Eventually, our teen tries stuff. They lie, they experiment with drugs, booze, sex, porn and many, many other normal and annoying teen behaviors. When we find the red solo cup, or the beer pong balls, or discover they have partied at our house - we can be ready instead of devastated. Below is a short list of ways to handle the bad behavior, WHILE keeping the connection with our beloved teen.
Logical Consequence: Logical Consequences are something we set up with our teen on a topic that has been repeated. The consequence includes these 5 “R’s”. Related, Respectful, Responsible, Reasonable, Revealed in Advance (meaning we don’t spring this on our teen in a moment of exasperation). Logical consequences do not include: shame, blame, pain, or humiliation. Now, the teen might feel pain or humiliated, BUT we do not try MAKE them FEEL anything in particular. We are always looking for ways to promote responsibility and respect. For example, teen is over 30 minutes late for curfew on Friday, they don’t go out Saturday night. Next weekend they can try again. They might feel humiliated when they have to tell their friends, it might be painful to stay home, AND we are not concerned with that, we are concerned with upholding a limit with mutual respect
Solve the Problem: Define the problem (consider whether this might actually NOT be OUR problem - grades, social life, their bedroom, their money), brainstorm options, consider and choose a solution, try it for a trial period - then talk again - did it solve the problem? Problem solving takes more time then punishing, dictating or yelling, AND problem solving is very relationship building. Just a parent and a teen listening to each other define the problem is a way to get to know each other better, to expand our understanding and empathy. I can assure you, middle aged people see problems VERY differently then teens. I can also assure you, teens are good problem solvers -they are creative, they are willing to try new things and most of them have a very developed sense of justice (I’m not saying they are always right or wise, just that justice is a real teen thing).
Natural Consequence: What happens if I do nothing? Nothing except show compassion and understanding without enabling or rescuing. What happens if they get a bad grade? Get caught underage drinking at a party of friend? Sometimes the teacher, the friend, the friend’s parent, the cop can deliver a message in a way our teen can receive it WAY better then our lectures (especially if we have said it more then 2-3 times). Most of us, if we go back into the rolodex of our mind, have learned our lessons from a natural consequence, not from a punishment/lecture doled out from our parent.
Share Information: Information can really help. But usually in micro-doses, and most of it from the teen discovering the information. As problems pop up, have the teen research - actually research the law - not what they think, not what their friends have told them, but the actual law where they live. What happens to an underage kid caught smoking weed, caught with weed, caught speeding, caught shoplifting, caught sexting, what is the legal age of sexual consent? Then it’s not all your judgment, but the actual law adding its two cents to the conversation. You can add in some stuff you learn, but BEWARE over researching FOR the teen, they won’t be able to receive that information as well as if they research themselves.
Get Outside Help: If you have passed ‘alert’ and moved into ‘alarm’ - go get help, for your teen, for you, for your family. Mental health issues, substance issues. Ask for help early (before a major crisis) so that you have a person, a place, a trusted advisor should things get worse. Again, remember to get help for yourself too - focusing 100% on the teen and getting them ship shape can be a dangerous place to be.
Soothe Our Own Anxiety: Living with teens is like hiking the Rocky Mountains - majestic, awe inspiring, uncomfortable, scary, filled with high highs and low lows. Click here for a little essay on this topic. Remember that our anxiety is not helpful. Our anxiety can make us over-react or under-react. Build up your arsenal of self-care (click here for some self care ideas and click here for some help knowing with junk food stress is vs. nourishing stress). When our kids are teens is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby - meditation, Scottish Dance, needlepoint, a new language, photography, pilates, spinning, birding, join a band, learn the banjo, start a podcast (these are all ACTUAL things people I know with teens have DONE). Remember that this phase of teens and bad behavior isn’t forever. When we take the time to soothe our own anxiety we can then stay connected to our beloved teen.