Start conversations about sex, drugs, and alcohol
    • Children begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol as early as age 9 or 10, and sexual development starts in the pre-teen years
    • Build a strong foundation for communication and provide your son with the correct and developmentally appropriate information
      • Talk to your son’s pediatrician or a therapist if you need advice on how to broach these topics
  • Teach your son about his brain and emotions
    • Tween boys are old enough to understand how the changes in their brains and bodies could affect their moods, and it can validate how they are feeling and also make them feel relieved their behavior sometimes is not their fault
    • It can also help boys and their parents take the moody behaviors less seriously when they occur

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Reviewed on 6/15/2021
References
https://childmind.org/article/10-tips-for-parenting-your-pre-teen/

https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/riding-the-waves-of-the-teen-years/turning-tween-attitude/

https://www.katielear.com/child-therapy-blog/2020/5/1/preteen-girl-attitude-problems-get-along

https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/development/understanding-your-pre-teen/brain-development-teens

https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/boys-puberty.html