10 Tips for Parenting Teens
Here are a handful of potentially helpful ideas about
being a parent of a teenager. The stars indicate that there is
additional information below.
1)Don't argue with your teen.
When you realize you are arguing, tell your son or daughter that you
would like them to summarize* their perspective, so that they can be
sure you have heard what they are saying. Then, if you don't have a
reasonable response, tell them that you will need some time to think
about whatever it is, and that you will get back to them before the day
is over, or by the next morning, if the argument happened in the
2) Learn how to negotiate with your teen.*
It is up to you to figure out what is negotiable and what isn't. For
example, if your teen wants permission to smoke in the house, and you
think this is unacceptable, then this is not negotiable. NO, is the
answer. If your teen wants to go to a party with friends you do not
know, this may be negotiable. You may need to know more about the
location, whether a parent will be there, etc. If you need more
information, ask for it. If it spells trouble, your answer is NO. If it
seems OK, then your answer may be YES, but given some limits, like
getting home at a certain time.
3) When you set limits*, stand by them.
If you find that the limits that you set are impractical or
unreasonable, then revise the limits. Limits may be negotiable after
your teen has demonstrated cooperation and responsibility.
4) Support your spouse in determining consequences for breaking
Establish the rules, guidelines, or limits in private. If you are not
sure what makes sense, ask other parents or check with the teen's
guidance counselor. Do not contradict your spouse in front of your teen.
The only time you may need to intervene is if the other parent is being
abusive or irresponsible.*
5) Start with firm expectations.*
Be conservative in the beginning as your teen asks for more freedom. As
your teen demonstrates that they can handle the freedom responsibly, you
can ease up on the reins. Starting strict and easing up as freedom is
earned is much, much harder than trying to tighten up after
6) Learn what being a teenager is like these days.
Times have changed and so have the limits of acceptable behavior.
Fashions are almost totally different. For instance, body piercing and
tattooing are fashionable these days. You might think that this is
totally unacceptable, but you may want to rethink this. Some piercing
and tattooing may totally disgust you; however, some may be more
acceptable than others. A belly button ring may seem trivial when
compared to a tongue piercing. See if you can negotiate. If you
determine that you can't in good conscience, then don't!
7) Do not accept unacceptable behavior from your teen.*
Yelling at you is not OK. Swearing is not OK. Breaking curfew is not OK.
Disrespecting others is not OK. Determine what your limits are and tell
your teen when they cross the line. Determine consequences for offensive
8) Give consequences instead of punishing.
Consequences should follow from the infraction. If your teen comes in
late, then require that they come in earlier the next time they go out.
Do not "ground" your teen for more than a couple of days, if at all. Not
allowing contact with friends is abusive and demeaning. If the friends
are urging your teen to do something illegal or unsafe, then you may
need to step in, but this can be tricky. If you forbid your teen from
seeing a particular friend or set of friends, most likely your teen will
do so secretly.
9) Do not be a detective!
State your expectations of how you want your teen to behave. If an
infraction is brought to your attention, then determine consequences.
For instance, you may set a rule that your teen will not drink alcohol
or use other drugs. If your teen comes home high, then restrict their
freedom. If your teen comes home and you suspect they may have been
drinking, etc., but you don't know for sure, do not interrogate them.
You might say, "I think you have been drinking, (or whatever else you
suspect) but I don't know for sure. I hope you are making wise
decisions." and leave it at that. Interrogation drives their behavior
underground and cuts off meaningful communication.
10) You want your teen to be safe at all times, but this can never
truly happen, unless you lock him/her up at every opportunity.
Every parent has fear about his or her children getting hurt or dying.
Unfortunately, no matter what you do, you will not be able to prevent
such things. Your fear will motivate your teen to be secretive. It is
not a parent's job to prevent painful experiences. As your teens grow
older into adulthood, they will make choices that you do not agree with.
Your job is to share your values, but not to impose them.
1) *Stopping an argument and asking your teen to summarize
When you attempt to stop what you perceive has become an argument, you
will probably meet with resistance. Your stopping will be perceived as a
power play to avoid listening to what your teen has to say. Power is not
bad. You are the parent, and you need to exert your power as a parent.
Your stopping your participation in an argument is an expression of
responsible power. So stick to your guns, so to speak. When you explain
to your teen that you are stopping arguing, he will most likely reply
that there is no argument, just a discussion. This can be the basis for
another argument and must be avoided. (Later, you may discuss the
differences between arguing and conversing. This is metacommunication
and may not be comprehensible for less mature teens.) If, and only if
you have your teen’s attention, ask her to take a moment and sum up what
they want. If she is unwilling, then tell her that you are willing to
get back together later to talk. Do not continue the conversation until
she sums up her point of view.
Holding onto your power as a parent is very difficult. Holding onto your
power and maintaining respect for your teen is even more difficult.
