May 13, 2002

How to keep tabs on your teen

father talks to sonTeenagers are a huge challenge for parents, and for a number of reasons. It can be very difficult to tell how your child will change when they become a teenager. Some stay very much the same while many others quickly become someone quite different. My sister went from being one of the most crazy kids you have ever met to being an extremely responsible teenager. I’m afraid in my case it went the other way. In any case, there is a good chance that your teenager will change a bit as they get older, and in many cases they will become somewhat difficult to deal with. Teenagers have a natural tendency to explore new things and rebel against their parents. Their bodies and minds are changing quickly and they don’t have much control over their emotions. The result is often that they do stupid things that affect their future’s adversely. They get pregnant or get others pregnant, they do terribly in school or they decide to not even go to school. Often the experiment with drugs and alcohol in very irresponsible ways and the results can be terrible. This is just the beginning of a list of the sorts of the things that teenagers can do to ruin there lives and the lives of others. Given that teens get into so many problematic situations, how will you keep tabs on your teen? How will you make sure that they are staying out of serious trouble or hanging out with the right people?
Keeping tabs on your teem is a tricky business for a number of reasons. Not only is it impossible for you to be everywhere that your teen is, but it is also questionable that doing so would be a good idea even if you could. Your teenager would resent you terribly if you followed them everywhere. In fact, the affect of following them everywhere would be especially detrimental to your relationship; they might never forgive you if you don’t trust them.
What this means is that you need to find some way to establish a relationship of trust and honesty with your teen. You can establish a curfew and ask them about their schedule, but if they are not honest with you it won’t matter. You obviously want to make sure that your teen is home at a reasonable time, but what about the rest of the time during the day? One way to do this is to become a friend to your teen to show them that you can be trusted. You want them to know that they can confide in you and talk with you about their personal problems. If you are a pure disciplinarian who only judges and condemns you will never be able to perfectly keep tabs on your teen. They will go behind your back and find ways to hide what they do from you. Furthermore, when you become your teen’s friend they will want to keep your trust and live up to their obligations. If they respect you and know that you love them they will be far more likely to act responsibly than if they fear you.
It is definitely not a good idea to try to have your teen followed or spyed on. I have some friends whose parents like to do this and it almost always ends in disaster. The kids don’t feel trusted by the parents which means that they never communicate. Furthermore, it puts friends and family members in an odd relationship with each other.

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