This Might Be the Reason Your Tween Is Treating You Like Crap

May 16, 2019

I’m a nice guy. I don’t like to get into conflict. In fact, I painstakingly go out of my way to avoid it at all costs.

But raising a 12-year-old girl has landed me in the middle of a battle that I didn’t know I’d signed up for. And I’ve discovered that I am ill prepared for the volatility of erupting emotions so prevalent at this age.

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A recent dust up started out innocently enough:

“Hey dad, can me and my friends go to the mall?”

Snap decision time: “You’ve been to the mall twice this week. I don’t want you hanging around there every day.”

“You never let me do anything!” she yells, her anger suddenly boiling over. She stomps away. KABOOM! She slams the door of her room hard enough to make the room shake.

That's when I had a conversation with myself that I seem to have a lot since my kid turned double digits.

The disciplinarian in me is the first to step forward:

“Do you get what just happened there? She slammed the door on you! Nobody does that! You’re losing all authority and respect. Get up there NOW and show her that your anger is bigger and badder than hers!”

The appeaser in me interjects:

'Let the mom handle it. She’s the disciplinarian. Why mess with a system that works?'

“Don’t listen to that guy. He’s so out of touch. All she’s doing is expressing her need for independence. Apologize. Tell her she can go to the mall if she wants  — as long as she promises to go easy on the doors.”

The avoider in me makes his thoughts known:

“Why’s everybody so upset? It’s not a freaking tragedy and in a few minutes, we will all have moved on. Besides, slamming doors is all part of growing up. Forget about it!”

Never one to be shy, it’s the buck passer’s turn:

“Let the mom handle it. She’s the disciplinarian. Why mess with a system that works?”

Lastly, the detective in me speaks:

“Maybe you should learn a little more about the changes your child is going through at this age. It could be more than just hormones flooding her body and a growth spurt.”

Relevant Reading: 5 Ways to Keep Your Tweens Involved in Family Time

I chose to go with the detective and dove into Google, amazed at what I learned about the tween brain.

Based on my internet sleuthing, here's what I believe every parent needs to understand about what’s going on inside their kid’s mind at this age:

  • At puberty, the brain undergoes major rewiring. It’s a process that starts from the back and moves forward to the front part of the brain. The area called the prefrontal cortex is responsible for controlling impulses, thinking through problems and considering the consequences of actions. While that area is being rewired, important decisions often get rerouted to the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotions, impulses and aggression.

So, if you find yourself wondering what your child was thinking, chances are she wasn’t thinking at all. Not because of any character shortcomings or bad parenting, but because her thoughts have been temporarily redirected from the rational to the emotional part of her mind. When examined from that perspective, I think sudden tween outbursts can be more easily understood. Of course, if you’re worried your child’s anger is something more, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.

I'm also not shy about sharing my newfound brain knowledge with my child. It’s a great opportunity to help her understand the changes she's experiencing, validate her feelings and set mutually acceptable expectations of behavior in the future.

Article Author Craig Stephens
Craig Stephens

Read more from Craig here.

Craig Stephens is an award-winning writer and producer passionate about projects that explore social issues, human potential and innovation. He lives in Toronto with his wife, a writer, theatre producer and podcaster, and their teen daughter — his most challenging and rewarding project to date! You can catch his latest work at