The Raising Teens RulebookThe Raising Teens Rulebook
When it comes to raising kids, there are few rockier waters than the years between 12 18. This is of course the time when your child knows all, has done all, can anticipate all, and is secure in the knowledge of their own immortality, fully convinced that what may have befallen other teens could not in a million years ever happen to them.
That said, it may seem like an insurmountable hill to try and climb when it comes to getting your teen through this time and safely off on their own, but it can be done, as it has been for eons, and both of you will survive it with a minimum of scars. But there are some ground rules to follow.
Your child needs a parent, not a friend. You need to set the standards that they are to live up to, both demanding and earning their respect through your actions. Kids can see through words, so make sure your life backs up what you will no doubt spend a great deal of time preaching.
Don't get suckered into a debate with your teen. Some things are not up for debate, namely your decisions concerning their life and well being. Let your no be no and your yes be yes. If you should decide to engage in a debate, make sure it is on your terms with parameters defined by you.
Don't feel the need to provide your teen with a car. Especially not at sixteen. My own daughter talked herself out of a car by the time she turned sixteen, agreeing with us (amazingly enough) that she wasn't ready for the responsibility of driving. Have your teen get a part time job and put some money toward the purchase of the car. As we have all learned as adults, we tend to take better care of that which we have worked so hard to pay for.
Set some ground rules. Mine are simple, no eating in my car, no eating meals anywhere but the kitchen table, and kids' rooms must be in something resembling a presentable condition. I'm not asking for the white glove test or bouncing quarters off the sheets, but I'm not willing to accept the ubiquitous pig sty, either.
Get a job. That's a tough one in this economy, what with teens competing with out of work adults for even part time minimum wage gigs, but it can still be done. The most my oldest daughter could get was babysitting, and while that wasn't considered a "real job", she still made enough money to buy clothes she wanted and keep gas in her car.
Know who your teen is keeping company with. My ex wife thought it was strange that I had so many teenage girls on my Facebook friends list. I pointed out that they were friends of our daughters, and it was an excellent way to find out what kind of people they are and what sort of activities are going on. I was pleased to discover that, with one exception, my kids had made great choices in friends.
Be engaged, talk to your teen, find out what is going on in their lives and minds. It is possible to get good enough at this that your teen will want to talk to you. Good communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, so you want to make sure that you keep those lines open.
Be aware of any sudden changes in behavior, dress, hygiene, attitude, etc, as these can be troubling signs of other, more nefarious issues at work. Don't be afraid to ask if there is anything wrong. If you have established good communications as mentioned above, then this shouldn't be a problem.
Don't have unreasonable expectations. Teens are going to make mistakes, and quite often, they will be of epic proportions. And while they may learn something from them, they will also demonstrate a remarkable propensity for doing the exact same thing again.
Teenagers are most decidedly different and unique animals, almost as if God was in a particularly jovial frame of mind when He created them. You can however, succeed at the great American job of parenthood, if you keep your head, and especially if you stop to remember what a doofus you were during those years.
You'll do fine.