The preteen years will be a time of further establishing your tween’s unique identity, preparing for the teen years when he will be biologically programmed to break away.
Expect him to test his boundaries with clothing, behavior, and activities. Preteen girls will often try to express their unique identity by spelling their name differently. Your job is to offer positive ways to express a unique identity rather than negative ones.
Understand that your child’s brain is not yet fully developed, but it doesn’t realize that. He thinks he is just as smart as any adult, and his opinions are just as good as anyone else’s. Although the principle may be true on one level: That all people are created equal (in the eyes of the law), on another level it is not: People are not all equal in learning, experience, and accomplishment, so some opinions ARE better than others. For now, just realize your preteen’s attempts to establish a unique identity are not about you – they are just part of the normal and natural developmental process of showing the world and himself that he is growing up.
If you have open lines of communication as recommended in the previous chapters, continuing discussions should not be difficult. If you haven’t had the chance and are just beginning the process now, go back a few chapters, and find a place to start. Begin with some of the easier and non-threatening emotional activities to build trust and a relationship that includes talking about feelings, and work your way up to the present. It may take a little longer, but you can get there.
If you can provide positive options where your tween child can establish a unique identity in a sport or other physical activity, in music, or in academics, the whole rebellious thing may be unnecessary for a couple of years. You also have some control of your child’s friends. There is an old saying, “Show me who your friends are, and I will show you who you are.” By enrolling him on sports teams, in religious activities, in gymnastics classes, and especially in martial arts classes, you expose him to a positive group of friends with positive values. If you are too busy to pay attention to his friends and activities, he may not choose such a positive group, or may even be recruited by a negative group (or gang.)
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