July 18, 2008

Setting Expectations For and With Your Teen

4-H cloverBy Vestina F. Crayton, Extension Education Instructor, 4-H Youth Development

Parents and teenagerSetting boundaries for your teens can be a daunting task. With so many outside influences, it’s challenging to anticipate all the possible issues that your teen may face. However, establishing clear, specific expectations and consequences sets the foundation to provide positive and effective guidance.
Your teen is growing up and is grappling with the consequences of individual choices. This is a time when the teen brain moves from responding to the world emotionally to logically.
Explaining to your teens the importance of making rules and the corresponding consequences promotes inclusion. Including your teen in the process, help develop your teen’s self esteem, decision making and critical thinking skills. Research conducted by the University of Florida IFAS Extension suggests the following approach for parents and teens:

Identify expectations: Realistic and Unrealistic
Realistic - Both parent and teen would agree that respect and safety are realistic expectations.. Creating an atmosphere where family members feel comfortable with sharing their values, opinions, and perspectives without judgment or ridicule, encourages open and honest dialogue. As mentioned earlier, with the numerous distractions that a teen may encounter, it’s critical that families have candid discussion about the issues that face teens today. With this information, appropriate guidelines and rules can be implemented. Promoting an environment of mutual respect makes it easier for teens to accept that rules are put in place to ensure their safety.

parent and teenagerUnrealistic – Families, particularly parents, should acknowledge and resigned to the fact that their teen will not be obedient 100% of the time. Keep in mind that teens are transitioning and evolving and with change comes opposition. Assuming that a teen will make responsible choices every time is irrational because even adults exhibit irresponsible behavior. Understand that people make mistakes. Take those opportunities as learning and teachable moments. Sometimes it’s through our mistakes that we learn valuable life lessons. Being your teen’s best friend, by some, is a desirable position. The reality is, this may not happen. However, creating a relationship with your teen that’s built on common respect may result in some of the benefits of being a best friend. These benefits may include your teen sharing some of their secrets with you. But if your teen does not, don’t be discouraged because allowing your teen to seek out friendship beyond the family unit nurtures their ability to find solutions to their problems and let’s them enjoy their newfound privacy. Remember it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Make sure your teen know what secrets should be shared.

Categorize Expectations: Negotiable and Non- Negotiable
Negotiable expectations changes as your teen changes. An example would be when and how often to wash dishes. This category will be more effective if teens take part in creating them. Oftentimes teens will think of things that parents haven’t even thought of. Just because this set of expectations is labeled negotiable, does not mean there are no consequences when a rule is broken. Parents may be surprised that their teen may suggest consequences that are more stringent than what they would think of.

Non-Negotiable expectations are usually established by the parent. An example would be absolutely no drug use unless it is under a physicians care. This category serves to protect the teen’s health and safety. Since you have established a relationship that values the viewpoints of one another, don’t be surprised if your teen wants to challenge these expectations. It’s normal.

parent and teenagerAdvice During The Process

For Parents
Don’t get discourage.
Don’t alienate your teen.
Embrace this occasion to share the experience of making decisions as a family
When mistakes happen, help your teen through it and learn from it.
Be consistent when administering the consequences of a broken expectation

For Teens
Don’t get discourage.
Don’t alienate your parent.
Embrace this occasion to share the experience of making decisions as a family
When mistakes happen, let your parent help you through it and learn from it.

There may be moments of discomfort and conflict addressing some of these areas of concern. This is a normal phenomenon because teens are developing physically, mentally and emotionally. And expressing their opinions and independence is a healthy sign of teen development. Families should celebrate the time and effort each family member is contributing to make the family relationship better and stronger. To get more information and practice putting these tools into action, call Pinellas County 4-H Youth Development at (727) 582-2450 and sign up for the 2-day workshop 4-H Family Teening- Up. The next workshop will be July 19 and August 2. For more details, call today!

“Teening-Up” With Your Adolescent: Parenting Children Ages -16 (Based on an earlier version of Teening-Up with Your Adolescent: Ages 10-16), Positive Discipline, University of Florida IFAS Extension, Gainesville Florida

A Parent’s Guide through the Teen Years

The Teen Brain is Different

University of Florida IFAS

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