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Rules For Raising a Teenager

10 Nonnegotiable Rules For Raising a Teenager

No one has ever said that raising teenagers is for the faint of heart. Having taught high school for a number of years, I'm no stranger to witnessing teenage angst. Being a teacher gave me the unique experience of listening to students talk about their relationships with their parents in a very real and emotional way. And while all parents genuinely want what's best for their children, teenagers seem to talk in a completely different language that's coded with a weight of meaning. To ensure that your relationship remains as strong as ever, here are 10 nonnegotiable rules for raising a teenager.

  1. Don't invalidate their feelings and experiences. Even though some of their interactions sound, well, childish, to them it is monumental. Don't diminish their problems because you have the wisdom of experience. Listen to them, and offer help when necessary.
  2. Have clearly defined rules that apply to all teens in the house, regardless of gender. One of the biggest complaints I've heard my students make is that their brother or sister is treated drastically differently than them. If children need separate rules, explain the reasoning to them without relying on outdated and sexist excuses.
  3. Negotiate each curfew, rather than having a set time. Different situations should require a flexible approach to curfew. A school dance should have a different finish time than a movie out with friends. Besides saving you from an argument, negotiating each event will make you look like the flexible and considerate parent who actually trusts your kid.
  4. Chores should reflect real-life skills they will need in a few years. In what will feel like no time at all, that surly teenager will be off at college on their own. Chores, besides helping you around the house, should reflect real-life situations. It's not enough that they sort the laundry; they should actually know how to run a load and remove stains as well. The goal here is teaching children to be self-sufficient.
  5. Give them outlets to freely express themselves. Not every teen is going to want to color their hair or put posters on the wall, but every teen needs a way to express themselves. Consider letting them have a collection of something (old records, coins, etc.), paint their rooms, or take an art class. A little goes a long way.
  6. Trust your gut about their friends. If you get a bad feeling about their friends, you're probably right. Since teens are usually on their best behavior with parents, if your Spidey senses are telling you that a friend is a bad egg, trust your gut. Ask questions, be observant, and, if necessary, speak to their parents.
  7. Don't be afraid to reach out to their teachers. School takes up seven to 10 hours of their day. That's a lot of time socializing and working. Teachers are a great resource of communication, and more importantly, it's great to be aware of what the students are doing academically.
  8. Take an interest in their interests. You don't have to like whatever band they're into, but you should let them talk to you about it. Go to the events. If you hear something interesting that they would want to know, share it with them.
  9. Don't fix all of their mistakes. Teenagers are kings of learning what they can get away with. If they forget their big project at home or skip a due date, don't yell at the teacher on their behalf or leave your job to bring it to them. It's OK for them to take a couple minor losses, and it will help make them a more aware and stronger student in the future.
  10. Be honest with them. Teenagers hate dishonesty, and it can be especially damaging when coming from a parent. Be as honest as you can with them, and if they ask you for your opinion, give your honest assessment. If you're honest with them when the truth is uncomfortable, they'll believe you when you tell them something good.
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