Just like younger children, teenagers need consistency, stability and defined rules by which to live. When you establish the house rules, you are clearly defining what you expect from your teen and what the consequences are for breaking those rules. Such rules should help your household run a bit smoother and create a more respectful atmosphere for everyone.
Respect and Personal Space
Teenagers and parents sometimes don’t see eye-to-eye. By mutually agreeing to uphold respect for each other, you can maintain some consideration for each other as a person. With this house rule, both of you must agree to think about each others' feelings and thoughts, listen to each others' point of view even if you don’t agree and to use respectful words toward each other. Let him know that you trust him and will give him privacy and respect his personal space if he follows the rules and makes good choices. Also point out that poor choices, such as smoking or using drugs, may warrant a revision of this rule. The Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children's Hospital Boston states that an impromptu room search is acceptable for occasions such as this.
Your chatterbox adolescent may have turned into a barely-speaking-to-you teen over the years. When you’re discussing the household rules and your expectations, include communication. Establish a rule that he must have at least one meal per day with the rest of the family. This at least brings him into one room and will hopefully open up family discussions. On top of family meals, let your teen know that you are always there to talk and if he wants or needs anything to let you know.
Some teens choose to let schoolwork fall behind or don’t consider it as a priority as they get older, although some teens do keep at it. Establish the rule that his homework should be done every night and assign a specific time to work on it, such as after dinner. If he doesn’t complete the homework or hand items in on time, enforce some consequences. If you see an improvement in his grades or assignments, you should verbally praise this and maybe offer a reward.
An assigned curfew establishes your expectation of when he should be at home. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a curfew of 7 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 to 10 p.m. on weekends for 12 and 13 year olds, 8 to 9 p.m. and 10 to 11 p.m. for 14 to 16 year olds, and 10 to 11 p.m. and 12 to 1 a.m. for 17 year olds or older. Special event nights should be taken into consideration and are negotiable. Consequences should be enforced for not following this rule.
Rewards keep your teen motivated to complete chores or stay on task. An allowance or privileges can be offered. The Kids Health website suggests giving a weekly allowance of $.50 to $1 per year of age. However, offer what’s financially feasible for your family. Privileges can be having a friend over, television time or a later curfew on the weekend. Verbally praise your child’s positive behavior and accomplishments frequently -- just make sure it’s genuine and not over the top.
Brainstorm the consequences when you are talking about rewards and write them down. When your teen breaks a house rule, AAP recommends that you wait to enforce a punishment until you have both calmed down so neither one of you says something you don’t mean and can’t take back. You should stick to short-term consequences, such as additional household chores or losing privileges for the day or several days, not a month. The trick is to be consistent with enforcing the house rules, not just sporadically, and help your teen see the lesson in the mistake so he doesn’t do it again.
- HealthyChildren.org: General Rules for Disciplining Teens
- HealthyChildren.org: Methods of Punishment for Teens
- HealthyChildren.org: Curfews and Bedtimes for Teens
- HealthyChildren.org: Allowance for Teens
- Kids Health: Allowance Basics
- Parenting with Love and Logic; Foster Cline, M.D., et al.
- Reader’s Digest: 11 Rules for Raising Teenagers
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images