May, 22 2018
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Setting limits for your teens will help them in the long run
"Your TEEN will be offered drugs and alcohol at times throughout his or her middle school and high school years, even if your TEEN does not seek them out. In these situations it will be of tremendous help to your TEEN's decision-making if you have set clear limits, and if your TEEN can predict with certainty that when you set limits, you will always enforce consequences when those limits are broken," advises Dr. Tina Lepage, a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked with TEENS across the spectrum of alcohol and drug use.
"Many parents struggle with setting appropriate limits for their TEENS, determining appropriate consequences when TEENS break the rules and following through on enforcing consequences," Lepage says. "Particularly given the dangers inherent in alcohol and drug use by TEENS, it behooves parents to prepare themselves with these skills."
The earlier these limits are set, the easier the parent's job will be. If firm limit-setting is not your area of strength, here are three resources: 1. "Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Empowering Your TEEN and Yourself Through Kind and Firm Parenting," by J. Lott Nelsen; 2. "Setting Limits: How to Raise Responsible, Independent Children by Providing Clear Boundaries," by R.J. MacKenzie; and 3. "Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager: Seven Steps to Re-establish Authority and Reclaim Love," by S.P. Cells.
Also, we recommend that you seek out a therapist skilled in TEEN limit-setting.
Linda Hammock, a licensed professional counselor and certified addictions counselor, adds the following advice:
"One of our most important parenting jobs, now that our children are TEENS, is to set the rules and apply consequences when they choose not to honor them. That doesn't mean we don't expect them to ignore our rules from time to time and to test those limits.
"In fact, it is more likely that they will! In reality, messing up provides really important learning experiences. It forces them to be accountable by experiencing the consequences of their poor decisions and the rewards of their good decisions. It is the rules we set and whether we hold them accountable to them, which communicate our values and teach our kids how we believe they need to take care of themselves.
"One of the challenges our progressive community faces is that there are no community norms around our TEENS' behavior. There is no agreement as to whether kids should be using substances or not, no agreement as to what time is an appropriate curfew, no agreement about what level of supervision TEENS need or where they should be allowed to hang out. This forces each individual family to figure it out alone."
There are several ways to make sure limits are set. Here are some ideas.
Every family needs to develop their own set of expectations, rules, privileges, and consequences. It is much more effective if the six (or less) most important rules are written in the form of a contract with everyone's signature.
"I consistently recommend that parents choose zero tolerance for substance use as their No. 1 rule," says Hammock. "However, the parents choose the rules, the TEEN and parents negotiate the consequences and privileges that will be most meaningful and motivating to them. Written contracts that clearly state the rules, the consequences and the rewards up front are helpful."
Hammock advises that each rule should state a concrete goal, when and how often it will be monitored, a specific consequence for non-compliance and a specific reward or privilege for compliance.
A contract enables parents to stay calm when the TEEN makes poor choices because the tough decisions are already made. The parent's entire job becomes implementing privileges and consequences consistently.
Changes to the contract should only be made in family meetings with everyone present and calm. Parents should avoid reactive decisions in the heat of a crisis.
Parents today have much more power than they use. Parents are in charge of many privileges that can be earned for appropriate behavior. Too often parents forfeit their control by giving their TEENS the message they are entitled to these privileges without first requiring responsible behavior.
The opportunity to earn privileges is an excellent technique. Even if you can financially afford to indulge your teen, doing so is a disservice. Here are some privileges that can be awarded for responsible behavior and removed for irresponsibility:
-- Use of a cell phone
-- Phone use
-- Management of one's own money
-- Parental signature on work permit
-- Transportation to a job
-- Overnight stays at your house or at another teen's home
-- Friends visiting
-- TV use
-- Computer use
-- Weekend and evening social activities
-- Privacy. Yes, this should be earned with trustworthy behavior! Untrustworthy behavior can result in random searches of your TEEN's belongings. (This is not a violation of privacy if TEENS are making decisions that put them at risk when you are still responsible for them.)
-- Parental signature for off-campus lunch
-- Use of car to and from school
-- School parking space
-- Gas in the car
-- Transportation for social events
-- Use of a parent's car
-- Parental coverage of TEEN on family car insurance
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