Acting out Tweens

Advice about tween acting out at home.


From a Tween Parent:


“My daughter is 10 years old.  She has a beautiful heart, and is generally a good kid.  She's friendly, outgoing, adored by faculty and other teachers, but when it comes to being within our four walls, she talks back, is rude, wants TV over homework, and worse, wants to dress in a way that is way too provocative for her age (ultra short shorts, see through blouses with sports bra underneath, etc.).  She becomes like a devil, with the ferociousness coming from her toes during a tantrum.  She challenges me most every day about what she'll wear to school.  I think the degree of the meltdowns, or tantrums, whatever anyone wants to call them, really unseat me.  So, when do we know it's time for help?”



This is common behaviour:


"I feel for you! What you are describing is more of a conglomeration of my two kids—who have had difficult years in very different ways.  (They’re now 11 and 14.)  But I agree that this is common behavior, and what I’m going to suggest is easier said than done.

  • Remember that her behavior outside the house, at school and with friends, etc., is what counts, not how she acts toward you. There is a long process of separation from the parent – especially mother – and for some it’s more brutal than others.  But try, try, try not to take it personally or show how hurtful it is!  (This is the message of the book “Get Out of My Life Mom, But First Can You Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall.”)
  • Be strong and tell yourself, “this is normal behavior.”  Leave the room if necessary.  Try not to reason with her when she’s having a tantrum.
  • My daughter was very volatile for over a year until she got her period, surprisingly early, when she was 11.There’s probably some major hormonal stuff going on there.
  • This is the time to create/enforces rules when necessary and to give slack when it’s not necessary.  Make it really clear that she’s allowed to watch tv from x to y time, when her homework is done.  There is never a downside to being firm.  Surprise her with little rewards, like for a good report card or just because you love her.
  • About the clothes—you’re the one buying them, so you can rule out certain things!  Shorts that are too short at age 10, no way.  Kids are increasingly wearing those sheer shirts over sports bras, but I think 10 is too young, even if “everyone else” is doing it, and you can make the point that school is a place to be serious, not like the beach. Still, I think clothes should be an area where kids get to make their own decisions up to the point of being indecent. Maybe this is an area where you can compromise.  

OK, I’ve gone on way too long and, this said, I haven’t been entirely successful in my house, but I’m confident that my daughter is growing up to be a great human being despite the hell that I get!"


You have a right to say no:

“Personally, because you're asking the question means that support can certainly be helpful -- for you and possibly the whole family.  I see no negatives in getting the advice of a professional.  

[See member reviews for child psychologists]

As far as the clothes go - as long as you are buying them - you have a right to say no to anything that you don't want her to wear.  I don't  think it's irrational to deny see through shirts and short shorts at age 10.  Remove them from her closet so she doesn't even have the option to wearing them.

Good luck, Mom to an almost 22 yr old daughter who went through a rough patch.”


Keep calm, and parent on:

“We saw a sudden flare of oppositional behavior at home and in school in our son when he was 9 (in the crucial 4th grade- yay!) , and we found it similarly concerning.  We tried a couple of approaches, and I'm not even sure what if any of them helped, but maintaining an even keel seemed to be an important part of it, and I had to learn that my natural inclination to ratchet up discipline in response was counterproductive.   The behavior peaked quickly and largely subsided; while he's still sometimes a handful, we have some understanding of the emotional and biological causes, can manage it, and he seems to be maturing out of it in time for middle school.

But most important: in discussing this kind of thing with other parents and relatives, we found that this is not all that rare.  People just don't tend to publicize how difficult their kid has suddenly become.  So hang in there.”


Know you are not the only one - you are not alone:

 “My sister is going through the same thing with my niece and she says most of her friends are acting the same way. I'm sorry to hear as it must be so hard! She recommends the book, Parenting With Love and Logic. She says there are religious undertones you can take or leave (she did the later). Best of luck and know you're not alone!”

“So many times, when I'm struggling with something with my kids, I wonder if others are, too - it's so helpful to hear what others are dealing with, both to get ideas but also - I think more importantly - to know you're not the only ones.”


It’s preadolescent puberty and a phase:

“It's probably the start of puberty.  Girls are 8-13.  My sister had 2 girls and really saw the change when they went thru it.  A lot of the issues subsided, it is just a phase.

“Sounds like pre-adolescence to me. I have an 11 year old who alternates between being a she-devil b*tch and the sweet, kind daughter I know. Am bracing for a few years of this and trusting I will make it to the other side!”


Home could be the only place your child can express herself:

“I don't have any concrete, been there- type of advice, but I know I was the same way at that age. I know what made me act out was frustration and confusion at school, and knowing that I could express my feelings (though at the wrong person, clearly) at home and then be forgiven.  My mother is quick to respond when she feels threatened, so she and I would just yell at each other. It accomplished nothing and I felt generally really isolated when really what I wanted was someone to understand and listen to me. I couldn't say that though - I didn't know that that was what was egging me on.

I don't know if you have read the book, "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk," but I have been reading it recently (in thinking about how to respond to my 4 year old who is talking back) and I think there is a lot of wisdom in the author's approach. She gives a lot of advice on how to diffuse situations like that. you might find it useful too.”


Show your child “another side of life” and involve her in the community:

“Yes, hang in there! She has to act out somehow , somewhere!:)

We just hear it but can't even imagine, how much pressure these kids have at school, from their peers, relatives etc. I'm pretty sure, you are doing your best, giving her everything that you can, right? Maybe she won't understand it until You saying it or doing it. What about to going volunteer to a soup kitchen or a food pantry, where she can meet with other people who are in need. No worry, I don't want to recruit you!:) Just was an idea. Show her the other side of life, the opposite that she has. Sooner or later it has to click how lucky she is with you!

Also, sit down and talk, just two of you! Have a heart to heart! NO therapy or anything.


The harder you fight back, the harder the situation:

“I have a 10 yo daughter too and I've found 10 to be particularly challenging.  I think, even though we don't see the physical changes of puberty yet, the hormones are already running around in there.  We don't have exactly the same issues but my daughter will fly off the handle or burst into tears at the drop of a hat - seemingly over something very very minor.  Or, while she is normally quite rational, she will become completely irrational,  refusing all possible solutions to a problem.  My daughter happens to also be a very high strung perfectionist so that doesn't help.  

I have found, as someone else said, that the more I try to argue with her or offer solutions or to discipline, that seems to just make it worse.  As hard as it is - and it's really hard, at least for me, we get the best results when we don't engage and let her work it out on her own.  If that means she needs to go to her room and fume for a while, so be it.  It usually means that she comes down in 20 minutes and apologizes.    

My daughter feels pretty out of control during these tantrum.  In calmer moments she has told me that she doesn't know how to stop and feels "like she's being attacked by a dementor" and that she needs my help.  We've tried to give her some tools to help her - like to start taking deep breaths - sometimes that starts out as hyperventilating but eventually we get there.

For clothes, I might just get rid of the super short shorts.   She may have a major fit once, but then it will be over and at least she won't be able to wear the shorts anymore.

I'm not sure I'm really offering any solutions here but know that you are not alone.  10 is extremely challenging.  

Good luck and may we all come out the other side eventually, without too many battle scars.”



“Please, keep in mind: kids say many things, that break our hearts. Sometimes they are mean, sometimes they are simply honest.”


Further Reading on Park Slope Parents:

Coping with screen time and anger issues