Tuesday, October 19, 2010


People who know me are sometimes shocked by what my teenagers tell me. And I have sons- who usually get through the day with a few grunts and a point. It's not just my kids either, it's other teenagers that wander in to my home. Usually stopping by to scrounge up something to eat, but sometimes it's for an emotional safe haven. Somewhere they can ask questions they say they can't ask their parents, or to have someone listen without judgement. Here are the rules that I follow to build a good, trusting relationship between you and your teenager.


1. THOU SHALL NOT GASP. When your teen is talking to you, you may hear things that are gasp-worthy. Resist the impulse. If you hear something that makes you uncomfortable, take a breath and ask a question- casually. Gasp and you erase the trust.

2.THOU SHALL BECOME AWARE OF WHAT I AM CONVEYING NONVERBALLY. 90% of communication is non-verbal. Look at your tone, your pacing, your expression. Embody calm, openness, and empathy

3. THOU SHALL NOT BELITTLE OR DISMISS. It's too easy for us to brush off the issues that concern our kids. Supposedly, adults have "real problems". Not true. Remember what it felt like to be in 8th grade? Would you go back to that for any amount of money in the world? What is going on in their lives is important to them, therefore needs to be important to us. Remember to explain, not condescend.

4. THOU SHALL TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD MY TEEN'S CONFIDENCE AND SELF WORTH. This may not mean what you think it does- like pouring on the praise. There is a place for that absolutely. But what about giving them the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them? How about empowering them by giving them more responsibility incrementally to boost their self reliance?

5. THOU SHALL NOT TRY TO FIX EVERYTHING. Allow your teen a safe place to fall after a difficult situation. Remind them that they will learn much more by learning to come up with their own solutions rather than have you run in and save the day. The goal is to guide more and do less as they get older.

6.THOU SHALL NOT TRY TO BECOME MY TEEN'S BEST FRIEND. Your kid has friends, they need parents. They need boundaries to feel safe. Believe it or not, you are still your teen's number one influence.

7.THOU SHALL TRUST BUT VERIFY. Check up on your kid's whereabouts occasionally and make sure they are where they say they are. Email teachers and find out if there are any issues you need to be aware of. Yes, ask them to show you the pictures on their phone and Facebook. Make them come in to your room after going out at night and notice possible signs of alcohol or drug use.

8. THOU SHALL STAY INVOLVED. Get to know your teen's friends. Talk often about sex, alcohol, drugs, internet safety, relationships and self esteem. Even "good kids" with good grades ARE having sex, drinking and smoking pot. Grades are not always a barometer of high risk behavior

9. THOU SHALL BE A GOOD EXAMPLE. Just because your teen may physically look like an adult, does not mean they are mentally and emotionally. They are watching everything you do, and are using your behavior as an indication of what is ok and what's not. Kids do as you do, not as you say.

10. THOU SHALL NOT BELIEVE TEEN WHEN THEY PUSH YOU AWAY. Kids want you to care. Do not believe claims of "It doesn't matter", "Don't worry about it", or "No one else's parents are going." Part of being a teen is to distance from parents in order to grow, but not when it comes to love and support. Hug often, speak lovingly and praise thoughtfully. That, they will need forever.