How to Raise a Trustworthy Tween

How to Raise a Trustworthy Tween - North Texas Kids MagazineRaising a Trustworthy Tween

Lecturing your tween may not achieve the results you want. Encouraging him to talk about his behavior honestly without feeling put on the spot may help more. Here are some tips on how you can raise a trustworthy tween.

Lessons in honesty

A routine check of an 8th grader’s text messages reveals that what he bought with his birthday money doesn’t match up with what he’d told his mom. He lied. This is an opportunity for him to learn the value of honesty. Never pass up a chance to help him hone his character. It’s also a gift of time for you to make your relationship stronger.

Don’t lecture

A mom I coach confirmed that lecturing doesn’t work! In a candid conversation, her son confided to her that he mentally rolls his eyes and says to himself ‘Here we go again’ when he hears her lecturing tone. And, after a sentence or two he stops listening altogether. His mom admitted, “All my rantings and warnings about the dangers, worries, and negative outcomes were meaningless. The lecture method didn’t improve his behavior or attitude. I’m done lecturing. What should I do?”

Use “I” statements

Use “I” statements and ask for information. Don’t put your child in the position to lie again or defend a lie. Avoid these approaches: “Why did you lie?”, “You told me you bought a new shirt and you didn’t!”, “You know better than that!”

Invite a conversation

“I’m confused, son. Your text message doesn’t match the information you gave me about what you bought with your birthday money. I want to trust you. I need you to help me understand what happened.”

Less is more

The less you talk, the more opportunities your child has to tell you the series of events. Turn the floor over to him with statements like, “I’m wondering if you really wanted that?” “How were you feeling about not telling Max the truth?” “What would you do differently if you got a re-do?” “What can you do to be honest?” Wait patiently for each response. You want to know what influenced his action and decision-making process. Tweens need their parents to help them process what happened and to learn how to be honest.

Plan for the takeaway

Begin with the end in mind. You don’t want your approach to create another conflict. You want your child to tell the truth, not lie. Because a correction is needed does not mean your child needs to feel bad, embarrassed or ashamed. The best changes come from awareness, desire and attention. Ask your child what ideas he has to make sure he is honest and how he can regain your trust. You’ll be surprised at his ideas and how verbalizing his intentions determines his behavior. Be supportive and directive, you’re leading him on a quest to be a person of high integrity.


Coppell resident JoAnn Schauf created Your Tween And You after spending 20 years as a middle, high school and college guidance counselor. She’s a master storyteller who helps parents re-connect with their tweens. She used humor to survive the tween years with her own four kids, who are now well adjusted adults! JoAnn offers private parent coaching, workshops, and a bi-monthly newsletter. 


1 Comment

  1. John Harris

    Ms. Schauf,

    Great article…much needed advice to those of us who interact with tweens (and teens).

    I particularly like “Invite a conversation” and “Less is more”. These a powerful tools; simple but not easy.

    Thank you for your insight!

    John Harris

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