Motherhood Matters: How to control a teenager

By Allyson Reynolds

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 28 2014 7:00 a.m. MDT

When you’re going through the process of developing family rules and expectations, it’s important to include your children in the process, for a couple of reasons. First, you want to all be on the same page, and second, it puts the ball in their court. Again, it’s not about you controlling them, it’s about them learning to control themselves and their own futures.

When I talk to my teenage kids about their behavior in relation to our family rules and expectations, it’s almost always within the context of how I can help them be the best they can be and reach their goals. When you ask a teenager how you can help her, she doesn't feel you are trying to control her, so she is much more open to your influence.

Keep them busy and engaged.

One last thought is that sometimes teenagers get into trouble or have bad behavior simply because they’re bored, lacking self-confidence or don’t know where they fit in. Helping them to develop important life skills, find work or a volunteer opportunities, or get engaged in a hobby or sport can make a huge difference in their behavior.

Teens are beyond the age of simply needing to be entertained or preoccupied in their free time; they need a vision and a purpose for their lives, and there are a lot of things they need to learn before they leave home.

I would suggest reading Merrilee Boyack’s “The Parenting Breakthrough,” which has comprehensive lists of life skills that teens need to master before leaving home, such as how to balance a checkbook or change a tire. I also wrote a post called “5 Tips for Keeping Teens and Tweens Busy During the Summer” that has lots of resources and links for both work and volunteer opportunities.

They may grumble a bit at these suggestions, but once they feel the sense of satisfaction that comes from learning and contributing, they will become much more engaged and self-motivated, and you will worry a lot less about trying to “control” them.

QUESTION: How do you "control" your teenager?

CHALLENGE: If you're having a rough time with your teens, ask them to read this post and give you some feedback. I'd love to hear their reactions.

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