There are a number of skills involved, such as detachment with love,
remaining cool under fire, postponing decisions when you are unsure,
stopping anything when you feel uncomfortable, maintaining your
perspective in spite of another’s criticism, and backing down, changing
your mind when you realize that you have been misinformed or mistaken in
your judgment of the situation.
2) *Negotiating with your teen
Negotiating is a very important conflict resolution skill. Agreeing to
negotiate about an issue is tantamount to saying, “I want to come up
with a solution that is acceptable to both of us.” Before you negotiate,
be absolutely sure that the issue before you is negotiable- in other
words, that you will offer your teen a choice. If you are not sure, it
is always ok to stop negotiating and either come back to the table later
or stop the negotiating process altogether. Do not negotiate if you are
unwilling to live with the solution agreed upon by both you and your
Determining whether something is negotiable is an ongoing process and
depends on your values and the responsibility demonstrated by your
child- more specifically, the maturity level of your child. Negotiation
is about offering choices. Negotiating with a 10 year old is quite
different from negotiating with a teen.
The same kinds of skills mentioned above are required. Expect
immaturity. That is what being a child is all about. Your willingness to
engage in this process is about teaching your child how to grow up. You
are helping your child mature.
3) Setting Limits
Setting limits is about determining what is ok and what is not ok. We
set limits when we determine what we are willing to do and what we are
not willing to do, what we are willing and unwilling to put up with, and
how we willing to be treated and how we are unwilling to be treated.
Consciously or not, we set limits much of the time in our relationships.
Leaving the toilet seat down is OK. Leaving it up is not OK…
In the context of parenting, setting limits is about informing our teens
just where the line in the sand is. This is OK. Stepping over the line
is not OK. Goodness and Badness have very little to do with limit
setting, keeping within limits, or overstepping. You might say, “It is
not OK to come in after curfew.”
A very important note here: Staying within limits is not about being
good. Conversely, breaking rules is not about being bad. If you
understand this concept, you will save yourself an incredible amount of
grief as you are raising your child. Children learn about the world by
exploring. Part of exploration is testing limits. Sometimes your child
will simply overstep limits in an attempt to find out more about the
world. Sometimes your child will test limits to see what you will do in
response. Both types of exploration are natural and normal and should be
On the other hand, your parenting job requires respectful authority,
structure and direction. Your job is to set up rules and guidelines that
promote holistic growth: physical, intellectual, emotional, social,
spiritual, and behavioral. Some rules/guidelines may be flexible while
others may not. A respectful parent meets his teen’s misbehavior with
calm yet firm resistance. In addition to the resistance or “No, that has
gone too far,” your job also requires that you offer alternatives, such
as, “If you show me that you can abide by the curfew, you can stay out
an hour later in a month.
4) Abusive or Irresponsible Parenting
Abuse ranges from very mild to very severe. If your communication with
your teen is neither nurturing nor respectfully structuring, then it is
probably abusive. Mild to moderate abuse includes raising your voice,
spanking, calling names, putting another down, predicting that your teen
will fail, neglecting, not listening, ignoring, chronic teasing,
expecting adult thinking, feeling, and behavior from an adolescent,
severely restricting social interaction, punishment that does not fit
the offense, arbitrarily maintaining authority and power, and failure to
apologize when you have made a mistake or been offensive. More severe
abuse includes hitting, threatening to hit, yelling, swearing, not
speaking for long periods of time, suggesting that your teen will never
grow up, picking and removing friends, sexual touching or innuendo,
chronic sarcasm, and acting recklessly or inappropriately in front of
If your co-parent is being abusive, it is your job to end the abuse in
whatever way possible.
7) Unacceptable behavior
Abusive parenting is unacceptable. Likewise, abusive behavior from your
teen is unacceptable. Theoretically, adolescents are quite capable of
being polite, helping with chores around the house, dealing with
conflict, and expressing anger or annoyance without offending others.
Theory becomes real when parents have helped their teen gain this level
of maturity. Even if your teen does not demonstrate the above skills, it
is your job to expect respect- not total submission, but respect of the
golden rule variety.
About the Author
Ken Edelston, Monroe, ME, USA
Ken Edelston MS is a life and business coach. He has extensive
experience in counseling teens, adults, and couples. For over 20 years,
Ken has specialized in treating the effects of addictions, parenting
adolescent issues, and conflict resolution. His coaching practice
focuses on helping individuals, families, business persons, and couples
identify ineffective patterns of behavior and then exploring and
implementing real change.
This article provided by the Family Content Archives at: http://www.Family-Content.com
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her/him to keep a journal of each family and all the details
such as names and ages of children, bedtimes and emergency
numbers. If they carry the book with them, they won't get
confused, and they will have a nice log of all their small