Tips to Make Your Tween Daughter Less Sassy & More Sweet

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I felt like I had lost my tween daughter. My sweet girl had become much sassier and more argumentative. She didn’t laugh as much or want to play with her little brother. Now? Things are getting better. So much better, in fact, that I have been reflecting on what helped get her back to her kindhearted self. Tweens ages 9 to 12 aren’t little kids anymore, but they aren’t officially teenagers either. It’s a tricky age. Based on research, parenting counseling sessions, observing other families, and reflecting on what’s working for my family — here are nine sassy tween tips to improve your relationship with your daughter.

Improve your relationship with your sassy tween daughter

Improve your relationship with your sassy tween daughter (Photo credit: dndavis, Depositphotos.com)

1. Read with your tween daughter.

Even though my daughter reached an age when she was old enough to read to herself, I asked her if she’d like me to read the Little House on the Prairie series aloud to her. These stories focus on family and hard work. The message is positive, but there’s more to it than that. Reading these books together became OUR thing. The books spurred questions from my daughter about American history, nature, and my childhood. This special time reading together at night has helped us grow closer.

You might be surprised by how much your big kid still enjoys hearing a bedtime story. You can take turns reading with your tween, too. Other books that work well for this age group include Harry Potter, The Uglies series, and Artemis Fowl

Mom and daughter reading together

Mom and daughter reading together (Photo credit: ArturVerkhovetskiy, Depositphotos.com)

2. Invite her friends.

With age, friends become more important to kids as they separate themselves from their parents and prepare to eventually live independent lives away from their families of origin. It can feel painful when tweens start to prefer their friendships over mom-daughter playdates. But you can take steps to remain an important part of her life even as when she craves more autonomy.

After my family’s move to Arizona, I wanted to help my tween daughter with the transition by helping her make friends. Shortly after school started, I threw a party at our house for my daughter’s friends and their parents. Then, I invited one of her girlfriends to join us at the Phoenix Ballet’s Nutcracker. I also encouraged my tween to have friends over to our house often. Zoom calls and safe outdoor interactions work wonders, too. Encouraging friendships will help your child feel safe to separate from you, while maintaining your parent-child bond. 

Friends are super important to tweens

Friends are super important to tweens (Photo credit: londondeposit, Depositphotos.com)

3. Spend time in nature together.

Connecting with nature has such a balancing and calming effect. Tweens are so wrapped up in music, YouTube, and video games — it’s nice to take a break from all of the technological noise and distractions. It used to be a struggle to get my daughter to go on a hike with me. But she so loved hiking together to find big horn sheep in Borrego Springs that now when I ask her to join me for a stroll through the desert, she often gives me an enthusiastic yes.

Sometimes we make a game of it by searching for the most beautiful nature find, counting animals seen, or doing a color scavenger hunt. Often, we just chat. The pace of a hike encourages lots of talking with tweens. It doesn’t have to be a hike either. A day at the beach, skiing the slopes, horseback riding adventure, or outdoor yoga could also work. 

Do something active in nature

Do something active together in nature (Photo credit: pat138241, Depositphotos.com)

4. Affirm your tween’s feelings.

This one I learned from the book, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk. It is based on a really simple and obvious, yet difficult concept to practice. All people, especially kids and tweens, want to have their feelings affirmed. Often, parents want to make everything better for our children, so we dismiss their feelings and skip right to solutions. 

When my tween comes home from school and says, Everyone hates me! instead of saying, “I’m sure everyone does not hate you, honey.” Instead, I say, “Oh no! You feel like everyone hates you. I would feel horrible if I thought everyone hated me. Why do you feel like that?” Then I listen rather than telling her how to solve the problem. I ask questions to help her find her own solution.

I warn you, however, old habits are hard to break. Often, I struggle to remember to restate my daughter’s feelings and ask questions rather than jumping in to fix it right away. This practice is worth it, though. Enabling kids to solve their own problems will help them in school, their careers, and throughout their lives. This trick will help them gain invaluable confidence and problem-solving skills.

Affirming feelings is key to getting your tween to open to you

Affirming feelings is key to getting your tween to open to you (Photo credit: NatashaFedorova, Depositphotos.com)

5. Get involved with school.

You don’t need to be that super-involved mom who volunteers at every school fundraiser, heads the PTA, and acts as room mom. If you ARE that mom, then good for you! I, however, am not that mom.

