Raising a Responsible Teenager

Your son wants a pet, but he doesn’t want to take care of it. Your daughter dreams of getting into a prestigious university, but she doesn’t do her homework. Although teenagers crave more privileges, they sometimes fail to follow through on their responsibilities. What’s the secret to raising a responsible teenager?

Lindsey Tischart, a counselor at a boarding school for girls, has identified three essential components of cultivating responsibility in adolescents: internal motivation, the teen’s ability to respond and the parent’s ability to hold their child accountable.

Internal Motivation

Responsibility is the ability to act without guidance or superior authority, which means internal motivation is a necessity. Although young children may make good decisions simply because they were told to, older children and teens must eventually learn to make the right choice because they want to. Over time, teens develop a sense of right and wrong and make decisions accordingly.

How can parents help their teens develop internal motivation? By holding them accountable, letting them make their own mistakes, and accepting that they will sometimes be unhappy or uncomfortable, said Tischart. Teens need motivation to change their behaviors, and discomfort can be a powerful motivator.

Every parent knows what it’s like to say no to a teenager who really wants something. But if you say no, hold the boundary and allow your child a few minutes to complain, you may be impressed by their ability to accept your answer.

“No parent wants their child to experience hardship,” said Tischart. “But since discomfort is a reality of life, we have to equip teens with the problem-solving, critical thinking and coping skills to figure out how to get what they want and become functional members of their families and society.”

Parents can offer their teens guidance and validation for their feelings without rescuing them or taking over their responsibilities when life gets tough. As teens face and overcome challenges in their lives, they develop motivation to build on their successes and the self-esteem to set new goals.

Read more about raising responsible teens >>

Should You Let Your Daughter Date an Older Boy?

Since your daughter was a baby, you dreaded this day. She’s in love with an older boy.

You can’t forbid your daughter from dating an older boy – or can you? Studies show that there may be good reason to do so. According to a survey of 1,000 teens by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), teenage girls who date boys two or more years older are more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs.

Other study findings included the following:

  • Adolescents who spent 25 or more hours a week with a romantic interest were more than twice as likely to drink than teens who spent 10 hours or less dating.
  • The teens who spent more time with a boyfriend or girlfriend were five times more likely to get drunk.
  • 58 percent of girls who had boyfriends at least two years older drank alcohol, compared to 25 percent of the girls who dated boys their own age or not at all.
  • 50 percent of the girls who dated older boys smoked marijuana, compared to 8 percent of the other girls, and 65 percent smoked, compared to 14 percent of girls who dated boys their own age or not at all.

CASA also cited interesting statistics regarding the reasons teens decide to have sex. Forty-five percent of teens surveyed said they lost their virginity because “the other person wanted to”; 32 percent were “just curious”; 28 percent “hoped it would make the relationship closer”; and 16 percent cited the reason that “many of their friends already had.”

What are the risks of letting your daughter date an older boy? Continue reading to find out >>

Surviving Your Teen’s First Love (and Break-Up)

It’s a sure sign that your child is growing up when they embark on their first romantic relationship. And though your tween or teen is taking another step toward adulthood, they may not be emotionally prepared for the ups and downs of their first love (which is commonly followed by their first break-up).

Even though the thought of your teen entering the world of dating and relationships may strike terror in you (you’ve been around long enough to know that early relationships can set the tone for all future relationships), you have an important role to play in preparing your teen to make healthy choices.

Research published in the journal Child Development shows that teens’ choice of romantic partner as early as middle school has long-term effects on their emotional and social health.

Despite the fact that teen dating is dramatically different today than it was in decades ago (with Facebook, teen sexting and widespread promiscuity), a study by Stephanie Madsen, associate professor of psychology at McDaniel College in Maryland, shows that teens value parental input and tend to have healthier relationships when they get advice from their parents.

Continue reading to find out how you can help guide your child through the maze of teen dating >>