DO

  •  Stay in touch with your adolescent’s teachers. Attend parent conferences and school events to keep communication open.
  • Compare notes with other parents.
  • Get to know your son or daughter’s friends & their parents.
  • Learn as much as you can about adolescent growth and development to gain a realistic perspective on your child’s behavior.
  • Refresh your memory of your own adolescence. It does wonders for understanding your kids.

DON’T

  • Don’t panic when things get rocky with your preteens or teens. They may be having trouble; it doesn’t mean they’re going off the deep end. If you pay attention, you should be able to tell if the situation gets serious.
  •  While tolerance and patience are essential, don’t become a doormat for disrespectful behavior.
  • Don’t ignore warning signs of potentially serious problems, such as depression, alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, or extreme and persistent anger.

DO

  • Set clear rules and expectations for behavior. For example, instead of saying, “Be nicer to your brother,” say, “You cannot hit your brother, call him names, or use put-downs.”
  • Have conversations about expectations and consequences when things are calm and everyone can think clearly. For example, if your daughter comes in an hour after curfew and you are very upset, let her know that you are angry and that you will talk to her in the morning. You will be better able to handle the necessary discipline when you are less agitated. Of course you must make sure that you follow up as promised.
  • Spell out consequences for noncompliance. Consequences for adolescents usually involve the loss of privileges. For example, “If you cannot limit your video games to one hour a night, then you will not be allowed to play video games for one week.”
  • Have your son or daughter state out loud his or her understanding of both the rules and consequences. This both clears up any ambiguity and helps adolescents take responsibility. Write them down, if needed.
  • Choose consequences that fit, and make sure you can live with them. For example, instead of saying, “You’re grounded for the next month for taking the car after I told you not to,” say, “You’re grounded for the weekend, and you may not use the car for two weeks.”
  • Follow through on consequences.
  • If your adolescents start yelling during an important discussion about rules, don’t try to out shout them. Say, “We don’t seem to be able to have a discussion about this right now. When you’re ready to discuss this without yelling, we’ll talk.” Then make sure to come back and finish the talk. They should not be allowed to go on to their next activity until the discussion has been completed.

DON’T

  • Don’t be surprised when adolescents get surly.
  • Don’t harass an adolescent about every little thing. Pick and choose issues that matter.
  • Don’t get dragged into power struggles. Calmly state your expectations and consequences and let your teen know that you expect that he will comply, but that if he chooses not to, then he will have to accept the consequences.
  • Don’t make consequences into threats.
  • Don’t let your emotions get out of control when your son or daughter starts yelling. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Take a break if you need to.
  • Don’t let your adolescent get his or her way by yelling and threatening, or by further objectionable behavior. That can reinforce a dangerous pattern.

DO

  • Adjust expectations about adolescent behavior in light of their brain changes. It is normal for adolescents to act without thinking of the consequences, to react impulsively, and to display raw emotions and mood swings.
  • Examine your parenting style to determine if it is permissive, authoritarian, or structured.
  • Follow the structured parenting approach, which emphasizes clear limits and enforcement of consequences in a caring and respectful manner.
  • Practice a lot of patience. It often helps to remember your own adolescent years. Another way is to take deep breaths and count to ten.
  • Get support from other parents and friends. Comparing stories lessens the burden.
  • Loosen, but don’t let go. For example, even though the curfews will get later as teens grow older, they should still have them.
  • Know where your kids are and what they are doing. If you suspect they are lying about their whereabouts, let them know you will be checking up, and then do so.
  • Maintain and enforce standards of behavior. Respect and decency needn’t disappear just because teens are having a brain growth spurt.

DON’T

  • Don’t tolerate abusive or disrespectful behavior. Stop any conversation if your teen starts to swear at you or threaten you. Make it clear that all privileges are suspended until you can finish the conversation without that behavior.
  • Don’t lose your temper if and when your adolescent son or daughter does.
  • Don’t get caught in the trap of destructive verbal battles.
  • Don’t make mountains out of molehills. There are plenty of important issues to pay attention to.

DO

  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Say clearly what you are feeling to reduce misinterpretations.
  • Model good, clear communication skills.
  • Expect and tolerate a little adolescent “mouthiness.”
  • Apologize to your adolescent if you need to.
  • Call a time-out if communication is badly off track.