Taking part in some school activities, though, shows your tween that you care. Pick a school activity that works best for your interests and schedule. For me, it’s chaperoning field trips and volunteering at school parties. Even occasionally stopping by with take-out lunch shows tweens that you care and still seen as cool for kids until they hit middle school. Being present at the school gives parents insight to what’s really happening on school grounds, too. 

Get involved at your tween's school in whatever capacity works best for you

Get involved at your tween’s school in whatever capacity works best for you (Photo credit: AndrewLozovyi, Depositphotos.com)

6. Help with homework.

Tweens can become overwhelmed with homework. Make yourself available to assist with assignments, while allowing your tween to maintain responsibility and pride in accomplishment.

Before my daughter and I start any school project together, I remind her of the ground rules. There will be no whining. It is HER assignment, not mine. Even if it seems too difficult, we will get through it together.

I always receive a big hug and a heartfelt thank you when we complete a big school project together. Plus, working together helps her learn more and feel excited about school, rather than leaving her to flounder and get frustrated.

Help your tween succeed by assisting with homework as needed

Help your tween succeed by assisting with homework as needed (Photo credit: TarasMalyarevich, Depositphotos.com)

6. Focus on your daughter’s interests.

It’s easy to assume your daughter will have the same interests as you did when you were a tween. If you were sporty, for example, then you might hope your daughter will follow in your footsteps and join the soccer team. Or, if you were a girly girl, then you might be disappointed when your tomboy has no interest in shopping sessions or afternoon teas. Instead, take notice of what gets your tween daughter excited.

For years I encouraged my daughter to do various extracurricular activities. She tried swimming, violin lessons, ballet, t-ball and more. Nothing really ever stuck. Then I noticed how much she loves to watch American Idol, make song playlists, and memorize all the lyrics to Hamilton. It finally occurred to me that maybe she’d like to pursue singing and acting. When I signed her up for a musical theater class, she thrived. 

Encourage your child to follow her passions, even if they differ from yours

Encourage your tween daughter to follow her passions, even if they differ from yours (Photo credit: liudmilachernetska@gmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

7. Bond through technology.

Yes, kids use technology a lot and we should encourage them to spend time away from screens outdoors. But, technology is an important part of life for today’s youth. Understanding this will help you to connect with your tween. Find out which musical groups your daughter loves and ask her to show you some of her favorite music videos. You could also ask her to teach you how to play her favorite video game, or at least watch her play a few rounds. Instead of saying, “How was school?,” ask, “What’s the funniest video or meme you’ve seen this week?” You’ll find you suddenly have a lot more to discuss with your tween!

Play your daughter's favorite video game with her

Play your daughter’s favorite video game with her (Photo credit: creatista, Depositphotos.com)

8. Make family time a top priority.

I believe spending time together is the most important thing you can do to strengthen your relationship with your tween daughter. If you don’t spend time with your kids when they’re tweens, then they won’t want to spend time with you (or mind your rules) when they’re teens.

Quantity time and quality time are both important. Tweens feel loved just seeing home you as you collect laundry and cook dinner.

Quality time is just as essential to your tween. Choose one activity to enjoy together as a family each weekend like watching a movie or going for a bike ride. Even if with busy schedules, my family of four makes a point to eat dinner together almost every evening. We each share three things we are thankful each day to focus on positivity and gratitude. 

Dinner time is family time

Dinner time is family time (Photo credit: DimaBaranow, Depositphotos.com)

9. Spend one-on-one time with your tween daughter.

One-on-one time is key, too. Growing up as one of three children to working parents caused me to exaggerate hearing problems as child just so I could have special time with my mom at the ear doctor and at lunch together afterwards. This actually led to me getting tubes surgically implanted in my ears! That’s how much your kids want undivided time with you.

Rather than your kids feigning illness to get your attention, carve out one-on-one time with your tween daughter. As a mom, whenever I do a fun activity with just one of my kids, I notice how my little hellions turn into angels. There’s no arguing and no whining, just fun. When we spend mother-daughter time, it’s all about us. Be sure to pick an activity that you both will enjoy, too!

Mom and daughter spa day

Plan an at-home spa day or other fun activity with your tween (Photo credit: vadimphoto1@gmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

Why use these sassy tween tips?

