Parenting Teens & Tweens: Tips & Tricks


Last week I was picking up my daughters from dance class, and was greeted by some stressed out mothers who had recently been experiencing a bit of “tween girl hormonal rage”. Considering my girls are ages 9, 12 and 13, they figured I might have some experiences and advice to share. While I think I’ve gotten off pretty easily in the hormonal attitude department, I do have a few teen girl advice tricks up my sleeve that are worth sharing:

1) Make sure they get sleep. Big kids may resent little kid bedtimes, but they need them. Kiddo bedtime at my house is 8:30pm, and that applies to everyone from toddler to teen. I don’t like kid meltdowns at any age and sleep is a good way to prevent them.

2) Don’t stoop to their level. Take a deep breath and stop yourself from getting into a screaming match and door slamming competition with your moody teens and tweens. Keep your cool and never let them see you sweat. You will only escalate the situation by getting sucked into it.

3) Don’t take their crap. Just because they have raging hormones and may lack some self-control, it doesn’t mean you have to take their verbal abuse. Expect to be spoken to with respect. Mouthy kids should be sent to their rooms or somewhere quiet to cool off.

4) Talk to them. Once they’ve chilled out a bit, you can have a productive chat and explain why the way they acted is not acceptable in the family. Chances are they feel bad for how they behaved even if they are stubborn in admitting it.

5) Keep talking to them. Was there a trigger? There might be some bigger issues going on. Did they get in a fight with a friend at school? Are they worried about a math test? Provide many opportunities throughout the day for open conversations. You never know what little tidbits might get leaked!

The most important thing I tell myself is to NEVER TAKE ANYTHING THEY SAY PERSONALLY! Remember your own experience – that moment in your early twenties you realized your parents are HUMAN and have these things called FEELINGS and they actually did so much for you? Yeah, it’ll happen. You just have a decade of exercising extreme patience ahead of you before it does.

About the Author:

Julie Cole Mabel's Labels

Julie Cole

Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six.


Heart, Flowers and Twinkies.

By Lisa Van Meeteren

A one word definition of Valentine’s Day would probably be love. But I can honestly say my one word definition of the day hasn’t always included that word. Read on to see if you relate!

Valentine’s definition: popularity. Valentine’s Day in my childhood taught me that people showed they liked you by giving you cards and candies. I also learned that it felt good to be popular and score loads of cards and it felt crappy to score less cards then the Julianne Hough look-a-like sitting next to you. I learned to pretend I didn’t mind scoring less with the help of a fake smile and a Twinkie.

The Teen Years
Valentine’s definition: humiliation. I learned that my mother didn’t mean to humiliate me by being the only one to give me a card. That it didn’t matter that my crush didn’t know I existed. It was all okay, because I could watch a movie with my best friend and ooh and ahh at the hot actor on screen and escape into a marshmallow world.

Dating: Early twenties
Valentine’s definition: evaluation. I often used Valentine’s Day to take stock of my relationships using the day as a measurement of how much someone loved and respected me. At the time I thought it was a good test. Here’s an example.

I had a boyfriend who never took the initiative when it came to making plans. I mean NEVER. At first I thought it was because he was being considerate when he said, whatever and shrugged if I asked him what he wanted to do. He let me plan all of our dates, how nice! Wait a minute. Fast forward two months later and I was getting fed up. Didn’t he care enough to make an effort?

When I asked him what he wanted to do for Valentine’s and he was unresponsive, I figured our relationship needed CPR, stat! I told him he was going to plan our date, which I knew would be challenging given the nature of the day, but assured him that it was the thought that mattered. As the day grew closer I kept asking him if he had planned anything and he said he had it covered.

I began to get excited as the night drew near. Would he cook me dinner? Were we going to go dancing which I loved?

The first surprise came when he told me we were leaving at 4:30 in the afternoon. What did he have planned that started so early? My curiousity was definitely piqued. He led me down King Street in Toronto’s theatre district and we entered a restaurant popular with the theatre crowd because of their quick service. I got excited. I loved the theatre. Maybe we were having a quick bite before going to see a show across the street. That would explain why we were dining at the same time as most Floridians.
We sat down and he smiled at me taking my hand across the table. “So,” I said. “I’ve never been here is the food good?”

He shrugged. “It’s a good deal. That’s one of the reasons I picked this place. Half price apps between 5 and 6.”

If I’d been eating I would have choked. “Pardon?”