DON’T

  • Don’t swear or use abusive language towards your adolescent son or daughter.
  • Don’t accept swearing or other abusive language.
  • Don’t engage in name-calling or put-downs.
  • Don’t get caught up in a yelling match.
  • Don’t leave the conflict unresolved.

DO

  • Encourage your daughters to get involved in sports.
  • Encourage your sons and daughters to be involved in a wide range of activities.
  • If your sons or daughters are reluctant readers, make an effort to find books and magazines about topics they are interested in. For example, if your son likes music, buy music magazines for him.
  • Pay attention to your son’s and daughter’s school performance, and intervene early if you see him or her starting to turn off.
  • Encourage daughters to find solutions when they are feeling down or discouraged. Ask them what they can do about the situation that is bothering them.
  • Encourage your sons to name and talk about feelings. Model emotional literacy for them with remarks like, “I’m feeling frustrated because I can’t figure out these directions,” or, “I’m excited to be going to the play tonight.” Ask them questions to encourage them to talk about feelings. For instance, “How do you feel about getting a low grade on the math test?”

DON’T

  • Don’t limit your adolescent by encouraging only traditional gender interests and goals.
  • Don’t tolerate your son’s aggressive behavior if it turns destructive to either property or people. Intervene early and tell him exactly what behavior is out of bounds. You might say, for example, “I understand that you’re angry, but you may not hit your brother.” Instead of issuing an ultimatum, tell your teen what the consequence will be. “If you hit your brother again, you will not be able to go out with your friends this weekend.”
  • Don’t use disparaging remarks about gays, lesbians, or transgender people.

DO

  • Emphasize the importance of respect and honesty in all relationships.
  • Have regular conversations with your sons and daughters about sex and sexuality.
  • Communicate about the values you consider important to romantic relationships.
  • Provide your teen with accurate information about birth control.
  • Make sure your teens have accurate, complete information about sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Get to know your adolescents’ friends, especially when there is a romantic interest.
  • Listen, listen, listen.

DON’T

  • Don’t get angry or use put-downs about a boyfriend or girlfriend you have concerns about.
  • Don’t ridicule or make fun of crushes or romantic attachments.
  • Don’t assume that your son or daughter won’t engage in sexual behavior.
  • Don’t keep quite and let TV and movies become the only teachers you kids have about sex and sexuality.

DO

  • Model responsible use, the most important thing for a parent to do. Our actions related to alcohol, tobacco, or any other drugs speak much louder than our words.
  • Set clear expectations with your sons and daughters about drinking, smoking, and using other drugs. Describe the damage that chemical use does to their developing brains and explain that because of the potential harm you do not want them to drink until they are adults, and that you hope that they never smoke or do drugs.
  • Set and enforce curfews.
  • Get to know your adolescents’ friends.
  • Get to know your adolescents’ friends’ parents.
  • Have regular conversations about alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Take advantage of opportunities that arise from news reports of media portrayals to talk about alcohol and drug effects. Ask your kids what they know and think. Listen to their answers carefully so that you understand their attitudes and the peer pressure they may be under. Make sure you let them know that you welcome their questions and concerns.
  • Seek professional guidance if you are worried about your teen’s chemical use.

DON’T

  • Don’t send mixed messages about adolescent drinking, smoking, or other drug use. Tolerating some use, making jokes, or bragging about your own use confuses kids and erodes your credibility.
  • Don’t ignore signs that your son or daughter is drinking, smoking, or using drugs.
  • Don’t accept excuses for repeated drinking, smoking, or drug use.

DO

  • Have clear family rules about screen time. The clearer the rules, like, “No TV or video games before school or until homework is done,” the better. Consistency is important.
  • Limit the amount of entertainment screen time. I recommend a total of ten hours a week for TV and video games. Computer time for research, homework, and e-mail is separate and not included in the ten hours.
  • Practice “appointment television.” Decide in advance what is worth watching and then make an “appointment” to watch it.
  • Know what your kids are watching and what games they are playing.
  • Follow media rating systems.
  • Install Internet monitoring software and let your teens know that you will be paying attention to how they are using the computer.
  • Talk to your kids about the programs they are watching.