Since infancy, my daughter has been a daddy’s girl. In fact, she has made her parental preference painfully apparent at times. Then she brought home a completed school assignment in fifth grade about heroes. In it, she was asked to describe someone she considers a hero. She wrote, “My mom, because she is nice, honest, fun, caring and if it weren’t for her, I would not be writing this paper about her.” My heart nearly burst.

Of course, there are still the ups and downs of tweenhood. But for the most part, doing these nine things has improved our mother-daughter relationship and decreased the sassiness in our household significantly.

Use these tips to improve your mother-daughter relationship with your tween

Use these tips to improve your mother-daughter relationship with your tween (Photo credit: fizkes, Depositphotos.com)

Learn more!

For happy travels, read these tips for traveling with a tween or teen.

A healthy tween is a happy tween! Take a look at how to get picky kids to eat fruits and vegetables.

For a fun and insightful activity to share with your daughter, learn how to make vision boards.

Before you know it, your tween will be a teenager considering college. Read our advice for planning a college tour with your teen.

Sassy Tween Daughter Parenting Tips

Save these tween parenting tips!

For future reference, be sure to save this list of tips for handling a sassy tween. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

What tips do you have to make tweens less sassy and more sweet? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Tamara @ We3Travel says

    beautiful. That sounds exactly like the kind of things I do with my daughter, especially spending time in nature together, mother daughter trips, and special outings. Luckily at 10 we still have a very close relationship and I hope I have laid a foundation for that to continue.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Tamara – Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you and your daughter are on your way to a lifelong close relationship.

  2. I also got our tween a book, called Elements for Girls, that helps them think about this time in their life, and self-awareness/development. I talk about it with her, and I think that helps, too – it’s important as a parent to be loving, caring, and interested!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Jessie – Going to buy this book from Amazon right now! Thank you! (Now, I will need to do some research on which books to get to help my neary 7-y-o son who is struggling with some frennemies at school!)

  3. OMG, it’s like you’ve been in my house. We went through a similar phase when my daughter was about that age, and truthfully, we still have our moments. American Girl has this fab book: Just Mom and Me (and Just Dad and Me) that I can highly recommend for this age group.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Jody – I am SO going to order that book from Amazon right now. Thank you for the recommendation!

  4. My tween gets a mood boost by doing community service. Something as simple as baking pies for the homeless or participating in a toy and book drive takes the focus off her stress and gives her a little perspective.
    Thanks for these tips; great post.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Ann – Wonderful suggestion! My daughter and I used to volunteer monthly together at a food bank when we lived in San Diego but we haven’t been volunteering since our move to Arizona six months ago. I need to look into volunteer opportunities here!

  5. Oh, we are in this moment too! I agree with all of your recommendations. It can be difficult to be consistent, but thankfully, all of these are fun!

  6. it all matters says

    Get a real life. Stop looking to the outside to give you answers. If you keep telling them it’s somehow different to be a “tween”, then that’s what they’ll think. Don’t forget that the whole reason for the “tween” stage is marketing. If you don’t know your own children by now then I think you need a little more reflection on what you have been so busy and distracted with. You are really the most important person in their lives, so stop trying to pass it off on someone (tv, music, friends) else.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi it all matters – You sound like a very unhappy person. I hope you can reflect on what’s making you so unhappy and find peace in your life.

  7. I’ve tried ALL of this stuff with my 10 year old who has ADHD. She’s STILL sassy and disrespectful to my ex and me as well as my mom 50% of the time and she’s medicated. Any other suggestions? It’s daily screaming like a banshee so bad I’ve almost slapped her across the face a few times.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Melissa – I wish I could help. Having a tween daughter is harder than I imagined. I learned from our parenting counselor that the worse kids behave, the more love they need…but you need to give them time to cool down before you can give them that love. Have you tried counseling? I loved our parenting counselor because it was just for my husband and me – no kids involved – and was all about how we could parent better and move forward, not just about rehashing the past and complaining. I hope you can find some help to give your family some peace.

  8. I’m the maternal grandmother of a 12 yo girl. Her mother, my daughter has not been a part of her life since she was 3. She is now living with her father. I spend lots of time with Emma, and I was having all these same problems…to the point of threatening to take her home during one of our weekends..I’m going to try these suggestions..I’m sure they’ll work just as well for us. Thank you for the boost!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I hope these tips help with your granddaughter. In re-reading this story, I was reminded of a few things I should focus on now that my daughter is 15!

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