7 Tips to Make Your Tween Daughter Less Sassy & More Sweet

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I felt like I had lost my sweet daughter. She 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. Based on some parenting counseling sessions, a little research, observing other families, and reflecting on what’s working for my family, here are seven tips to make your tween daughter less sassy and more sweet.

7 Tips to Make Your Tween Daughter Less Sassy and More Sweet

My tween’s requested chore chart reward of tea with mom at the Phoenician was a treat for both of us! (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Read aloud to her.

My husband and I take turns putting each of our kids to bed. One night I read with my son and my husband reads with my daughter; the next night we switch. My daughter and I started reading the Little House on the Prairie series together about a year ago. They’re such sweet stories that focus on family and hard work, so the message is good, but there’s more to it than that. Reading these books together has become OUR thing. The books spur questions from my daughter about my childhood and history and nature. This special time reading together at night has helped us grow closer.

Playing games at an ice cream shop with her brother and friends after family dinner date

Playing games at an ice cream shop with her brother and friends after a family dinner date (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Invite her friends.

As kids get older, their friends become more and more important to them as they separate themselves from their parents and prepare to live independent lives away from their families of origin. After our move to Arizona, I wanted to help my daughter with the transition by helping her make friends. I know she has to live her own life and build her own friendships, but as her mom I made it easier for her.

I took a more hands-off approach when we lived in San Diego, relying on friendships with neighbors to fill our social calendar and leaving her school friends at school. Here, I took more initiative. Shortly after school started, I threw a party at our house for my daughter’s friends and their parents. I invited one of her girlfriends to join us at the Phoenix Ballet’s Nutcracker. I encourage my tween to have friends over to our house often; I like being the host because I can keep an eye on the kids’ behavior.

I have also been arranging restaurant dinner dates with her friends and their families. I like making plans with her friends’ parents because 1) I need friends, too! 2) it allows me to get to know the other families so I feel comfortable when my daughter is invited to their houses and 3) I love my tween and want to remain an important part of her life even as she builds friendships.

Spending time together in nature brings families closer together

Spending time together in nature brings us closer together (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Spend time in nature.

Connecting with nature has such a balancing and calming effect. Tweens are so wrapped up in music, TV 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 this fall that now when I ask her to join me for a romp 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. It doesn’t have to be a hike. A bike ride, day at the beach, horseback adventure or skiing the slopes could also work. The slow pace of a hike, though, encourages lots of talking with my tween.

Listen to your heart, not the brain. The heart is smarter than the brain.

My tween daughter recently made this sign and posted it in her room: Listen to your heart, not the brain. The heart is smarter than the brain. (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Affirm your tween daughter’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 to practice, concept. All people, especially kids and tweens, want to have their feelings affirmed. Often, parents want to make everything better for their children so we dismiss their feelings and skip right to solutions. Stop doing that!

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.

Enabling kids to solve their own problems will help them in school, in their careers and their lives. They will gain confidence and problem-solving skills. But, I warn you, old habits are hard to break and I really have to concentrate on restating her feelings and asking questions rather than jumping in to fix it right away.

Getting involved in school activities can strengthen your relationship with your tween daughter

Our family showing off the medals we won by participating in a school fitness fundraiser (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

5. Get involved with school.

You don’t need to be that obsessive mom who volunteers at every school fundraiser, heads the PTA, and acts as room mom. (If you ARE that mom, good for you! I, however, am not that mom.) Taking part in some school activities shows your tween that you care. Stop by with your tween’s favorite take-out to join her at school lunch one day. If you are afraid your tween will find this super uncool, bring along cookies for her friends. Believe me, everyone will think you’re awesome.

You could also pick which school activity works best for you and your schedule. For me, it’s chaperoning field trips and volunteering at school parties. Being present at the school gives parents insight to what’s really happening on school grounds so you can intervene and speak with the teacher or principal if needed.

I know there are some parents who feel that a child’s homework should be completed by the child, without any parental involvement. As a parent, I dread homework now more than I ever did as a kid, mostly because I am annoyed at the inappropriately difficult projects that are assigned (like the 17-page budgeting assignment that was similar to a project I completed as a senior in high school). That being said, helping my fourth-grader with her increasingly difficult assignments has helped us connect and made her appreciate me more.

I lay down the ground rules before we get started on any school project: 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.

Alice in Wonderland at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale

My theatrical daughter loved going to see “Alice in Wonderland” at the Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Focus on her interests.

I recently watched This Is Us, a documentary about my tween’s favorite band, One Direction. I don’t really like their music, but I was intrigued. I wanted to learn more about why my tween loves this musical group so much. Now I know who is the funny one (Niall) and who is the mysterious one (Zayn) and I can have conversations with her about all five band members. It gives me a topic I can discuss with her and shows her I want to understand something she thinks is important.

I have been encouraging my daughter to try various extracurricular activities for years: swimming, violin, tap dance, ballet, t-ball and more. Nothing really ever stuck. She loves to watch “American Idol” with her dad and writes lyrics to her own songs, which she performs for the whole family…over…and over…and over. It finally occurred to me that maybe what she’d really like is pursue acting and singing. I recently signed her up for a musical theatre class and she is thriving.

Mother-daughter mani-pedi

Nothing makes my tween happier than a mother-daughter mani-pedi (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin

7. Spend time together.

I believe spending time together is the most important thing you can do to strengthen your relationship with your tween. I don’t just mean quantity time while you’re shuffling through the house collecting laundry and cooking dinner, although I do think that counts, too. If you don’t spend time with your kids when they’re tweens, they won’t want to spend time with you (or mind your rules) when they’re teens. We make a point to eat dinner together as a family of four almost every evening. It gives us a chance to share our three favorite things about the day and focus on what’s positive in our lives. We also embark on family adventures together nearly every weekend.

One-on-one time is also important. Growing up as one of three children, the only alone time I got to spend with my mom was when she took me from the Minnesota suburbs to downtown Minneapolis for doctor appointments. Free from the stresses of wrangling arguing children, my mom was always so softhearted on doctor days. After the appointment, she’d take me out to lunch and I got to choose the restaurant AND eat dessert. She’d ask me questions and listen to my answers. The focus was all on me. I loved it. I loved it a little too much, really. When I got my hearing tested due to numerous ear infections, I pretended not to hear the beeping sounds. Instead of raising my hands to the beeps, I sat still, feigning bad hearing so I could continue to have more one-on-one time doctor days with my mom. I wound up getting tubes surgically placed in my ears. (It was worth it for those sweet mother-daughter memories, if you ask me!)

As a mom, whenever I take just one of my kids to do any activity, whether it’s to do something as boring as buying groceries or as fun as playing mini golf, I notice how my little hellions turn into angels. Suddenly, I get more hugs and more thank yous. There’s no arguing, no whining, just fun. When I take my tween out for some mother-daughter time, it’s all about us. And no one even has to get surgery to make it happen!

Since infancy, my daughter has been quite the daddy’s girl, making her parental preference painfully apparent at times. Then she brought home a completed school assignment last week 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.” Yes, I yell too much and I am not as patient as I’d like to be, but I must be doing something right.

Of course, there are still the ups and downs of tweenhood. But for the most part, doing these seven things has improved our relationship, and helped my tween daughter become less sassy and more sweet.

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.

  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.

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