Behavior Modification Models for Parents of Preteens

by K. Nola Mokeyane
Preteens are often trying to exert their independence, and can misbehave in the process.

Preteens are often trying to exert their independence, and can misbehave in the process.

As children transition from middle childhood to the preteen stage, parenting can become much more challenging than it used to be. Preteens, or "tween-agers," experience puberty and hormonal changes that impact the way that they interact with their environment, which sometimes causes them to exhibit negative behaviors that need to be addressed. Teaching your child appropriate behavior and being consistent with rewards and consequences can help modify unwanted behavior and keep your preteen on track for success in high school.

Skills Building

It is necessary to teach your preteen the skills that you want him to display at home and school if you expect him to demonstrate appropriate behavior. It's easy to assume that your preteen knows better than to speak defiantly to you or to his teacher, but your child may exhibit this behavior in an attempt to release anger that has not been properly managed. Teaching your child appropriate coping skills, including deep breathing as a calming strategy or journaling as a way to express and release frustrations, can help modify unwanted behavior.


Offering rewards is a viable way to shape your child's behavior. Common rewards include allowance, prizes and verbal praise. Rewards teach your preteen that there are benefits to demonstrating appropriate behavior, and encourage your child to think twice before engaging in unacceptable practices. Give your child rewards for accomplishments such as achieving honor roll status in school and redirecting disrespectful behavior over the course of one month.


Your child should have a clear understanding that when she demonstrates inappropriate behavior, there will be consequences. Consequences should generally fit the nature of the inappropriate act, such as not being allowed to go out with friends to an event for failure to complete a given task in the home. This teaches your preteen that when you ask her to do something, you expect her to complete the task, and will issue a consequence for failure to comply. This practice shapes her behavior so that she will think again before she chooses not to listen to you in the future, especially if she would like you to do something for her as well.


The best way to teach your child appropriate behavior and to modify unwanted behavioral patterns is to demonstrate the desired behavior in your own life. If you want your child to be respectful toward others, then it's important that you speak kindly to people. It will be difficult to tell your preteen not to drink alcoholic beverages if he sees you getting drunk every night. Try to be the best example of model behavior for your preteen to emulate into adulthood.

About the Author

K. Nola Mokeyane has written professionally since 2006, and has contributed to various online publications, including "Global Post" and Modern Mom. Nola enjoys writing about health, wellness and spirituality. She is a member of the Atlanta Writer's Club.

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