Guidelines for responding to your kids' behaviors.
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How Should I Respond to my Preteen’s or Teen’s Normal Behavior?
 
As I wrote last week, knowing what’s within the wide range of “normal” behavior for preteens and teens helps us spend more time enjoying them and less time worrying. It also gives us a sense of when we might need to get some professional help for the kid or the family. Very importantly, it helps us respond in ways that avoid damaging our relationship and produce rebellion. Listed below are just a few contrasts between helpful and unhelpful responses:
 
Helpful Responses
   Listen to their opinions—display respect and love even if you disagree.
 
   Trust that they will eventually become very much like you if you maintain a good relationship.
 
   Encourage them to take on more responsibilities, such as managing their own money, getting ready for school on their own, working things out with teachers/coaches, etc.
 
   Talk about your political and religious views when they can overhear you talking with others. Keep the tone positive and constructive, interwoven with love for others. Love them the same regardless of what they decide about these topics.
 
   Do your best to live according to your values. Admit when you fall short of doing so. Be real.
 
   Provide lots of supervision done with an attitude of love and concern. Try not to leave them alone at home. Require that they come with the family on almost all outings.
 
   Get to know their friends and build relationships with them.
 
   Have regular meals together.
 
   Expect them to serve the family by completing their fair share of contributions.
 
   Allow them to drive when they are old enough, they have paid at least half of the cost, and they are good at following the rules of the home.
 
   Provide factual information about sex, including the risks. Do so with empathy and an attitude of high expectations for them. Point out that the people who wait until marriage usually have a lot fewer things to worry about as preteens, teens, and young adults.
 
   Have them set a reasonable curfew. “Reasonable” is the key. This can be different every night that they go out, but generally it shouldn’t be any later than 10 p.m. If they refuse to be reasonable, set the time for them and make it early.
 
   Set significant limits over technology use. Do so by saying, “I allow the use of digital devices when it doesn’t hurt our relationship. This includes causing me to worry about you.”
 
Unhelpful Responses
   Argue with them and try to set them straight.
 
   Worry constantly about their new attitudes.
 
   Rescue and get overly involved in things that they can do for themselves.
 
   Lecture them in an effort to make them believe what you believe. Let them overhear you being uncaring and critical of others.
 
   Hold higher standards for them than for yourself.
 
   Make the mistake of thinking that they no longer need as much supervision as they used to.
 
   Ignore their friends or treat them like “bad influences.”
 
   Let them “do their own thing” and never expect them to spend time with the family.
 
   Allow them to avoid their chores.
 
   Allow them to drive with no restrictions.
 
   Give them no information about sex, or just resign yourself to the notion that “every teen is doing it.” Allow coed sleepovers and let them go to houses where these are probably happening.
 
   Let them come home at night at whatever time they like. (Through this, you will demonstrate that you don’t really care what’s going on in their lives.)
 
   Let them spend most of their time on their devices without supervision. Allow them to bond more with their screens than with you. Spend more time watching your screen than watching and enjoying being with them.
 
Always remember the big picture during this period of their development—the most important factor affecting the adjustment of our teens and preteens is the quality of our relationship with them. Remember that they still want us in their lives, but that they are also determined, like preteens and teens worldwide, to act like they don’t.
 
Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.
 
Dr. Charles Fay

 
 


 
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