Parenting teens 101: Stand your ground!
Recently, Bill talked to me about his struggles with his daughter’s marijuana use. “She doesn’t think she has a problem, but she does. It started out as occasional use, but now she’s smoking every day,” he said. He was at his wit’s end to figure out what to do.
Sally wasn’t sure how to handle her son’s pushing curfew every weekend. At first, it was just five minutes after 11 p.m. on weekends. But now he’s 20-30 minutes past curfew every Friday and Saturday night.
I remember those days well. My two daughters were masters at pushing the envelope and then coming up with amazing arguments and justifications for their behavior. They didn’t need to go to law school! They would argue their cause with legal eloquence. They would slip long letters under our bedroom door that made Supreme Court briefs look amateurish. And if that didn’t work, they would try to make one or both of us feel guilty about some past wrong we committed.
I have to admit I was the “softy” that could waiver. My wife, Diane, wasn’t manipulated so easily. My youngest daughter, now 30, always wants to tell me about all the things she got away with as a teenager. I never want to know! It will only make me feel bad.
Teens will nickel and dime you into bankruptcy.
Five minutes becomes 10 minutes becomes 20 minutes and then a half hour. Before you know it, they are an hour late. When they get home way past curfew, they point out that they were late the night before. By turning down the lights slowly, you don’t realize that you’re sitting in the dark!
So, during your children’s teen years, keep these important points in mind:
- United you stand, divided you fall. Teens are black belts in finding the holes in your parental fence. When you establish the rules of the road, stick together, and back each other up, even if one of you starts to wobble. Single parents may need other adults to help them stand strong.
- Have a few expectations, and then stick with them. Think carefully about what expectations are important to you. Don’t forge 10 rules — it will be impossible to manage all of them. When you make those decisions, sit down with your teen and make it clear that you plan to enforce those few rules, without exception.
- Stay out of the courtroom. You don’t have to argue with your kids about the “why” of your decision—that will only lead to pointless debate. And, guess what? They will win the argument! You’re the boss—that’s the beginning, middle and end of the discussion.
- Stand your ground. Bill decided that he didn’t want his daughter to have marijuana in his house. Sure, it’s legal now, but so is alcohol. It’s still illegal for anyone under 21. Would you let your 16 year old have a martini every night? He decided to draw a line in the sand and stick with it. Once kids realize that you aren’t going to wobble or waiver, they are more likely to fall in line.
Many parents, who grew up in families that were very strict and authoritarian, want to have more discussion and communication in their families. Great—talk about the meaning of life. But stick to your guns on the big issues.
- Establish natural and logical consequences. My youngest daughter had an unauthorized party while Diane and I were away. I didn’t “ground her,”— I simply made her call every parent and personally apologize while I sat in the room. She was mortified! But she never pulled that stunt again.
- Be the person you want your teen to be. Kids model themselves after you—monkey see, monkey do. That’s a big responsibility. Be that person.
What helps you stand your ground?