Some parents just need to zip it.  They need to turn the table and allow their teen to ask questions for a change.  Teenagers today need to know someone will truly listen to them and not judge them for what is said.  So sharpen your own listening habits, and your teen's may grow as well.

The point is, make your home a place where everyone listens and enforce it as a rule. 

3.  Lighten Up!  That's an Order!

Some families need to learn to laugh together.  So, make it a rule to do something wacky together every week.  Play paint ball. Pull some stunts. Unexpectedly, take everyone to a motel with a pool and a game room for the night. Watch some really funny movies together, or have a water balloon fight on the lawn.

Parents today take themselves and their teens way too seriously, at times.  Let your kids see just how goofy you can really become, and make it a goal to make someone in your family laugh every day. Bring some fun things into your home, be impetuous, and smile a little more.

4.  Our Rules Will Be Periodically Reviewed

Like "sunset laws," rules need to be reviewed from time to time to see if they are still appropriate for the age of your children. An extreme example is, "We must hold hands crossing the road." Now, that was appropriate for little children, but not teenagers. Likewise, a rule such as "curfew is 10 o'clock" for a 12 year-old may be obsolete for a 17 year-old. 

Taking time to communicate to your teen the rule that have changed shows the teenager that you value the idea of having rules and you will make them appropriate for them.  Nothing undermines rules, even in society, more than when they are totally inappropriate, like some of these wacky laws:

In Hartford, Connecticut, it is illegal to cross the street walking on your hands.

In Memphis, Tennessee, it is illegal for a woman to drive a car unless there is a man either running or walking in front of it waving a red flag to warn approaching motorists and pedestrians.

In Washington, it is illegal to drive an ugly horse.

In Youngstown, Ohio, it is unlawful to run out of gas.

By the way, some rules never change and these are the kind of rules that apply to all family members, including the adults. They generally have to do with the values you hold dear, like: respect, morality, family observances, faith, common decency and societal laws. 

A Relationship that Doesn't Stop

Your teen needs the kind of relationship that doesn't stop even if they overstep the boundaries (and there will be times when they do).  At all times, keep reminding your teen: "There's nothing you can do to make me love you less, and nothing you can do to make me love you more. In other words, to do something wrong won't end our relationship. I will love you just the same regardless of your actions, but that doesn't mean I won't enforce consequences for breaking the rules. "

What your child wants more than anything else is to have more freedom, while also having a solid relationship with you. A wise parent will give their teenager rules and boundaries and offer them  opportunities to choose. Should they break the rules in their search for more freedom, their freedoms will be further restricted, or the opposite of what they sought by breaking the rule. And if they  consistently make right choices, then they also need to experience their freedoms expanding. In any event, your relationship remains rock solid and unwavering.

January 1, 2010

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, national radio host, and the founder of Heartlight, a residential counseling opportunity for struggling adolescents, where he lives with 50 high schoolers. Learn more at or call 903-668-2173.