Teenagers (age 16-18 years)
Here’s where you get fired as the boss. If you've done a good enough job you get rehired as a trusted friend and advisor. If you continue to do a good job, your teen may well even take your advice.
It's appropriate for your teen to want to make her own decisions now, and to think for herself. And yet teens are still developing, and have widely varying levels of maturity. It can be a scary time for parents, especially those who don't yet trust their teen's judgment.
The most effective parenting strategy with teens is to focus on the relationship. Punishments just drive your teen away and make it less likely that you'll have the information about what's going on in his life that you need to be a good parent. The only leverage you really have with your teen is love.
It's appropriate for teens to be oriented more to their peers than their parents now, but kids who are well grounded in their families will respond well to parents' efforts to stay connected. And parents who have bonded adequately with their children at each earlier stage will feel invested enough in their teens to stay connected, even if a lot of effort is required.
In This Section
Positive parenting a teenager? A terrific teen who's responsible, considerate, shows good judgment, at least most of the time? Yes, it is possible! Here's your game plan.
Much of the same advice applies that was true when he was a toddler: Reconnect every day, and don't wait when you see there's repair work to be done. If we've accepted our child's dependency needs AND affirmed her development into her own separate person, she'll stay fiercely connected to us even as her focus shifts to peers, high school and the passions that make her soul sing.
Parents of teenagers frequently tell me that they no longer know how to connect with their children. I asked Elyse Suter, who had recently graduated from college and was working as my assistant, to write an article for the Aha! website with teen-tested ideas for parents.
My Aha! Parenting moment this week is about letting our kids take the lead. This is my son's first month at college...
Dr. Laura's book list for parenting teens.
More on Teens
The teen years are notoriously challenging for parents. Much like the toddler years, kids sometimes seem intent on doing exactly the opposite of what we ask, for some of the same reasons: Their job now is to find their sea legs as a person, to shape an identity, to sort out what's important to them. Their integrity would be compromised by simply doing what we ask because we ask it. They need to believe it's the right thing for THEM.
Parents are the most important influence on whether kids drink alcohol, and the earlier you start these conversations, the better. Kids whose parents teach them the risks of using drugs and alcohol are half as likely to use them. Don't wait until your kids are teens before you have these conversations. This is a topic you'll want to revisit over the years as your child reaches new levels of understanding -- and temptation.
I often get questions from parents unconvinced of the effectiveness of my parenting techniques. They ask questions like: “Does this stuff really work?” and “How do kids learn about consequences if they aren't punished?” Here is a piece by a real teen about her infractions, how her parents responded, and the effect on her moral and emotional development.
You’ve probably heard that having dinner together as a family is a good thing for your kids, but you may not realize that it could change your child’s life. Dinner is the best predictor we have of how kids will do in adolescence. The more frequently kids eat dinner with their families, the better they do in school, and the less likely they are to become sexually active, suffer depression, get involved with drugs or alcohol, or consider suicide.
Parents often tell me they don’t know where to begin to have a “real” conversation with their child. These questions will get you started. Rather than badgering your child with them, use one as the jumping off point for a two-way conversation. Start by asking your child the question, and listen to the answer, remembering to reflect back what she’s saying so she knows you understand.
Life is full of difficult discussions we need to have with our kids, from explaining to our four year old why Grandma died, to hearing from our ten year old that he was bullied on the playground, to confronting our sixteen year old about missing her curfew.
Eating disorders--as you probably know--are a serious risk factor for your child. Parents have a lot more power than they realize to prevent eating disorders. What can you do to prevent your child from developing an eating disorder? Help your child develop a healthy body AND a healthy body image.