38: The Return of the Troubled Teen

You may wonder why parents of kids under 12 are sending out stuff on teens, and troubled teens at that. The reason is that we have seen the parents of many teens struggle with their kids. While we realize that some issues are unique to the teen years, we also hope we can prepare ourselves and equip our kids to face those challenges. When I wrote and asked permission from Steppin’ Stones to use their contract (see article #37), they also sent me the following. I thought it was good input from people who deal with a lot of difficult situations. The principles addressed here related to teens are not just good for teens. They should be put in place in the earlier years. Be loving and strong. The two go hand-in-hand.

• Don’t rescue by blaming others for your daughter’s behavior.
• Don’t make decisions based on the short look: keeping the peace, for convenience, or because of guilt.
• Don’t require a rule if you will not enforce it.
• Don’t lecture or shame based on past or present failures.
• Don’t expect your child’s emotional support (appreciation, respect, or understanding). Enjoy it when it comes, but don’t NEED it.
• Don’t immediately give her a car, phone, beepers, etc. as a reward for completing this program. The reward is COMING HOME. Pre-set a minimum time (three months, six months) that requires completion of measurable outcomes after coming home before considering any of the above. Always require some financial responsibility on her part. Remember children learn to feel entitled or they learn to be responsible.
• Don’t reward whining—this should bring an automatic NO!
• Don’t change your daughter’s boundaries in order to grant a favor. Don’t ask for other authority figures to grant you a favor by changing your daughter’s boundaries. You are doing your daughter a favor by teaching her that the world does not revolve around her “special needs”.
• Don’t say, “Just do your best.” Have a minimum standard.
• Don’t act like a victim or treat your daughter like a victim.
• Don’t compare her to others.

• Provide structure. (She has been in a structured environment; it works.)
• Provide consistency, yes is yes, no is no. Follow-through, keep your word, and make the effort to enforce.
• Communicate. Ask questions caringly, not accusingly.
• Go to church.
• Use empathy and reality when correcting, then consequences. Empathize with her feelings without changing the boundary.
• Require certain standards of behavior—not because you need it, but because your daughter needs it.
• Get your emotional needs met from other people in your life instead of from your daughter.
• Spend time together, one on one, also as a family. Pay attention when your daughter is doing well. Don’t wait for a crisis.
• Set goals, control resources, and manage consequences.
• Evaluate your own life and model boundaries.
• Practice honesty.
• When you are wrong, admit it, correct it, and move on. This will show your daughter what you want her to do when she messes up.
• Make decisions free from manipulation. Don’t make decisions based on your emotions.
• Expect your daughter to test the limits. Be strong and encourage your daughter to apply the skills that she has been taught. Don’t allow yourself to give in to feelings of discouragement.
• Be patient and allow repeated trials.
• Show confidence and look your child in the eye.
• Expect her to be responsible, she has been taught a lot.

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