One of the things I work on with parents of teens is expectations. I often find that parents assume teens “just know” what is expected of them at home, at school, and in the community. It turns out that teenagers often do not know what is expected of them short of, “Be a good person,” “Do well in school,” and “Don’t do drugs.”
It is important that teens know what you expect of them. It is also important that they know what will happen if they fall short of your expectation. If your teen breaks a rule of yours, the consequence should be known ahead of time. As a parent, this will also help you not be “too emotional” when a rule is broken. Here’s an example:
Your teen arrives home two hours past curfew. The first assumption I am making is that you had an agreed-upon curfew. My second assumption is that you discussed consequences of broken curfew before your teen left for the evening. Assuming you discussed consequences ahead of time, you know exactly what to do when they come home:
- Wait to discuss consequences until the next day.
- Remind your teen of your already-agreed-upon consequence the following morning. The reason this is easier on parents is that you are not expected to come up with a consequence when you are angry. If you come up with a consequence when you are waiting for your teen (at 1:00 in the morning) you will likely come up with a consequence that is too severe. After all, you’re upset! A few days in to enforcing the consequence, you will realize the consequence was too extreme, and stop enforcing it. This will teach your teen that your consequences will not be followed through and that if they beg to get off consequence you will probably give in (because after all, extreme consequences also consequence parents!).
- Your message as a parent is: I love you, I was worried about you, I do not support the decision you made to stay out past curfew, and you have chosen to be on ___________ consequence for __________ amount of time.
These interactions don’t have to be ugly! You want to maintain connection with your teen during these teaching moments.
How do you stay connected when your teen has broken a rule or pushed a boundary?