This article is dedicated to all of us parents who have spent sleepless nights, countless hours, countless dollars, and unredeemable worries while contemplating our next strategy to help our teenagers get through another day. It is a necessity to understand that a child development approach to parenting a teen is important.
Do the following statements sound familiar?
“My mom is a control freak. She just won’t leave me alone.”
“My dad is so out of touch! He just doesn’t get it.”
“If my parents only knew what I was going through.”
“They don’t respect me for who I am, so I don’t respect them.”
Would your child say this sounds like you?
“It’s my job to be in control. That’s what parents do!”
“I’m out of touch because you don’t talk to me!”
“If you want to know what it’s like to go through something, come to work with me!”
“That’s the real world.”
“Respect is earned! Give respect and you will get respect!”
Are Parents Really In Charge?
Yes! … and no.
The truth is, you are in charge, but will your child accept that and honor your request? Many teenagers do not accept the fact that you not only have the moral obligation, but the legal obligation to be accountable for many of your teenager’s actions. For example, you may feel your sixteen your old is old enough to stay out past city curfew. Parents can face fines and be taken to court when a teenager breaks this law. You may choose to ignore your teenager’s wish to be truant from school. A court of law may hold you, the parent, legally responsible and even threaten to take your child away if you do not begin to exercise some control.
So, what do you do? Do you yell, scream and fight back? Do you become afraid? Should you show fear and retreat? It’s not easy. The fact is, you have to be in control while you give up control at the same time. The following paragraphs will explore and provide you with some parenting strategies and child development guides in being in control while you allow your teen to begin to become independent. One of the real keys to parenting a teen is balance and setting limits.

Using a Balance Approach and Setting Limits

Parents who take control and learn to become comfortable in making major decisions in regards to the welfare of their teen, while providing the teen with room to grow, is a parent using a balanced approach. A balanced approach to parenting includes making financial decisions for the teen while teaching financial responsibility. It includes saying “no” when it comes to safety issues, such as unsupervised internet usage, but “yes,” when it comes to an agreement on what, when, and where the internet will be used. Balanced parenting includes negotiation with limits.
“Yes, you may go to your friends house if the friend’s parents are home and I speak with the parents first.”
“No, you may not stay out past 11:00 p.m. because the city curfew law for your age is set at that time.”
“Yes, you may put poster in your bedroom, but the posters may not be offensive to anyone else in this family.”
Child development experts encourage parents to pick their battles. You may decide to give up on your teen’s messy bedroom, but put your foot down to her listening to music with inappropriate language. You may decide not to go to battle over your son wanting to pierce his ear. Instead, you are going to spend your energy on helping him give up smoking. Parents who gain control by giving up some control are balanced parents.

Setting Limits
Successful parenting involves setting limits. Teen survey after survey seems to indicate that they need and want set limits. Setting limits makes us all feel more secure. Can you imagine driving the freeways with no set speed limits? Most teens understand why schools have set limits or rules. These limits or rules are established the first day that school begins for one reason; to help everyone feel more secure. Below are some considerations to keep in mind while setting limits.
Setting limits favors the teen’s overall welfare, safety, and continual growth. While setting limits parents need to feel comfortable in standing behind what is set. Do the set limits reflect your teen’s age and maturity level? Setting limits does not mean that you’re not flexible. In fact, balanced parents are flexible.
It’s important to take in to account your child’s overall performance when setting limits. Some teens can handle and show good judgment while making decisions in regards peer relationships. The limits set here may be more relaxed.
Setting limits involves discussion. Parents who have regular family and individual meetings with their teen to set limits teach their child the importance of communication and responsible decision-making. Some discussions may involve negotiations. To negotiate means to come to agreement through discussion. Not everything is negotiable.
Open for Discussion and Negotiation
Time to be with friends
How you clean your bedroom
Study habits
Special occasion curfews
TV, telephone, and computer use
Not Open for Discussion and Negotiation
Use of Drugs and chemicals
Music with profanity
Attending school
Doing chores and helping around the house
Treating others and self with respect
Battles You May Skip with Your Teen: It’s Against the Law

