Parenting: Setting The Bar For Appropriate Behavior 

Parents, do you know what age appropriate behavior is?  Do you know how to help your teen behave appropriately?  Do you know what kind of activities s/he should be doing?  Do you know how to be effective in enforcing rules?  Here are some suggestions.

First, remember you were once a teenager.  Try to remember what you experienced during that time.  What kinds of rules did your parents set?  What kinds of activities did they suggest to you? How did they encourage you?  Punish you?  How did you react?  What worked for you and what didn’t work?  I would suggest that you and your partner compare notes and figure out where you differ in terms of rules, bars, punishment, and successes.  Discuss how you might compromise and act as a team together—you don’t want your child playing you off against each other.

Second, get a recent child development book.  Find out what is developmentally expected for your teen.  You and your partner should discuss your teen.  What was s/he like as a child?  You want to look at strengths, weaknesses, temperament, interests, and so on.  Put the developmental schedule together with what you know of your child.  For example, is your child outgoing or shy?  Does your child need help in social relationships?  What worked for rewards and punishments for your child?  Are they appropriate for your teen?

This last point is crucial: Your teen is going to test you and her or himself.  You are often going to be the person your teen uses to test.  Your child is coming to sexual and physical maturity.  Are you going to be ready to address dating, sexual activity, possible substance abuse, physical activities that are potentially dangerous? Has your child succeeded in school enough so that you can trust her/him to engage in certain activities?

Your child may want to strike out on her or his own.  That cute little child who used to confide in you and tell you her or his most secret thoughts and feelings may clam up.  That cute little child may not know what s/he is feeling and change from one minute to another.  You need to learn to be patient and not get exasperated.  You and your partner need to give each other love and support while dealing with this stranger being in your house.

So I would suggest you be as clear as possible in your expectations and rules.  I would recommend that you sit down with your teen and explain your rules before you blow up.  I would recommend that you never use physical force or abusive language, no matter how far you feel pushed.  I recommend that you and your partner maintain a united front.  I suggest using punishment selectively and appropriately, and not for every incident.  Your teen is finding her/himself and needs you to be a model of composure and effectiveness.  I would suggest that you only allow yourself a few fights, ones that you believe that you can win while not chasing your child away.  Lastly, if you find that your family is still upset, take everyone in your family to a therapist. 

Remember this: You survived your teenage years and so will your teen!


One Response to “Parenting: Setting The Bar For Appropriate Behavior”

  1. I think this is especially true in the area of using spanking as a means of behavior modification. I’ve had parents actually try to stop a child from hitting a sibling by hitting the child in my office!
    Children learn far more by example than by words.

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