Being the parent of a teenager is by no means an easy job. Authorities warn that today’s young people, being overweight and underactive, can expect a shorter life span than that of their parents, and more numerous and varied health problems during adulthood.
Just because your child has grown to be as big or bigger than you, the parent, it does not mean your responsibilities are over. Mentally and emotionally, much more growth must occur. The blob of humanity stretched out on the couch for 12 or more hours a day needs to develop some character in order to become a worthwhile, responsible citizen who is capable of earning a living and raising a family of his or her own.
How can you, as a parent, hasten and encourage that growth to occur?
(1). Engage in a back-strengthening pep talk. Realize that, right now, you, as parent and adult, hold all the cards. You provide food, lodging, clothes, and spending money. The teenager is living in your house, using electricity, water, and heat which you pay for. The very TV he watches is yours. Since it is your house, you have the right to make the rules and you have a right to be treated with respect.
(2). Get a large monthly calendar which will hang on the fridge or on the wall in a central location. Call a family meeting. Outline the above facts of life for the benefit of younger family members, using a firm tone.
(3). Assign a list of chores to be assigned to each family member, including parents, and write them on the calendar. Different colored markers can be used for each person.
(4). Each family member has a primary responsibility. The adults work outside the home to support the family. The youngsters go to school, get an education and become self-supporting as soon as possible. Meanwhile, everyone pitches in to keep the home running smoothly. Have a list of chores ready and help each child choose several which are appropriate to his age and ability. Write them on the calendar on the days they need to be done.
(5) Have a list of penalties ready, which will be applied if the chores are not done, for disrespectful speech or inappropriate behavior. (The list may be expanded or modified as necessary). This is where the parent must be firm and consistent. If he or she relents on a penalty one time, they’ve lost credibility. The list will be posted near the calendar.
At the same time or at a later meeting, the parent introduces the following house rules:
* No TV, video games, computers or other technology are allowed in bedrooms. Homework or library books are fine.
* A modest allowance will be given each weekend if chores have been completed satisfactorily and on time.
* Two hours daily are allowed for TV, video games, and computer time. Homework done on the computer is an exception.
* Joining a sports team, volunteering, earning a good report card, getting a part-time job, or other praiseworthy behavior will be rewarded with extra privileges.
* When there is a large job to be done, like painting a room or cleaning out the garage, the teen will be offered the job first and paid a fair wage when it completed satisfactorily.
* Announce expected bedtime on weeknights and weekends. Teens need at least 8 hours sleep. Variations for special occasions will make good bargaining chips, as will use of cell phones, iPods, driving lessons, access to the family car, and parents’ driving service.
All these house rules will be infinitely easier to impose and enforce if the parents have been effective disciplinarians since their child was that cute little student in Grade One, but it’s never too late to start.
Teens don’t respond well to preaching or nagging, but they do respond to discomfort. They want choices and they still have them. They can responsible, cooperative and helpful or they can sit in their rooms, do Homework, pout or read.
The first few weeks will be rough, but not impossible. Expect complaints and opposition, but don’t be intimidated and don’t give in. You must stand firm. Keep reminding yourself that you hold all the cards and you’re acting in the best interest of your teen.
Later, you can begin to reestablish a better relationship. Offer to coach a team he’s on, join your daughter in a hobby, offer to help with Homework, or plan a family holiday. Whatever the future holds, it will be a lot more pleasurable if the blob of humanity on the couch has become an active, contributing family member.
Your ultimate reward will come a few years down the road, when your son or daughter asks for a copy of the house rules, chores and penalties you used with them because they are having trouble coping with your lazy grandchildren. You’ll have to work hard to keep the grin off your face.