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When Kids Help Out: It's Good for Them

Chores Foster Responsibility

Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging & Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate

A Parents Guide to Teen Years: Raising Your 11-14 Year Old in the Age of Navel Rings



by Tania K. Cowling


Once children hit the teen years, it's a natural desire to spread their wings. But as teens become independent, they face increasing challenges, from driving cars to attending parties where alcohol or drugs might be a part of the scene. It can be a confusing time for adolescents, but by setting limits teens can be helped in maneuvering their way through this challenging phase.

Setting limits for teens can be a tricky business. Just think, a teenager is on the verge of adulthood and preparing for life on his or her own. Teens may not be too interested in pleasing parents they have their own views. On the other hand, studies tell us that teens need and want limits because they aren't yet fully capable of making wise choices in every aspect of their lives.

What can parents expect? As caretakers of our teens, we often notice that adolescents are involved in new behaviors and wanting to try new things. Parents may not be comfortable with or like the way their child dresses or acts; however, many of these behaviors are completely normal and not a cause for concern. These behaviors are considered żnormal for teens:


  • Interest in fads concerning clothes, hairstyles, and music.
  • Occasionally coming home 30 minutes to an hour late.
  • Spending more time alone.
  • Sharing less openly with parents or family members.
  • Spending more time with friends.


Another natural part of becoming a teen is to become involved in some risk taking. Some risks are potentially dangerous even though they are completely normal. Examples include the following activities:


  • Dangerous bike riding.
  • Taking dares that are physically dangerous (such as testing ice on a newly frozen lake or river).
  • Taking rides from strangers or someone who has been drinking.
  • Experimenting with drugs, alcohol, or sex.
  • Minor acts of vandalism.


Most parents would like to protect their children and see them reach adulthood without serious problems. For good reason, parents fear the troubles of teenagers they read about in the newspapers. It's reassuring that the majority of teens never become involved in these major problems. What can parents do? Caregivers can steer adolescents in the right direction by knowing where they are, what they are doing and whom they are with. It's important to keep track of teens; especially the younger and less experienced ones.

Here are ways parents can monitor their teenager:

  • Together decide on a few important rules curfew times and off-limits places and activities.
  • Ask your teen to call or leave a note if plans change.
  • Develop consequences to expect when they break rules (be sure to follow through).
  • Build a positive relationship by spending fun time with your teen.
  • Let your child know you are interested in his/her activities.
  • Listen with an open mind when your teen talks about problems or concerns.
  • Get to know your child's friends and their parents.
  • Encourage involvement in school and extra-curricular activities and clubs or organizations.


If you and your teen are having a hard time with a family ground rules, it may be time to sit down together to negotiate limits and expectations. You may even want to lay these rules out on paper in the form of a contract. The contract should include really basic and important rules to provide for the safety of the teenager and the well being of the family and it should state clear consequences for any broken rules.


Here's an example of a contract:


Home Rules Contract For ___________________.


A.    (list rule) -------------------------------

1. Consequence:

2. Privilege

B.    (list rule)

C.    (list rule) List as many rule categories as needed!


Signatures of family members:

(contract must be signed by all family members involved in contract)


Here is an example of a contract rule:


Rule: Teen is expected to perform all assigned chores in a satisfactory manner, according to the standards set by parents.

Consequence: Teen will not be allowed any privileges until required chores are completed, including TV, radio, computer, having friends visit or going out with friends.

Privilege: Teen will maintain access to all privileges of the house, including watching TV, using the computer, having friends visit, and going out with friends.


You can use this concept with rules involving curfews, chores, school behavior and grades, smoking, telephone use, computer use, use of the car, alcohol/drug abuse, and expression of anger, violence, including profanity.


Rules help keep our kids safe. Negotiating those rules shows respect for our teens and helps them learn about making decisions on their own. The discussions we have with them can teach our adolescents a lot about looking ahead at the consequences of their actions and how to make good decisions. Furthermore, it tells them not only that we value their opinions, but that we're still their parents and we love them enough to have rules and expectations that help keep them safe.



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