For Parents

Young Teens Need New Rules

                Just when you thought you’d raised a happy, confident and cooperative child, all of a sudden he or she turns cranky, clumsy, and combative.

                Congratulations! You are probably the parent of a completely normal young teen. Now what do you do?

                First, relax. Remember when you brought your baby home from the hospital? Everything was new to you. You worried about making mistakes. You wondered how you would manage.

                But you made it this far. Now, if you hang on to your sense of humor and your sense of adventure, you and your child can manage the madness and capture the magic of middle school.

                It won’t be easy. There will be lots of changes, conflicts and contradictions along the way. One minute you’ll see an immature child, and the next an emerging adult.

                However, your young teen is neither. He or she is a unique creature who demands an entirely different set of rights and rules.

Here are some ways to conquer the challenges ahead:

  • Tell your child often that you love him or her. Make eye contact with your child.
  • Build a network of others who have preteens and teens.
  • Listen to your child when he or she talks to you or others. You may learn a lot more by listening than if you ask 20 questions.
  • Share your values and expectations. Don’t preach.
  • Establish rules for the five or six most important areas of your child’s life. Set reasonable and relevant consequences that you and your child agree to in advance.
  • Define early and clearly nondebatable issues such as curfews, attending unsupervised parties or participating in dangerous activities.
  • Accept that not all of your child’s problems are your problems- fights with their friends are their battles.
  • Don’t argue with an irritable middle schooler.
  • Try not to blow up at your child; apologize if you do.
  • Respect your child’s need for privacy.
  • Don’t embarrass or correct your child in front of peers.
  • Allow your child to make decisions-and mistakes-about clothing, friends or extracurricular activities.
  • Never-ever-give up. It might not feel like it, but your child needs you more now than ever.
  • Laugh with and enjoy your child.

And remember today’s milestones-and mistakes-are molding tomorrow’s adults.