Limits and rules are necessary to create
order and productivity, the lack of which create chaos and confusion. Rules
provide the basis of understanding for what is expected, whether in the
workplace, classroom, community or family. If a classroom had no rules,
very little learning would occur. If a community operated without rules,
it would cease to be a safe place to live. Likewise, if harmony is to be
maintained within the family, there must be a proper set of family rules,
understandings or expectations that are based on your family values.
your teen is usually compliant and responsible, you will probably only
need to have a few rules. However, if you are dealing with a difficult
or defiant teen, you are already familiar with the need for a more defined
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SETTING CORE RULES -
When setting rules, you want to identify
some basic core rules and then support the core rules by establishing several
small preventive rules. For example:
If you have a core rule of "Don't use
drugs," then you will want to set some preventive rules such as WHO
your teen may associate with, WHAT types of activities are allowed,
WHERE your teen is allowed to go, and WHEN your teen may
go as well as when he or she is expected to return. It would be foolish
to think your teen could hang out at the wrong places or associate with
drug-using friends and remain drug free. (see Is
My Child A Substance Abuser?
When you create preventive rules along
with your main core rules, it provides your teen with the greatest amount
of protection. It also allows you to be involved so that you can be aware
of problems early and resolve them before they become overwhelming.
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VERIFYING YOUR TEEN'S PLANS -
One way to keep tabs on your teen is to
take the time to verify all of your teen's plans. If your teen says she
is going to spend the night at her friend's house, then get the phone number
and call the friend's parents to make sure that the friend's parents know
about these arrangements and have okayed this plan. It is amazing how many
kids walk out the door and say, "Bye, I'm spending the night at Mary's;
see you in the morning," and then head off to a drug or alcohol party or
a rave because their parents never bothered to double-check their arrangements.
In my experience, most parents who receive these types of calls from another
parent are actually very happy to see that you are concerned enough about
your child's welfare to verify his or her arrangements. This also gets
the parents working together on their teens' behalf. Groups of parents
who are united in maintaining the safety and welfare of their children
can be a powerful force for a teen to reckon with.
One thing I should point
out is that if you have any suspicions about whether or not you are really
talking to a parent when you make your phone call (I have had situations
where my teen's friends got on the line and pretended to be a parent),
then either visit the house and talk to the parent directly or veto your
teen's plans and make him/her stay home. If your teen knows that you will
check every plan she makes, she will be a lot less likely to make plans
you don't approve of or to end up in a place she should not be.
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ESTABLISHING WRITTEN RULES -
In order to clarify your rules and make
sure that there is no misunderstanding or excuses regarding rules you set,
consider writing up a Home Rules Contract with a teen which clearly states each rule the teen is to follow. Many times, having the teen do the rough draft
of a home contract for himself can provide structure for your teen that
he will agree with since he helped to set it up.
Rules in a home contract should be clearly written, not too overbearing, and should be discussed
thoroughly so that there is no question as to the meaning of the rule. If the contract is too punitive and restrictive, your teen may be overwhelmed by this new contract rather than helped by it.
Sometimes, a teen will want to put responsibility on you in a home contract.
For example, a younger teen might ask for a stipulation in the contract
that states that if he does all his chores for the week without a lot of
fuss, in exchange you will drive him to the movies or roller skating on
Friday night. As long as you are okay with your teen going to the movies
and roller skating and also approve of the friends he might see at these
places, this is generally a fair arrangement for a teen and parent to enter
Conflict is inevitable with difficult or defiant teens. Consistently addressing and resolving conflicts over small issues, such as homework, dress, grooming and curfew, is your best preventive measure to avoid the large, devastating issues such as teen
pregnancy, substance abuse and failing grades. "Take care of the small
things, and the big things will take care of themselves," really applies
when it comes to administering rules.