Making The Teen Years Easier

You know it. You dread it. Ahhhhh, the teen years have arrived! But they don't have to be painful parenting ones if you establish rules to remind your teen who's boss.

Teen Girl with Vacuum

Clean bedrooms

"Choose your battles," someone wise first said. That goes for teen-raising issues such as clean rooms. Ellen R. Delap, CPO of, 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."

Regular chores

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.

Create consistent enforcements

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."

Keep your cool

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."

Be open to discussion

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."

Listen to them

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."

Brainstorm with them

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."

Love them

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!"

Recommended for you


Comments on "10 Tips to establish rules for your teen"

dusti August 20, 2012 | 3:10 PM

I recently had a 14 year old girl move into my house. I've raised 5 teens, but this one is very different. She is VERY promiscuous. She is sneaky and lies often as well as quite convincingly. She "friends" many older men (over 800) and calls them on her cell as well as the house phone. This is why I have her - her parents are at the end of their ropes. I have only had her for 2 months, have removed her cell phone and forbidden facebook, but she visits her parents and is able to get online there. These men call my home from different states asking for her and are usually 7 or more years older. Obviously I don't allow her to take the calls, but she has called them back in the middle of the night. I can take things away, ground her... any punishment I can dole out doesn't keep her from doing these things when she's not in my direct sight. How can I make her see that this behavior is wrong and that she could get seriously hurt? Explaining it certainly has not helped. How do I make her stop this on her own? If it is not her own decision to quit this behavior, she will continue it as often as she can. Please HELP!

randy mcintosh August 05, 2011 | 3:31 PM

I told my 20 year old step-son that his "room was a mess, how do you live like that". He told me to stay out of his room if I didn't like it and I had no business being in his room and to quit acting like a "" or he would put a dead-bolt on his door.I told him if we couldn't come to terms he would need to find his own place but his mother intervened by saying I caused him to respond defiantly because I said his room was a filthy mess, how do you live like that. We are now divorcing.

Priscilla Arthur September 30, 2010 | 7:27 AM

I really like these articles.its really helping me in my daily activities.

Rivka August 21, 2010 | 2:47 AM

@ Miguel Hernandez: As a teenage girl who dated way above my age when I was younger, I feel like I might be able to offer you some perspective on your issue with your 13-year-old daughter. If you just tell her flat out that you're concerned she's still seeing the guy, then she may feel like you are being confrontational. The same goes for directly confronting her about the sneaking. If you go this way my feeling is that you will encounter a brick wall in your communication with her. Honesty is key to a smooth relationship between teen and parent but teens are not always willing to come forward and be honest, especially when they feel like you are accusing them or oppressing them. You may not feel like you are doing either of those things, but she may. Instead you can ask non confrontational questions like "How is he doing? Do you guys talk a lot anymore? Do you see him at school a lot?" If you keep it nonchalant and don't make it the focus of interrogation every single night, she may open up about it. If your concern is that she is too young to be dating, then you need to have THAT conversation. Don't make it about this guy or the sneaking or the phonecalls. Explain that you as a family are not ready for her to go into the world of dating yet, and explain one or two reasons you may feel that way.

BC June 17, 2010 | 3:41 PM

I having a hard time. Every time my daughter 15 yeard old break a rule, we take away something or talk to her. She thinks we are too hard on her. She say we made her depress. She lost her identity because I teaching her too much. She feel she can't be herself. Sometime, I want to break down and cry. I worked for hard for her and feel so unappreciate. I thought as a mother we suppose to show our kid right way in life and guide them through. I am so lost and feel so sad. Sometime, I don't even want to come home.

ruth September 14, 2009 | 2:03 PM

i am strugling with my daughter 14yrs seems she likes to date older guys over 20's we have already call the police on one of them seems she wants to do what she wants we feel like sending her to a boys & girls place were they keep them their for how ever time u want is their any advice i can get

roslyn September 12, 2009 | 7:53 PM

my teenage daughter has a friend that isn't a good influence on her. she has been in trouble numerous times because of being influenced by this friend. we'd rather not have the friendship continue, but if we forbid it, unfortunately our daughter will most likely go against our wishes and see this friend anyway. it's almost like she's obsessed with this friend. what's a parent to do?

martha gomez August 28, 2009 | 10:15 AM

wow i love my son soo much that i had not notice that love makes miracles

kay August 20, 2009 | 6:40 PM

Tell her the truth about boys. They say they like you and want to make love but it takes at least 3mos to get to know someone. if you still think you like him after 3mos, then we will met him and his parents. You guys can hang out but not allone.

Miguel Hernandez August 19, 2009 | 7:06 PM

I have a daughter just turn 13 years old. In February of this year I found out that she was going out with this boy from her school. I talked to her about it and she supposedly broke up with him but lately she been to sneaking like going on her my space and making calls form the house phone. she denies everything but something tells me that she is still seeing thsi boy. I need your adive what can I do or how can approach thsi to her? keep in mind that I am remarry and my wife stelling me that she sees alot of things on my daughter that make her belief that she is still seing this boy, please advice. Miguel....

+ Add Comment

(required - not published)