**Originally published 2018, updated: January 2022**
Help, tween attitude is a problem in my house!
Tween years are no joke.
We’ve all been there. You’re all having fun, out of nowhere, bam your pre-teen turns into something out of The Exorcist. What just happened?
Is it you? Her hair? Is his phone glitching?
If you’ve got a tween, you’ve seen this moodiness.
The door slamming, the eye-rolling, the heavy sighs, and the backtalk.
Some parents feel they’re experiencing terrible twos all over again. It doesn’t help when our attitude and tone need a maturity check.
A tween’s transition to a teenager, to adulthood, is a difficult time, and their emotional immaturity can be made worse by the use of toxic strategies.
This behavior should not be accepted as normal. Yelling, insults, and rude, disrespectful teenagers (and adults) aren’t anything we want.
What’s going on with this tween attitude?
Puberty… maybe. Probably.
A tween’s behavior starts changing around age 11. Hormones and brain chemistry make tweens less inhibited and more aggressive.
They go through a phase where they want to experiment with limits; pushing limits isn’t necessarily bad but tweens need guidance on how to do it properly.
Tweens are naturally self-centered but need to learn the consequences of their actions and how to be empathetic towards others or this attitude will stay with them into their adult years.
Tweens are easily influenced by what they see around them, if their parents have negative attitudes tweens will pick it up too.
It’s not just girls. Boys are having a hard time too.
Boys will go through normal mood swings. It’s just as real and can bring on very intense emotions.
The boys, however, will weather it and come out on the other side.
For girls, they’ll need to learn more self-awareness and find ways to deal with it because it will continue for them for the next 40 or so years.
While we can’t change growing up, parents and tweens can learn to navigate these feelings.
So what do we do when your tween is driving you crazy?
Is there something we can change?
Is there a connection between their habits and these irritable behaviors?
I think so.
These tips will help boys and girls throughout their tween and teen years. I know they help me have less impulsive reactions too.
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Is your tween getting enough sleep?
Tweens should still be getting 9-11 hours of sleep every night. Even teenagers should still be getting 8-10.
Lack of sleep has a huge impact on attitude.
Our teens fall asleep in the afternoon especially if they’re going through a growth spurt.
Limiting screentime before bed can help your tween fall asleep easier.
Is being overtired causing their tween attitude?
Are your tweens getting enough exercise?
All tweens and teens need some type of physical activity.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits, mental health benefits are crucial.
Exercise releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins.
Endorphins reduce stress, boosts immune systems, and calm negative emotions. This can help tweens have a more positive attitude.
Is it a need to move more that’s causing that teen or tween attitude?
Do your tweens need to slow down?
No one needs to do all the things. Who wouldn’t be annoyed running from one activity to another?
Tweens need to spend time slowing down.
After the stress of being out in the world, before they transition to family time will do the most good.
Is it a need to slow down that’s causing the tween attitude?
Is your tween drinking enough water?
I know when my tween is dehydrated she doesn’t feel well. She’s crabbier, more tired, and sometimes her muscles hurt. This is especially true when teen girls are having their periods.
Water is vital to every part of our body.
Our cells scream for it, need it to make the most basic functions happen.
When it doesn’t have enough, simply put, things don’t work right.
Including our brains.
More hydration = better attitude.
Is it a lack of water that is causing that tween attitude?
Are they eating right or often enough?
We’ve all seen the candy bar commercials where people aren’t acting like themselves because they’re hungry. You know hangry.
I’m definitely not an expert on nutrition, but I love food.
The right foods in the right amounts can make all the difference in the way our tween’s mood swings play out.
Starting the day with an empty stomach will make them crabby and it does interfere with learning.
Make-ahead breakfasts for the freezer or smoothies or frozen waffles might be the answer.
It’s not just what, but when.
Carrying snacks with them is another way to be sure they aren’t having that drop, especially in the afternoon.
Dinner is a long way off, especially when they’re eating lunch at 10:30.
Eating on the run is sometimes a necessity, but every night doesn’t need to be take-out or drive-through.
There are healthy alternatives even if you have to grab and go.
Leftovers or salads can be put into reusable to-go boxes for the car. and pop them into a cooler or stay warm container like this.
How about ready-made smoothies to go or make your own and use these cool pouches that can be set up and frozen ahead of time. Just take and go.
Besides they’re tweens now…they can help a lot more than they sometimes lead us to believe.
Is low blood sugar causing that tween attitude?
Is it something else like anxiety, depression, or…?
This can sometimes take lots of small conversations.
Small prompts and false starts.
Sometimes it’s little snippets you piece together and finally figure it out.
They may be resistant to questions and get angry or sad.
