By: Stephanie Burch.
The “tween” years (age between childhood and the teenage years, approximately ages 9-12) are especially hard years for girls. Not only are they facing many changes in their bodies and emotions but they are also making big changes in school, responsibility, and the social world. For some girls it seems to be a slow, gradual process but for others it feels like it happens overnight. It may feel like your daughter went from a happy go-lucky kid that loved everyone to a moody, defiant, and selfish teen all at once.
As parents, we truly desire to help our daughter(s) through this extremely difficult time. We remember the gossiping girls, the teasing boys, and the increased responsibility and expectations at school and home; and we shudder at the very thought of having to go through all of that again. We may be tempted to simply take over and fix all of her problems so that she won’t have to deal with them, but this would be doing her a terrible injustice. Allowing your daughter to go through hard things during her tween years will prepare her for the even more difficult situations she will experience in the future.
There are a number of things that our daughters must learn to be successful on their own. Choice and accountability is a huge one. As a child she was still learning basic behavior and what was acceptable. She had to ask permission and consult with her parents on most choices she made, but as she makes this crucial shift in life she must become much more independent. Having the self-esteem to be able to make a choice and then deal with the consequences will empower her and make sure she can deal with whatever comes her way.
How to use behavior charts to increase self-esteem:
One of the most successful things we have found to help with increasing self esteem and helping our daughter really understand choice and accountability is using a behavior chart. Now you may be thinking of a chart you used for your 5 year old to teach her to pick up her toys, take her dishes to the sink, etc. The charts that you place a gold start next to each item that is completed. Is that what we are talking about here? Yes and no. By the time your daughter reaches her tween years she should have established some basic habits and behaviors that don’t need to be laid out on a chart. But as she is making many changes at school, with friends, and in her responsibility at home having a chart that details exactly what she needs to be doing will give her the ability to take responsibility for every area in her life without feeling too overwhelmed.
Include Positive Behaviors and Rewards
Girls in their tween years may feel like all they ever hear anymore is the negative and bad things they are doing. Their friends are becoming more judgmental and competitive, teachers are requiring more work and have set deadlines, and parents are expecting them to help out more around the house. All of this can be overwhelming, and having a behavior chart that only focuses on expectations and requirements but doesn’t take notice of the positive things they are doing can be detrimental. Tween girls need to see and hear about all the things they are doing right and understand that their good choices have just as many good consequences as the bad ones do bad consequences. For instance, my daughter has a summer science camp she really wants to attend. The cost is significant so we set forth some basic requirements for her to “earn” this trip to science camp. Her behavior chart details specific things like turning in all science homework, working on projects well in advance to do her best work and studying with a parent for her science tests. By taking responsibility for each of these areas she is doing her best to earn a good science grade and the right to attend science camp. Each week that she completes all of these requirements we celebrate by going out for a special treat of her choice. The reward isn’t contingent upon how well she does on the test or assignment but simply on the fact that she is being responsible and completing the tasks she agreed to.
Using a behavior chart is a great way to help her think through her responsibilities and manage her time to make sure she is able to get everything done. Once she has completed the requirements for the day she may earn time with her friends, time on a social networking site, or other privileges that are so important at this stage in her life. Instead of having to fight with her every time a friend calls and wants her to go somewhere you can simply refer her back to her behavior chart to see if she has completed what is required for her to participate.
Being responsible for helping create the chart and then keeping track of her own progress will give her increased confidence in her ability to manage multiple tasks and make wise decisions about how she uses her time and resources. Understanding that each choice will have a consequence that she understands ahead of time will help her stay on the right track to making choices that reap the rewards she desires.
There are some free printable behavior charts out there but I would recommend getting one that is really customizable. Every girl is different and needs her behavior chart to be individualized. If it costs a few dollars but provides you with a lot more options, it will be well worth it. Be sure to involve her in the whole process so that she will be fully committed to doing her very best!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Stephanie is a single parent of two “tween” age kids. She has found great success in using the behavior charts and behavior contracts from ParentContracts.com. Using a customizable behavior chart has empowered both her and her tween daughter in creating a workable, successful relationship.
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