Four Ways to Reduce Battles AND Risky Teen Behavior

by | Dec 10, 2012 | Communication, Listening, Discipline & Behavior

Advice to help you pick your battles, upgrade your strategies,boost a stronger relationship and keep your teen safer 

Let’s face it, parenting a teen is sometimes like walking through a minefield. They’re usually moody, stressed and sleep deprived. Then add those hormones kicking in, and it’s enough to throw up your hands. Well don’t. The thing is teens desperately need our connection. And they desperately need our guidance. A big parenting secret is picking your battles and upgrading your strategies to fit your teen.

Here are four  tips I shared on the Today show to help you and your teen survive and thrive adolescence. You may agree or disagree with any of them. I’m just trying to get you to think through areas that trigger those “battles” so you can find ways to reduce them and keep your relationship strong.

1. Know Thyself (a.k.a YOU)

Take a moment to think through what you really stand for and identify the values that matter most to you and your family. Ask yourself, “When my teen leaves the nest what values do I want her to take away?” Those values are your nonnegotiables. Those issues are the ones to talk about most. Those are also ones she is most likely to adopt if you explain why you deem them essential. Remember, parents who raise moral kids don’t do so by accident. Be intentional! Explain your beliefs. Don’t deviate from what matters most.

2. Stick to That Curfew

I’m a firm believer in curfews for these reasons:

~ Peer pressure is huge. Teens need safety nets. There is no better excuse than for a kid to be able to use us: “Mom will ground me for life if I don’t get home.” Do tell your teen that he or she has your full permission to always use you as an excuse.

~ Teens need sleep. If they stay out too late on a weekend they’re jet lagged and worthless in that classroom the next day. Research proves that sleep deprivation is directly correlated to lower academic performance. By the way, most teens are sleep-deprived and studies also show parents underrate how much sleep they think their teen is getting.

~ Nothing good happens after midnight. You know that. So that curfew helps reduce risks.

~ Teens’ brains need a external regulator. Regardless of how smart the teen, I swear the kid loses IQ points in certain situations. (Which is why we end up saying to the kid, “What were you thinking!!!!) So let the curfew be the external regulator.

Create curfews in phases: I always think it’s best to create curfews in phases. Tweens don’t need to stay out past ten. Mid-teen years, go for eleven. But gradually increase that time until a teen can finally demonstrate the responsibility needed to stay out to twelve (or whatever). The key is gradually stretch the curfew based on your teen’s maturity, trust, problem solving abilities, the situation, and his or her friends. Keep in mind that in a few years or in some cases months, that teen will be off on his own. Better he have those “Bumps” now with you still around as the external regulator.

Set two key curfew rules: Then set two key rules (but feel free to add more):

Rule 1: You must know where your teen is going and who he is with at all times. That rule also means that you must know the parent and ensure that the home (and party) is supervised.

Rule 2. Your teen must check in with you when home. (And then after you hug him check his eyes and smelll his breath. That’s the real trick).

3. Don’t Worry “Too” Much About Appearance

Teens need to develop their own identity and deperately want to fit in. That’s one big part of their adolescent journey. One way to form their identity is through their clothing. So establish what you absolutely won’t tolerate your kid wearing in public and pass that on to your teen so the two of your are clear. It will save a lot of time returning items to stores for purchases that you deem inappropriate as well as morning battles: “You’re wearing WHAT?”” Three helpful hints that reduce appearance wars:

Read the school handbook and adhere to those rules. (Hint: Do talk about “image” and how it does matter. Don’t use the word “reputation” with a teen).

Never allow clothing that reduces your teen’s character or goes against your family’s values. Watch out for slogans and phrases on those t-shirts.

Use my “Three B” rule for clothing: “No Bottoms, No Boobs or No Belly Buttons may show in the what you wear.” The rule is clear and helps beat that dreaded “street walker” look that’s in these days.  Many school districts have incorporated them into their rule books.

4. Respect Teen Privacy (to a limit)

This is always a hot issue with parents and I’ve been a guest on many a talk-show about this one. We seem to have that secret deep fear that our kids may turn out to be the next Columbine killers. But here’s the problem: teens do need their privacy. Just as you’re not going to share everything about your life, they won’t either. (Nor should they).

So let your teen know that you will honor his or her privacy. No reading her diary or going through her drawers. But those rules are immediately broken if you have any founded concern (that means a probable cause) that your teen’s safety is in jeopardy. (such as drugs,illegal activities, or suicidal thoughts).

Be concerned if your teen becomes suddenly secretive or withdrawn or shows unusual amounts of anger or aggression. Then pick those locks and strip search the room. You could be dealing with a life and death issue.

I’m just throwing in my two cents and know there are always two sides to ever issue. I’ve worked with so many parents who went to the extreme in “overprotecting.” The result was tragic: the teens backed away, and the relationship with the parent was often destroyed.

Yes, monitor! Yes, know your teen’s friends! Yes, say “no”! That’s what hands-on parenting is all about. Just be careful not to cross the privacy line too far so you rob your teen’s autonomy and your relationship. That’s my concern.

Final Thoughts

Of course we love our teens and certainly we worry. But we also have to keep a little perspective here. Here is the bottom line:

Study after study proves that the best protective action you can take as a parent is to keep the lines of communication open with your teens. Studies also show that parents who are most successful at raising kids who have strong identity, self-control, self-esteem and character are parents who provide less permissive environments. Studies also find that though there is no guarantee to how our teens turn out (sigh!), one of the best ways to reduce the risks is to be a “hands-on parent.” Monitor, know their friends, stick to your values, and say no. Your rules do matter, so enforce them!

The vast majority of our teens turn out just fine thank you. It’s just that the path to getting to adulthood isn’t always smooth. But stay the course. Don’t give up. Stick to what matters most. Never deviate from your values. Do what you can to nurture your relationship. And if you do need help, pick up the phone!

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

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You can also find dozens of research-based and practical tips to raise strong kids from the inside out in my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.