Today more than ever with the advent of social media and the internet, structure is very important when it comes to raising teenagers! But, as our psychologist advises - there is a fine line between rules and strict limits that actually cause rebellion. Read her best parenting tips and rules for your teen that will still have them loving you at the end of the day!
Reasonable limits and rules for your teenager
1. How should parents go about setting rules and balance?
Our psychologist says: "If there's one thing that teens value it's the concept of fairness. Most teens will tell you that they expect rules to be fair and that they respond well to compromise. Your job as a parent is not to be a cool friend, but to set up boundaries in which your teen can comfortably grow. Before setting any house rules, I would strongly suggest that as a parent you have specific consequences set. Don't wait until your teen has broken a rule before suddenly pulling a consequence out of fresh air, as this will install the unfairness and cause rebellion. Rules and reasonable consequences go hand in hand and both should be discussed. Think of house rules as a treaty between two groups - both you and your teen need to draw up the 'contract' and be happy. By letting your teen know consequence ahead of time, they learn responsibility and feel empowered to change outcomes. The more specific the better: when you ask your teen to pick up all the mess off the floor, don't be surprised when it lands up dumped on the bed. Teens are big on specifics and will be fairly obtuse to make a point, so be detailed about expectations. When your teen makes the effort to break a negative pattern of behaviour, be sure to acknowledge the change by giving her more freedom and showing her that it is possible to rebuild trust. This positive reinforcement will encourage her to keep up the good work."
I recommend the following books to help you and your teen navigate through this time:
Teens Talk Growing up: This book supports and inspires teenagers as they grow up, and reminds them they are not alone, as they read stories written by other teens just like themselves, about the problems and issues they face every day. Another good read is Parenting teens with Love and Logic: Presenting a unique approach to dealing with the turmoil of adolescence, the authors recognize that teens learn best when they're allowed to make choices and learn from the consequences of their actions. The trick is in setting up choices so the consequences are constructive.
2. What about Pocket money?
Our psychologist says: "These days entertainment and novelties are expensive - whether it's a toy for a toddler or movie tickets for a teen. Pocket money should be age appropriate (so a 6 year old should not need the same as a 16 year old!) and you may have to help the little ones spend it responsibly. Decide on an amount that you think is fair and which fits into the family budget. It may also be a good idea to broach the subject at a school meeting to find out what other parents are giving their teens. Everyone needs to learn to live within a budget so don't break yours in order to give your teenager an amount that is difficult. Keep communication chanels open and find creative ways for your child to earn that extra pocket money needed! Allocate duties to each child (older than 6) that is compensated with pocket money to spend or save. This is key. Make saving in the home easy - you may want to set up a piggy bank or bank account for each child. Make sure your teen knows that the pocket money is hers to spend how she wishes - meaning if it's all blown on a pair of boots, then you will not step in to fund the temporary hair dye the next day. You can however have "extra chores" (babysitting siblings, helping you at the grocery store) that your teen may volunteer for, to earn extra cash."
3. What about curfew and friends?
Our psychologist says: "This is a tricky one - the teenager is pushing boundaries and trying to assert herself in her world. Any feelings of being manipulated or controlled are likely to backfire. Make sure that you don't come on too strong if you dislike one of her friends, as she is likely to just push back at you and resent your input. A good plan is to casually spend some time together and recount stories form your childhood (one where your not-so-great friend got you into some serious trouble). Again, this is showing consequence by means of a cautionary tale, without being too prescriptive. In this way you are saying you trust her, and that when the time comes she will know to make the right decisions. As far as curfew goes - it's all about compromise… you may try something along the lines of: she can stay out an hour later, on condition that you fetch her instead of her getting a lift with friends (much safer) and your teen is happy to get an extra hour out of it. Once again 'reasonable 'is a relative term where teenagers are concerned. Speak to other parents and your teenager's grade teacher to get an idea of what other parents feel is 'reasonable' - and then make your own decision. That way when your teen says 'But EVERYBODY is allowed to.....' then you can provide the voice of reason and say 'I know it feels like that but actually .....'
4. What about sleeping out?
Our psychologist says: "We all know the nightmare stories: your daughter's friend tells her mom she is sleeping at your house and vice versa, just like that a pair of teens get a night on the town with no chaperones! To avoid such cases, you either have to trust your teen implicitly or you have to call ahead and chat to the parents of the friend she is sleeping at. I would recommend the latter - you can always ask the other parents to keep mum about your call, but confirming whereabouts and plans is always a good idea. When teens sleep at your house, let your teen know they will have their privacy, but that having another child under your roof is a great responsibility for you and so house rules apply. You can even say that you will leave them alone, but the bedroom door stays open. Again, set rules before the sleepover, with both sides striking a balance."
5. What about piercings and tattoos?
Our psychologist says: "Sometimes as a teen hits eighteen they feel they need to mark their bodies to signal adulthood! In these cases, I would say that although it's legally permitted to get a tattoo - speak to your teen about the permanence of the gesture. Chances are the Chinese symbol she loves right now will not be in fashion next week and her tastes may change. Ask her if she still has her favourite record from 5 years ago - chances are it was replaced with something more "now". There are many non-permanent ways to express oneself - temporary hair dye, extensions, bindi's, henna tattoos, even a drastic hair style is less permanent. Piercings are less permanent but can leave scars especially on the face. Point out that nose rings tend to leave a hole like a blackhead (teens will take that into consideration). Never underestimate the power of vanity with your teen."
A note on depression and mood swings from our psychologist:
"As a psychologist I must mention that any signs of aggressive behaviour that come out of the blue or constant lying should be followed up - especially if it persists. Teens struggle with an enormous amount of pressure these days and teen depression is on the rise. Look out for any signs of depression such as a change in appetite, sleeping patterns, behaviour or an increased distancing from family and longer periods of withdrawal. You know your child best and should be able to spot any behaviour that is cause for concern. Should you be concerned, it is always best to consult a psychologist with a special interest in teenagers. Young adults and teens can also benefit greatly from natural anti-depressants that come with no risk of side effects or addiction. MindSoothe is a natural remedy that contains St. John's Wort - nature's very own anti-depressant without the risks of harmful side effects and dependancy. Click here for more info.