Most, if not all, counties across the country have set limits and rules that you and your child have to follow. You do not have to battle your teen about these limits, but you do have a responsibility to help your child learn and follow these rules.
School Attendance: School attendance is mandatory across the country. Most states require that teenagers remain in school until the age of sixteen with some states making it mandatory until eighteen. State law is on your side on this matter. However, parents who are successful in setting limits also stay involved in their teen’s education by being aware of their child’s progress in school. Teens who have proven that they can achieve high academic standards set by their school can be given more responsibility. Poor academic performance by your teen may require more of your time checking progress reports, parent portals (internet connection to teacher’s records and grades), and communicating with teachers. Let your teen know that you care enough to stay involved, but not to the point of managing all their school affairs.
Curfew: Most counties and cities across the country have set limits for teens regarding curfew. Check with your local county office, police station, or school officials for curfew rules. These rules may also be found on most county Web sites.
Driving a Vehicle: State law and vehicle use regulations are set in each state across the country. You may pick up a set of these rules and regulations at any state motor vehicle-testing site, drivers education agencies, and school driver education programs.
Chemical and Drug Use: State and federal laws prohibits the use or consumption of alcohol by any teenager. Parents who allow their children to consume alcohol under the age of 21 may be held accountable for their child’s actions. It’s illegal to possess or distribute marijuana in the United States. Some states have set various amounts or weight limits in regards to prosecutable offenses. It’s also illegal to sell, use, or distribute prescription medication without medical doctor’s consent.
It’s important to let your child know that everyone has to follow these rules. It’s out of your hands. As parents, it’s important that we set an example by following and expecting our teens to follow these rules. Limits are not only set in our homes, they are set in our society.
It’s Not Against The Law, but…
Dating and Sexual Activity: Many parents have found out the hard way that “zero tolerance” rules regarding dating may only lead a teen into secrecy and zero communication. Be open, honest and realistic with your teen when it comes to dating. It would be better for your teen to agree to introduce you to their boy or girlfriend than to secretly work behind your back. It was once thought that girls have “more to lose” than boys when it comes to dating. But, the fact is that many boys are now being emotionally abused and it’s just as important for parents to communicate with their son regarding dating issues, as it is their daughter. Some school surveys are indicating that date rape is occurring at a rate of 1 to 5 with girls between the ages of 16 to 21 years of age.
It’s important that every parent convey his or her thoughts, moral beliefs and concerns that they may have regarding teen sexuality. It appropriate to teach your child that there’s a time and place for everything in life. It’s important to recognize that sexuality may be one of the ultimate expressions of intimacy and love. However, sex can be dangerous.
An unwanted pregnancy, venereal disease or exploited sexual experiences occur often with teens that lack parental guidance. Most schools have human growth and anatomy curriculums that begin as early as 5th grade to help teach your child the basic facts of human sexuality. Whether you agree or disagree with the curriculum is not as important as your taking the time to discuss this issue with your teen. Research indicates that nearly 50% of all teens are sexually active by the time they graduate from high school. The American Medical Association reports the following:
Each year, roughly 1 million teenage girls get pregnant in the United States.
The average age of first sexual intercourse is 16.
Approximately 20% of teenagers smoked pot in the last month.
50% of all 8th grades and 80% of all 12th graders have tried alcohol.
These statistics make it even more important to have conversations with our teens. You do not have to be a “Parent of the Year” to have a discussion with your teen regarding your feeling about teenage sex. Before you hold a discussion with your teen regarding sexuality, its appropriate to consider your values, feelings and level of comfort. You may also want to take the time to consider and reflect on these important points as well:
1) It’s appropriate and normal as a parent to reflect back on your teen sexuality before you discuss your feelings with your teen. It’s not as important to share your experiences, as it is to recognize how you feel about them before you speak with your child. Get your feeling under control and ask yourself what is best for your child before you begin.
2) Be honest. It’s appropriate to share your concerns regarding AIDS. But, also share the positive experiences that can occur when one is mature enough to make this personal decision. Write down some talking points before you begin the discussion.
3) Become educated on the facts. Meet with a trained representative from your child’s school, religious organization, medical field or community agency that will provide you with information regarding the current issues facing teen sexuality.
4) Share your feelings regarding this issue with your spouse or significant other. Many parents have a difficult time discussing this topic with their teen. Discussing your feelings with another adult that you trust is important before you share with your teen. The adult you share with may provide you with valuable feedback in regards to your objective and subjective feelings.
5) No parent is 100% ready to discuss sexuality with their teen. Just remember this, no talk is just that, no talk. Give yourself and your teen a chance. The first conversation may be short, argumentative and not what you intended. It may, however, have gone better than you expected. Either way, congratulate yourself for trying!
Telephone and Internet: The telephone and Internet use, especially instant messaging, programs like MySpace.com and other messaging programs has become a real battle for some parents. Some elementary children are now demanding their own cell phone from their parents. More and more schools are establishing policies and procedures against the use electronic devices in school. Here are some practical tips in helping your teen learn to act responsibly with today’s communication technology:
Set time limits. “You may use the phone from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. after your homework is complete.”
Parents should always be aware of the Internet programs that their teens are using. Many parents have their computer in a room that is public and open for everyone to see.
Become knowledgeable and stay current with the new trends in communication technology. Ask your child to share what they know about the Internet, what the school rules include, what consequences will occur if an Internet rule is broken. Your Internet rules at home can be aligned with those set up at your school. For example, children are not allowed to go into chat rooms at school.
Be aware that your child may be using another computer, phone and other devices in other people’s homes when parents are not present. You may want to discuss this with the parents of the children that your teen is with, or set a rule that your teen may not go into homes that don’t have a parent present.
Hold a discussion with your teen. Listen to their thoughts and concerns regarding phone and Internet privileges. Discuss the dangers and misuses of these devices.
Child development and parenting are important topics! Even though the task may not be easy, many parents have succeeded in raising a healthy, respectful teen. You can too!

Author's Bio: 

Scott Wardell is the SelfGrowth Official Guide to Child Development. He’s the creator and author of ScottCounseling.com. Scott has twenty-eight years in education and counseling experience. Visit ScottCounseling.com to review hundreds of free parenting articles and receive online counseling services.

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