“Well they have some Valentine’s Day dinner going on but the tickets are like a major rip-off. The first seating starts at 6:30 and they said we couldn’t have dinner but that we could enjoy half price appetizers until 6. Good, right?”

I tried to keep an open mind. It was ridiculous the way they crammed people in like cattle and then overcharged them for food by adding a few heart shaped decorations, champagne and flowers. Plus this was only the beginning of the evening, maybe the romantic part of his plan was to follow. After our appetizers, as he forked over his twenty and I thanked him, he smiled. “You’re welcome. So. Now what do you want to do?”

I began to have that sinking feeling that I get when I know a relationship is about to end.

“Excuse me?”

He looked at his watch. “It’s before six, so it’s still early. What do you want to do now?”

“Uh, you were supposed to plan the evening remember?”

His eyes widened. “I did.”

“The whole evening.” He just shrugged.

We ended up going to a store (pre- Smart phones) to get a paper (my idea) to look up the entertainment listings and I angrily chose a Mel Gibson movie because I loved him… (pre-crazy, and totally hot Mel) which at least made me feel like I got something out of the evening. That was our last Valentine’s together.

Now: Married with Children
Valentine’s definition: enjoyable. I am happy to have any time alone with my husband-it doesn’t have to be at a fancy restaurant. I enjoy making heart shaped pizzas with the kids and decorating for them. And while I wouldn’t be offended if my husband gave me a piece of jewellery or flowers to show how he feels about me, I think that it would mean more on another day when he isn’t pressured to do so.
I’m happy now that I have someone special in my life but I wish that I had recognized that I really had it all along; through my mother and my best friend.

Valentine’s Day is about love, an opportunity to show those you care about, that you care, romantic or otherwise. So to all of you singles, hey, I’ve been there. And while I can assure you it is lovely to have a romantic dinner with a significant other, it is sometimes just as lovely to watch Bridget Jones with a large bowl of M&M’s with a BFF and a glass of wine. And yes, I’ve done that too.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

How do you feel about the romantic holiday? Do you embrace it, loathe it or love it and why?


Valentine’s Day and Parenthood – Let Kids See the Love!


Remember Valentine’s Day back in the days before Diaper Genies and sippy cups?  Back when you could afford to go out to dinner and you didn’t have to arrange a sitter?  Couples have to adapt to the inevitable changes that come as we move from being romantic partners to having children and being a family. But does parenthood mean an end to romance? Love certainly survives parenthood a lot better in other cultures.

Here in North America, we subdue the needs of the couple and put our children first. Well, let me appeal to you then through your need to “do the best for your child”.  Let me explain how your children benefit when you put the love and romance back on the front burner.

Children learn about the world by being keen observers. Their developing brain is working constantly to understand the world and its workings.  Yes, they learn simple things like “that furry thing is called a dog” but because human beings are social creatures they are primarily concerned in learning about how people behave, how they get along with one another and how to treat one another.

Very early in life, children must create some belief or construct for the world and what is “normal”.  ”Normal” is what happens every day.  ”Normal” in brain-speak refers to what is recognized, not as odd, but as re-occurring and predictable.  Our children will try to seek out and re-create “normal” as they build their lives. “Normal” says “life is as it should be”.  If you grow up in Kenya as a Masai, you can bet your “normal” will be different than a child raised in New York City or Nunavut.

So ask yourself, what do your children see when they watch how their parents relate to one another on a daily “normal” basis?  Is it loving and warm? Or is it icy and dismissive? Is it acts of helpfulness and caring? Or is it argumentative and sarcastic?  Do they balk that Valentine’s is just a Hallmark holiday? Or do they say “This is the high holiday of love and I embrace showing my love!”

Forget about sitting your daughters down in high school and having the “you should find someone who treats your right” talk.  She has long made up her mind up about how people should treat her from watching how you and your partner treated each other.

This Valentine’s Day, think of the kids and show them the relationship you would want for them.  Show them respect, appreciation, co-operation and loving kindness.  Gush on Valentine’s Day and decide it’s important enough to keep up all year long.  Make it NORMAL.  I have friends who start every day with a kiss and hug and they say to each other “I am so glad I have you – together we are better”.   They enjoy a slow kiss and embrace each other every day after work.  What a nice tradition for your kids to walk in on and have to see!  I know, I know – they’ll say “Ohhh gross!” but they’ll probably grow up to pick a loving life partner who is as affectionate and intimate – and that is good parenting!

Happy Valentine’s Day.


About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at


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