When should you intervene on behalf of your tween?

It can be difficult for parents of tweens and teens to embrace a hands-off attitude, despite wanting to raise independent children.
It can be difficult for parents of tweens and teens to embrace a hands-off attitude, despite wanting to raise independent children. Getty Images/iStockphoto

I am watching an episode of The Goldbergs with my sons who are eleven and thirteen years old. We laugh as mom Beverly intimidates the principal and insults the drama teacher because her son didn’t get the lead in the middle school play. She is clearly out of control, yet there is something about her unabashed advocacy for her son that gives me pause.

When is it appropriate to intervene on behalf of your tween?

As adolescence approaches kids naturally seek more independence. After spending a decade-plus trying to protect and nurture our little ones, it is inescapable that they are not so little any more. So what’s a parent to do?

According to online research, it seems more important to ask what’s a parent not to do. Helicopter parenting appears rampant, and occurs when parents are over-involved and stifle the maturing of their kids. Everything from making their snacks to meeting with their teachers may constitute overstepping, depending upon the circumstance. It may be our tendency to over-parent - but it is possible to adjust this inclination. Reformed helicopter parent Patricia Wooster notes, “I just keep my eye on the prize, which is an independent, well-adjusted kid with a positive self-image.”

Even with this clear goal in mind for our kids, it can be difficult to fully embrace a hands-off attitude. What if you son is having a problem at school with a teacher? What if your daughter is not accepted by her peers? Here are some considerations as you navigate your parental involvement:

We know YOU can do it. Maybe the assignment is perfect because you stepped in and fixed it. But your daughter won’t feel the same sense of accomplishment had she done it on her own. Don’t forget that mistakes are not failures – this is how we all learn. If it’s possible for her to do it herself . . . let her!

They’re called growing pains. It can be difficult to watch a pre-teen struggling with tough situations. But these experiences build resilience, and the confidence for him to tackle life’s other challenges down the road.

The power of one. When facing a social issue or a problem with a teacher, let your child take the lead whenever possible – but support him behind the scenes. Ask open-ended questions; talk through possible options; role-play. Brainstorm strategies together for tackling the problem alone.

Strength in numbers. If your child is in over her head, step in. Bullying or other unsafe situations may require your involvement. Your child should know that you always have her back . . . like when you support her in standing on her own – or during the rare time when you intervene on her behalf.

As you try to discern appropriate involvement, seek support from outside sources. Your friends may have dealt with similar situations and have ideas. There are many helpful articles online, like this list from that contrasts helping versus helicoptering. And for an irreverent laugh with some surprising advice for raising empowered kids who love their families, check out the saucy read Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation.

Bess Kercher, M.A. shares her wit and mommy wisdom in her "A Few Good Moms...Can You Handle the Truth?" blog. Each week Bess tackles issues facing moms with a humorous and inspiring outlook. Bess lives in Charlotte with her husband and two sons. You can read more of her writing at