I have two teenagers at home, and as a single mother, it can be challenging deciding where to draw the line between freedom and boundaries. My daughter is 15 and my son will be 13 in May. They’re both wonderful children and we rarely have any problems with communication or rebellion. I have some tips to help other parents who aren’t sure how much freedom is too much.
Does your teen know what the rules are in your home? What you as a parent expect from them? This is the best place to start and keep it simple. Pick your battles. For instance, in our home the rules are pretty easy to follow. Treat others with respect (takes care of cussing, fighting, being polite, and being helpful), keep your room clean and homework done if you want to go out with your friends, do not lie for any reason, and talk about your problems before they get too big to handle alone. I have always believed in talking to my children rather than punishing them. Saying, “I’m not angry with you, I’m really disappointed,” seems to work better.
I do allow my 15-year-old daughter to date, because we’ve had many conversations on what is appropriate at such a young age. She understands that while she feels more grown up, she is in fact still growing and learning. We talk about consequences of engaging in risky behavior, but I also make sure that she is well supervised if she is with a young man. Just speaking to other parents who have the same values that you do can be a great help. If she wants to spend time with a boy, they have to be in a public place, in the living room, or at a school event, like a football game. Make sure that where dating is concerned, you are strict in where the date takes place, but allow enough freedom for your child to begin dating when you feel they are mature enough.
On school nights I don’t care if my children are 12 or 17. Bedtime is 10 o’clock because we get up at six a.m. each day. That provides eight hours of sleep which everyone needs in order to promote good health. On weekends, I am a little more flexible with their curfew. I set an appropriate time for whatever activity they’re doing. For instance, my daughters church had an activity that kept the kids out until almost one a.m., but I felt comfortable with that because I knew the counselors. Try to get your kids into activities and groups that promote good behavior and you will most likely feel more comfortable with them being out late.
My daughter went through a lying phase when she was 13 that I thought would drive me crazy. She lied about little things and I couldn’t seem to get through to her. It got to the point that I took away her phone, iPod, computer, television, and only allowed her to go to church activities. At first she was angry, but then when she was ready to listen, we had talks about how difficult it is to regain trust. We also discussed why she felt it was necessary to lie and I discovered that she was lying about little things that she thought I would get upset about. She wanted more freedom and I was being a little overprotective. We talked about the issues and negotiated by landing somewhere in the middle that made us both happy. If you have a teen who’s fibbing to you; you have to stop it immediately and be very clear that it’s unacceptable.
It’s hard to admit that your children are growing up and may need a little more freedom. A healthy attitude towards this fact can improve the relationship with your teen. I explain it to my children in this way; Everyone makes mistakes while they are growing up. It’s a process of trial and error and learning from your mistakes. As a teen, you may not always know what to do in certain situations you’ve never faced before, but that’s why you have parents. To help you, to give you advice with your best interest at heart, and to help you through the times where you feel unsure. I tell my children to think of school as their job. If you don’t try or show up late you’re going to get fired. As a parent, you know that you’ve been a success if your children are somewhat independent and ready to spread their wings. The trick is to catch them before they fall too far and to let them save themselves when they can.
Just remember to set rules that are reasonable, allow your child to grow as a person, have a little freedom as long as they are honest and trustworthy, and allow them to make mistakes that they can learn from. Above all, always show your children that you love them enough to have rules and make them listen. If you didn’t care what they did you wouldn’t be worth anything as a parent. Listen instead of doing all the talking and give your child the respect you want them to give you. Teenagers are tricky but if you can establish a relationship where good behavior is rewarded and cherished, you’ve already tackled the biggest hurdle.