Sometimes they don’t even know why.
Maybe something happened, like a challenging friendship.
Engaging tweens in the car, or at bedtime is actually a great time to get them talking one-on-one. Giving teens our undivided attention can bring understanding and allow us as parents to really listen to what they’re feeling.
Tweens will talk when you’re focused on the road, rather than eye to eye.
They will say things when they’re sleepy or better yet in the dark that they wouldn’t otherwise have the courage to say.
Lay down with them. Lay under the stars with them.
It might be good they can’t see you either.
At least you can hide your surprise when they talk about sex, drugs, or bullies or tell you they are depressed.
It will become easier for them and for you. Conversations about their interests without pushing to try and see what’s happening.
Just letting it come naturally will make it so they will come to you when it’s important. You want them to bring those challenging problems to you, not their peers.
Is confusion about what’s happening to their body or something else in their life causing the tween attitude problem?
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Want more ideas on how you can connect?
Try one of these easy ways to make that happen.
Maybe it’s nothing concrete but it’s all those hormones racing around, muddling their brain.
For them, it’s all-new, and it’s scary and confusing and maybe embarrassing.
I know my daughter has mentioned more than once after being particularly crabby, that she had no idea why she was acting that way and it was like watching herself and she just kept doing it anyway.
And then later thought, what the heck just happened?
My tween son has said a few times.
“I don’t even know why I feel sad.”
He spent a few months over the winter withdrawing from a bunch of activities and being sad and crabby every day.
Then just as suddenly as it began it was over.
Was it hormones? Was it depression? Anxiety?
We don’t know, but we’re watching our tweens carefully.
And all of the ideas here did help, it may not have taken it all away, but they did help.
Yearly physicals are a good time to bounce some ideas off your doctor.
And if you think something serious is going on with your tween, like self-harm, act on it immediately.
Talk to other adults in their life…teachers, coaches, and family friends.
Sometimes they pick up on things you don’t or they’ve seen something.
Maybe your tween is more open to talking to someone besides you.
That can hurt. But so what.
Your tween’s well-being is what counts here.
Did you turn to your parents?
All of these ideas can help turn the attitude around.
So much of it is all about hormones and growing up and learning all about who they are.
That just takes time.
Bullet Journal Attitude Worksheets
FREE printable pack, 10 worksheets to track key daily habits that may be affecting their attitude. Track by the day or month. Includes a mood tracker and 2 period trackers.
Here’s what a tween reader says…
“I started using the trackers and my mom really likes knowing what mood I’m in and when I’m down we talk it out and she understands me so much more now that she knows how I’m feeling. Thank you so much for the trackers!”
The best thing you can do is to let them know you love them even when they aren’t very loveable. They do that for us…don’t they?
What is a tween?
Tween is short for tweenager. It is a category to describe children “between” young children and teenagers.
What age are tweens?
Tweens are children from 9 years old to 12 years old.
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What tween attitude adjustment tips work for your kids?
Wednesday 23rd of December 2020
Hi i have a 9year old daughter she is also cranky and im homeschooling her now i want to know what can be the best routine for us my husband works shifts so its tricky
Wednesday 30th of December 2020
Every family is different. What do you mean specifically by working shifts? Gone really early, home really late, sleeping during the day? Or does it change? Is the routine issue about sleep, meals, or family time. Let me know, I'd love to help you brainstorm.
Tuesday 14th of January 2020
Omg thank you so much for sharing this. I am a single mother of two girls and my oldest is turning 11 in June. We just had another bad morning; ending in me crying my eyes out after she got out the car for school. I will definitely put your tips into practice. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone. God bless you.
Wednesday 15th of January 2020
Hi Raquel, It's so tough isn't it. I'm so glad you found this helpful. Download those free habit worksheets and see if it helps your family. I think by letting them get a handle early on what affects them will make it a lifelong habit to take care of themselves, understand themselves better and empower them to learn to rely on themselves to fix things and not always point at others when things go wrong. (or they help me do that at least, lol). Please let me know how it works out. I so appreciate your comments. :)
Monday 8th of April 2019
All great information. Can you show sources for this info?
Tuesday 9th of April 2019
Hi Nick, Thank, glad you liked it. The theory behind this has come from watching the behaviors, habits and resulting attitudes in my own house. My kids are 16, 12, and 11. I have seen it happen time and time again when the good habits fall by the wayside. Balance is important, but I also found that each child has one or two areas that seem to affect them more than the others. I found it works for the adults too. For my husband and sons it's sleep and physical activity, my daughter it's food. For me, it really seems to be all of them. It's easy to put self-care aside, but it becomes glaringly obvious in our home when you compare it to all or nothing.