DON’T

  • Don’t have the TV or other media on during meals.
  • Don’t allow TV, video games, or computers in kids’ bedrooms.
  • Don’t let media time crowd out all other activities that are important for adolescents.
  • Don’t let kids play ultra-violent first-person shooter video games.

DO

  • Let your teens know that scientists have discovered they need at least nine and a half hours of sleep every night.
  • Encourage your adolescent to wind down at a reasonable hour even if they don’t feel tired enough to sleep.
  • Let your adolescents catch up on some sleep on the weekends if they can.

DON’T

  • Don’t let your teens take any sleeping medication, including melatonin, unless recommended by a physician.
  • Don’t let your teen get in the habit of using a lot of caffeine or other stimulants to wake up in the morning.
  • Don’t let your teen accept jobs that will keep them up late at night.
  • Don’t let your adolescent watch TV or play video games late at night.
  • Don’t let your adolescent sleep into the afternoon on weekends.

DO

  • Look for a pattern of symptoms that persists for a matter of months if you are concerned that your son or daughter has a mental health problem.
  • If you’re worried, seek advice from a teacher, counselor, coach, or other adult knows your son or daughter.
  • Get recommendations from people you can trust for the professionals or programs that are competent and caring.
  • If you need professional help, find out exactly what your insurance policy covers and how the system works. Ask as many questions as you need to find out what your options and rights as parents are.
  • Get the best possible recommendations for your son or daughter. If your health plan restricts you to a designated network, get recommendations about the professionals in the network. In addition, find out how to get approval for care outside the network, even if you have to pay more.
  • Be open to recommendations about medications, but make sure you learn about any side effects.
  • Get help for yourself. There are often support groups for parents and siblings of mentally ill teens. They can provide information and emotional support to get you through difficult times.

DON’T

  • Don’t ignore signs and symptoms of serious mental illness. Just like physical disease, diseases of the brain can strike any family.
  • Don’t panic. Tremendous strides have been made in recent years. I have seen adolescents so incapacitated by depression that they could not lift their heads return to a happy and productive life in a matter of months.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask professionals as many questions as are necessary to understand both the problem and the treatment.
  • Don’t accept care from a professional without appropriate credentials to work with adolescents.
  • Don’t accept care from a professional who seems rushed, appears unfamiliar with your child’s case, doesn’t address your concerns, or doesn’t communicate well.
  • Don’t accept a prescription for medication without asking questions about side effects and effectiveness. Tinkering with the chemistry of the brain, always a serious step, is still as much an art as it is a science.
  • Don’t accept a medication-only treatment plan for an adolescent. The research is clear that medications with some form of counseling are far superior to medication alone. The medication may correct a chemical imbalance in the brain, but it does not rewire the brain to develop more appropriate skills and behaviors.
  • Never give up hope for a mentally ill adolescent.

DO

  • Expect your teenager to become sensitive about how he looks.
  • Understand the importance of friends to your child.
  • Be open to discussing values, even when your teen questions yours or disagrees. That challenging means that they are starting to think for themselves, not that they are rejecting everything that you think is important.
  • Talk about peer pressure and how to manage it. Encourage your teen to make independent decisions.

DON’T

  • Don’t make derogatory remarks about your teenager’s appearance.
  • Don’t be surprised if your adolescent becomes embarrassed by you. It’s not you. She’ll grow out of it.
  • Don’t put down your adolescent’s friends. He will defend them. If you have worries about his peers, state them calmly.
  • Don’t base your parenting decisions on what every other teen is doing. Decide what you think is best.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Save your relationship capital for the important issues.

DO

  •  Search for ways to connect with your teenager.
  • Spend time together as a family.
  • Involve other adults in your teenager’s life.
  • Maintain family traditions even when teens complain about them.
  • Have a curfew that you enforce.
  • Insist that your teen share in family chores and responsibilities.

DON’T

  • Don’t lecture. If lectures worked, you wouldn’t need to keep repeating them.
  • Don’t grant a divorce from the family that your teen may seem to request. He doesn’t really mean it.
  • Don’t stop going to school activities.