Over the next few weeks, many teenagers will start High School. There will be many changes for them and for you as a parent. As your teen enters high school they are also starting to enter the adult world. This is now a time for them to start to take on new responsibilities and to consider the reputation they are creating for themselves. As parents your responsibility is to help guide them, not tell them exactly what to do. It is important that the teen develop life skills on their own. You will not always be there as the parent to help.
The first step is for you to allow them to earn your respect. Explain that they are no longer little kids, that they are now young adults, and part of being an adult is earning people’s respect. You also have to be prepared to respect them and allow them to be young adults and not treat them like little children. This does not mean you are giving up control. Your teen still needs you for money, permission to do things at school and to sign the consent for the all important driver’s permit. So relax, you still have all the control you need.
The first place to start with respect is their rooms. Allow them to have their rooms as their own private space. Do not worry if it is dirty or if their are clothes all over, it is their space and they have the right to live in it how they choose. Set the limits that as long as you can close the door and there are no odors coming from their room, you will respect their privacy. If these agreements are broken, then you have the right to go in and clean as you like. You also have the right to inspect the room if there are obvious signs of drug use. As a parent you have to balance your teen’s right to privacy, but at the same time you need to ensure their health and safety.
Homework is another big area of concern. Make your life easy. Set a minimum GPA such as 3.0 or 2.0 based on your teen’s ability and then allow your teen to manage their homework. If they ask for help, obviously help them. If they do not, let them handle their homework until progress reports and grades come out. You need to have an agreement as to what will happen if they fail to maintain the minimum GPA set and they never ask for help. If they fail to maintain the minimum GPA, then the consequences you agreed to are implemented. The consequences occur not because you are being mean, they occur because the teen failed to live up to their part of the agreement – they made the choice. This is important to reinforce so you are not labeled the bad guy and the teen learns a lesson in making choices.
Finally, you and your teen need to sit down a draw up a contract concerning the house rules, school performance and your expectations regarding their behavior in general. If you have it in black and white and there is a conflict then all you need to do is refer back to the contract and the problem is resolved. It is very important that you abide by the contract too. So you cannot increase a consequence, if you agreed to something else already with your teenager. It is essential that you honor your word. If you want your teen to be responsible, you must be responsible.
One last thing – no one is perfect. If you make a mistake, model appropriate behavior and apologize. If your teen makes a mistake and comes to you right away to apologize, thank them for their honesty and compliment them on their maturity. Remember, they want to know that they are important in the world. By treating them with respect and as maturing adults you are validating the fact that they are important and loved and you are encouraging them to keep trying.
Obviously, it is not always that easy and there are various parenting situations. The above suggestions are a guideline to get started with as your teen enters high school.
Dr Michael Rubino is an expert in providing psychotherapy to teenagers and their parents. He has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. For more information on Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.