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Is there a secret to raising great teens?  


Well, I don't know if there is a secret. But there is a proven formula that produces healthy, happy, well-adjusted teens, and the good news is that it's rather simple.  Here's the formula:

Start early, be consistent, and don't be liberal. There's no such a thing as too early or too young to discipline. Kids need structure, they need rules, and they expect these rules to be implemented. They look for consistency, so be a parent, not a friend.  Be firm and don't flake out on your kids by changing your mind from "no" to "yes" and back again.

Build your child's confidence by setting boundaries. Experts agree that ages three through 10 represent a golden opportunity to secure strong relationships with your children. This is the time to teach them about values, morals and proper behavior prior.  If you wait until after age 10, it may be too late.

It drives me nuts when parents permit everything without consequences and boundaries and then act shocked and surprised when their children begin to misbehave in their early teens. All of a sudden those parents begin to set rules, and are disappointed when those rules are ignored, when their kids are disrespectful, and nothing the parents say or do has an impact.

Childhood is when kids discover their strengths and develop their self-worth and sense of who they are. During this time, parents need to build a sense of confidence in their children that will enable them to stand up to the doubts that persist through adolescence.

Say "no" and mean it. As a parent, it is always easier to say "yes" than "no." But it is so much harder to deal with a troubled teen that saying "no" makes it worth all the aggravation and hard work.  Saying "no" plays a major role in influencing behavior and decision-making, as well as developing attitudes during this stage of kids' lives. A fulfilling childhood helps kids to deal with some of the challenges and changes that occur during the teenage years. It also gives parents a chance to establish a strong relationship that will help them remain authority figures when their teenagers turn into young adults.

Educate yourself prior to their teenage years. Our children are smart, intuitive and manipulative. Plus, they like to test boundaries. The minute they sense parental confusion, indistinctness and inconsistency, they take charge and begin to act disrespectfully. I remember my five-year old daughter saying to me, "You're not the boss of me!" That was my first realization that clipping their wings early is just as necessary as educating them. If at age five she did not want me to tell her what to do, there's no way she would listen at 15 with proper preparation on my part.

It's imperative to set new strategies to stay in the game. A generation or two ago, parents could remove many of the outside influences our children encounter. But today, with the Internet, drugs, new fads such as tattoos and piercing that becoming more prevalent, it has become far more challenging to mitigate those influences. In these times, consistency is the key.

It's all about timing. As parents, we need to talk more, listen more and create more hands-on activities to interact with our children. That way, when they reach the stage of raging hormones and screaming rebellion, we can at least reminisce about the old times. And believe me, kids love "kid stories" about themselves.

Here are some tips for communicating with your kids:

Be creative. If you decide to lecture your son or daughter in a parental manner (like we all do), watch how their eyes glaze over and their minds shut down.  Instead, mess with their minds like they mess with ours. Create controversial debates on current events in the media. Make it a two-way discussion rather than a one-way lecture.

Discuss real issues such as sex, drugs, relationships, life and celebrities. I used Britney Spears as an example for my kids. With each success she attained, I predicted a future disaster. At first my kids just tuned me out. But when Britney went from sweet little girl to a woman with celebrity status and all hell broke loose, I overhead them telling their friends, "My mom always said she was heading for disaster." I became an authority, and for a while could get away with pushing my point of view into their little heads.

Use your time in the car to talk with your kids. In the car, kids are your captive audience, so TALK TO THEM! Find out what is up. Don't grill, just pry a little. If they refuse to talk to you, take the initiative and tell them about what's going on in your life at the moment.

Reward their responsible behavior with freedom. This doesn't mean your teenagers' curfew just got extended. All it means is that you now trust them more and will find an appropriate way to reward them.

Having a child is a lifelong responsibility that requires plenty of reflection and even more unconditional love. We need to keep in mind that adolescence begins as early as 10 years of age and extends to 25. This is the longest parenting stage of all, and it requires a lot of knowledge, patience and stamina.  

As I said before, timing is everything.  So start early to prevent complications, and don't forget to tell your children on a regular basis that you love them so.

All the best,


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jane Woods wrote May 14, 2008
    • Yana, what sensible advice! Before I started my own business I worked in social services for many years and for a time with young offenders, usually boys but not exclusively. I agree with so much of what you say, especially the talking in cars!If I had a truculent youth I’d contrive to drive them somehere and the conversation would open up.

      Adolescence is so hard, much harder now I think than ever before for all the reasons you mentioned, Yana. It’ sthe time when children are breaking away from us, learning to view us a separate, flawed adults and it’s hard for them. We can make it harder by behaving inconsistently, letting the boundaries blur.It is a time when they practise life skills so they will make mistakes, but that’s how we learn. We need to be there to offer appropriate support and advice when we can (or are allowed!)

      When I am training I sometimes do a listening exercise which involves not listening! When I start people look at me oddly and say they can’t do it - its too rude and they’d never do it in real life.

      Then we do the exercise.

      And it’s then they realise how often they do it in real life, particularly within our own families. Standing at the sink maybe, saying ‘I’m listening’ when the kids come in from school, but still continuing to bustle around the kitchen, not making proper eye contact etc. After a minute or two you look around and your kids have gone! They knew they weren’t being given our full attention. With teenagers especially you often have to grab the moments they choose to talk.

      It’s not easy but when you see them come out the other side as lovely secure adult children, then you know it was all worthwhile!

      [Link Removed] 

      Changingpeople, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote May 15, 2008
    • So true Jane, so true...

      How far are you from London?

      I’ll be traveling your way last week of June, how nice would it be to meet in person?

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jane Woods wrote May 15, 2008
    • I am about an hour and a half by train, two and a half by car from London. I live outside Bath in the West Country, but I often work in London. For example, I am in London, Putney area, on nights of 18th June and 29th June, working there the next day.
      What dates and where are you? You might want to send to my home e mail?
      Isn’t it rather late there for you? I have been working a couple of hours now and am off later to do a session on a planning for retirment course. I started with a 30 minute slot but now it’s all afternoon!
      Take care,

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jane Woods wrote May 15, 2008
    • Argh, no sleep yet! Do you have trouble sleeping or is it just a good time for you to work?
      29th could be good as it's a Sunday. I could travel up a little earlier and meet you maybe? Or are you planning to come West at all? [Link Removed]is a beautiful city!

      Changingpeople, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Anne Lyken-Garner wrote May 15, 2008
    • Yana, I couldn’t have written this better myself.  Your points are brilliant!  When my 6 year old asks why she has to do everything we say, we tell her because we‘re the boss of her.  This seems to be enough for now.  We tell the kids that they have to abide by our rules for as long as they live with us.  When they move out, they can set their own rules for their own homes (we make this very exciting).  My ten year old says she can’t wait, but is willing to ‘put up’ with our many rules for 9 more years.  

      They are resigned to our authority as we also show them bountiful love.  Still, like you said, they‘re happy, well-rounded individuals because they have boundaries, rules, and lots of love.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote May 15, 2008
    • I never before read Jane Austen now that I’m reading “Persuasions” and Anne the character is moving to Bath, and you are near Bath and Jane is in circumstantial is this? considering that I never heard of Bath before. (Geography was not my strongest subject)

      I’m flying in to London on June 29th afternoon and will remain there until July 1st (morning), with my youngest daughter, if there is anyway you guys can come up to London that would be fantastic.

      Let’s see what we can do to make it happen.

      I’m excited....


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