10 Parenting Tips for Raising Teenagers

1. Give kids some leeway. Giving teens a chance to establish their own identity, giving them more independence, is essential to helping them establish their own place in the world. 


2. Choose your battles wisely. Doing themselves harm or doing something that could be permanent (like a tattoo), those things matter.  Purple hair, a messy room -- those don't matter. Don't nitpick.


3. Invite their friends for dinner. It helps to meet kids you have questions about. You're not flat-out rejecting them, you're at least making an overture. When kids see them, see how their friends act with their parents, can get a better sense of those friends.


4. Decide rules and discipline in advance. If it's a two-parent family, it's important for parents to have their own discussion, so they can come to some kind of agreement, so parents are on the same page. Whether you ban them from driving for a week or a month, whether you ground them for a week, cut back on their allowance or Internet use -- whatever -- set it in advance. If the kid says it isn't fair, then you have to agree on what is fair punishment. Then, follow through with the consequences.


5. Discuss checking in. Give teens age-appropriate autonomy, especially if they behave appropriately.  You need to know where they are. That's part of responsible parenting. If it feels necessary, require them to call you during the evening, to check in. But that depends on the teen, how responsible they have been.


6. Talk to teens about risks. Whether it's drugs, driving, or premarital sex, your kids need to know the worst that could happen.


7. Give teens a game plan. Tell them: "If the only option is getting into a car with a drunk driver, call me -- I don't care if it's 3 in the morning." Help them figure out how to handle a potentially unsafe situation, yet save face. Brainstorm with them. Come up with a solution that feels comfortable for that child.


8. Keep the door open. Don't interrogate, but act interested. Share a few tidbits about your own day; ask about theirs. How was the concert? How was the date? How was your day? Another good line: "You may not feel like talking about what happened right now. I know what that's like. But if you feel like talking about it later, you come to me."


9. Let kids feel guilty. Feeling good about yourself is healthy. But people should feel bad if they have hurt someone or done something wrong. Kids need to feel bad sometimes. Guilt is a healthy emotion. When kids have done something wrong, we hope they feel bad, we hope they feel guilty.


10. Be a role model. Your actions -- even more than your words -- are critical in helping teens adopt good moral and ethical standards. If they have a good role model from early on, they will be less likely to make bad decisions in their rebellious teen years.