Some of these 5 crucial back to school teen parenting tips may surprise you. Your child will be having rollercoaster emotions and more than just academic challenges this year, so how do you prepare? You'll face as many teaching moments and have as many choices to make as your child will. How will you handle it? Can you set boundaries? Are you willing to listen when the news isn’t good. Can you let natural consequences be life’s best teacher? Here’s how you can be a better parent than I was.
My Terrible Teen Parenting
Sure, I was a good cook and provider. I was great at support and cheerleading, but I didn't excel because I had limited information. You could write a book about what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that kids lie. They lie. It’s a fact of life. Some teens lie about little things while some lie to protect you from fear and concerns. A few lie to do bad things and get away with murder. Knowing they lie doesn’t mean you have to punish them, it means you have to be aware that truth is not always part of the equation and act accordingly.
Teen Parenting Means Setting Boundaries
I also didn’t know I could challenge the lies and set boundaries. For example: I didn’t know it was my responsibility to check out backpacks and do drug tests when I suspected my kids were experimenting. Drug tests were unheard of then. Now any parent can do it. You can even ask your pediatrician to do it. Experimenting is no joke these days. It's less safe now than even a few years ago. Know that kids die from alcohol poisoning in both high school and college, from drug related accidents. Worse still, you don't have to be a heroin user to be at risk. Even one pill you shouldn't take can kill. On another subject, I didn’t know I could actually let my kids fail and have a good result. We are a family of successful long term recovery from many areas of dysfunction, including substance use. If I knew then what I know now, we would have avoided a lot of pain and recovered sooner. So here are my suggestions for parenting yourself and your teens this back to school season.
1. Know Your Parental Rights
You have the right to set boundaries about all kinds of things. In fact, your teens want you to guide them about what’s okay and not okay to do. If you don’t guide them, no one will. When kids have no boundaries, they will continue through life doing whatever suits them, regardless of how their actions affect those around them. Setting boundaries means you’re prepared to be the adult.
2. Challenge Your Teen's Lies
When you let your child's lies go unchallenged, they will get bigger as life progresses. You have the right and responsibility to know the truth and deal with it. Since kids lie about what they’re doing (and you’re responsible for their safety and yours), it’s okay to check up on them. You can be a detective when necessary. Check their rooms and backpacks, forbid drug and alcohol use in your home. Arrange for drug tests if you are suspicious. You have the right to make sure your home is a safe haven for you and your other children. If your kids don’t follow your rules, get counseling for yourself. You will need it.
3. Don't Protect Them From Failures
It’s natural to want to help your unmotivated or slacking kid. All parents want their children to succeed. If you have a child who isn’t thriving, there may be good reasons that need exploring. Anxiety, depression, problems at home, problems learning can all cause school work lethargy. But a lot of kids, so we hear, are just not that interested and see no reason to exert themselves. That leaves you with some decisions to make.
Failure can be a great motivator. As a parent you can only succeed as a guide and provider of resources. If your guidance isn’t a strong enough motivator, you have to examine your beliefs. Do you want to let your child slip slide through life? Slip sliding doesn't work in the real world. It will catch up with your child at some point. So, you have a right to let your loafer fail. Of course, get to the bottom of the problem first. If there isn’t a drug, relationship, emotional issue and your child just doesn’t want to bother, then let natural consequences take their course.
I used to say failure is not an option to my teens. That’s leaning in too far. I was wrong. Natural consequences can be life’s best teacher. You don’t have to support or pay school fees for a kid who wants nothing more than to party. Life without parental support can teach young people how to survive. Here is an area where you may need the counseling more than they do.
4. It's OK To Expect Return Calls
You have the right to hear from your teen at college. If your child doesn’t return your calls, set a boundary. You have the right to know your kid is all right. Schedule a weekly call to find out how schoolwork, relationships, and other aspects of life are going. If your kid is struggling with work or substances or anxiety or depression, be prepared to get counseling before a little problem becomes a big one.
5. Sometimes Your Kid Needs You To Just Listen
You want your kids to be able to come to you or advice and guidance, right? But for them to trust you, they have to feel confident you can take what they have to say and accept it as real. And you have resist trying to force solutions on them. Learning to listen is hard, maybe the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. Your child is going to be hurt, have problems, make mistakes, do things you wouldn’t do, and they have to learn from these life lessons. The tighter you control and impose your will, the more your kid will withhold and rebel.
Being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat without opinions. It means you have to listen first and make your actions and responses fit the situation. If your child needs a therapist, get one. Is your child being bullied? Talk to an expert. Is your child experimenting with substances? You need counseling for yourself to know what to do. If you’re horrified by what you hear, you can always say: Let me think about this and get back to you.
You don’t have to have all the answers and solutions. You just have to be willing to learn as you go.
Did you know the 12 Steps, which have helped millions find recovery, can also help teens and parents recover from family dysfunction? Check out our latest book, Find Your True Colors In 12-Steps.