In his quest for independence, your teen may test your patience by challenging your authority, questioning or even breaking your rules. While you may see eye to eye with him physically, it can be a challenge to remember that while your teenager looks like an adult on the outside, he is still developing on the inside. His growing brain and changing hormones can affect decision making, risk taking and relationships, explains Child Welfare. At this stage, parents often find it necessary to rethink rules, communication, expectations and discipline.
Your teen is more likely to follow the rules if she is involved in the process of setting them and determining the consequences for not following them, explains the publication "Promoting Healthy Families in Your Community," from Child Welfare, a division of the U.S. government. The publication adds that rules should be less about controlling her and more about keeping her safe and healthy, and teaching her to get along in the world. Choose your battles wisely, limiting rules to important issues such as curfews, homework, household chores and driving safety, suggests the website Keep Kids Healthy.
Share ideas, information and opinions with your teen on a daily basis, suggests Kids Health, listening carefully and making sure that he knows you are actively interested. Ask questions that go beyond short, one-word answers and seek opportunities to communicate about things that he is interested in, such as sports and school activities. Take advantage of time in the car to talk about social and moral issues, listening to his opinions while sharing your own. Understanding that you respect his opinions even if they conflict with yours will help your teen respect your rules even if he doesn’t agree with them.
If your parenting style can be defined as either “strict” or “permissive,” the Healthy Children website suggests shifting to a middle ground. Teens need rules and discipline, but to avoid battles and frustration, parents should pick their battles wisely. Provide choices in matters such as hairstyle or clothing, which are not as important as rules critical to health and safety, recommends the Child Welfare website. Allow your teen to gradually earn more freedom, revisiting expectations regularly and redefining, clarifying and tweaking rules, as needed.
Breaking the rules has to come with consequences in order to have any impact on your teen’s behavior, and there are a variety of strategies to consider. Natural consequences for her actions may be the way to go, suggests Keep Kids Healthy. Don't replace your teen's valuable item if it was lost or stolen because she broke the rules about using it. There can be logical consequences of not being able to drive the car if she forgets to put gas in it. Regardless of the strategy, communicate the rules and consequences clearly to your teen and be constant. Sending mixed signals is not only confusing, it can weaken the respect your teen has for you as a parent.