"Choose your battles," someone wise first said. That goes for teen-raising issues such as clean rooms. Ellen R. Delap, CPO of Professional-Organizer.com, recommends that you make sure it's one of those battles worth fighting. "Is the messy room affecting her success in school or a value-based issue like timeliness? Choose what value is most important to communicate about, and then choose a communication tool."
If your teen isn't completing his chores, the issue is responsibility. Host a family meeting to foster a team effort. Delap explains, "Teens choose chores and get a reward (money!) for the team effort. Post a chores chart and refer to it as the authority, not you, the parent. At the next family meeting, focus on the positive and compliment successes."
Remember those? As you define what's too late for your household -- perhaps certain hours for school nights and other hours for weekends -- the key is enforcing your standards. Some parents withhold privileges such as driving the car or using a computer if their kids break their curfews.
What could be more important than establishing a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving? That said, many parents write in a footnote to this rule: If a designated driver is not available and the teen is tipsy, he may call home for a ride -- no questions asked.
Ashley Merryman, co-author of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, says consistent enforcement of rules is crucial. "Inconsistent punishment just leads to uncertainty, and that defeats the point of having rules in the first place. However, reasonableness is still the key. If there's a legitimate reason to occasionally look past a transgression or set aside a rule, doing so doesn't diminish a parent's authority. It increases it because then, parents seem wise and fair."
Teens are smart and understand that rules relating to going out, driving, drugs and alcohol are all about safety. "They are more likely to respect such rules," she says. "It's when a parent goes ballistic over something like an unmade bed that parents' rules begin to seem arbitrary and pointless."
Merryman points out that, ultimately, we want our teens to grow into good decisionmakers as adults, not simply obedient rule-followers. "So if a teen wants to argue about the rules, consider that an opportunity to help develop her reasoning skills. Parents should make a real effort to listen to the teen's point of view, encouraging her to think through the relevant issues. If she can do that and her argument is good enough, let her win occasionally."
He may have a valid reason for breaking a rule. Deborah Peers, mom blogger and mother of 16 children (seven of whom are teenagers!), encourages parents to understand what they are saying. "That doesn't mean to cave in to their requests, but to truly listen to why they want what they are asking for. Listen to how your teen feels about it."
If your teen is consistently breaking a household rule or is having problems in one area, Peers advises communicating to create a solution together. "Discuss scenarios that have been problematic so far. Together, come up with some ways to aid your teen to remember why the rule is important."
Above all, everything boils down to love. After all, you wouldn't have created boundaries for your teen and ways for her to develop if you didn't truly love her. Peers reminds us, "When you love your teen, you care about how you present your case in trying to solve problems. Love is gracious and kind in presentation and always thoughtful of how the other person feels. This is absolutely number one!"
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