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Issue Date: January 2008


How To Raise Good Teens: Advice From Real Parents

I promised my friend I wouldn’t use her name or suburb. She’s afraid her teenage daughter will figure out who I’m writing about — and she’d have to admit that she suspected her near-perfect, trustworthy daughter of finally doing something wrong.

It was a strange, yet familiar smell, she told me. She walked into her house and smelled — it. She saw her daughter’s backpack by the kitchen, right where she smelled the smell.

She started tearing it apart. Looking through it. Her heart pounding. Her mind racing. Then, her husband casually walked into the room. “Some of those pumpkin seeds you were roasting the other day fell down on the burner,” he said.

Incinerated pumpkin seeds! And, to think she could have ever thought that her daughter just might have...

Here’s some advice from experts and parents for raising teens:

1. Make it a rule that your teens hug you whenever they get home. Not only will you know they’ve arrived home safely, but also you’ll get a chance to sniff out smoke or alcohol on their breath.
2. Text message instead of calling. That way, your teen doesn’t have to admit that he’s answering mom.
3. If you have caller ID, make them call you from a landline when they’ve arrived at someone’s home. Then you’ll know that they are where they say they are.
4. Offer to drive everywhere — especially on the way home from a party. Sit quietly and just listen. You’ll learn a lot.
5. Have your kids’ friends over. Even if it’s just to dinner. Or offer your home for parties. You’ll know what’s really going on.
6. If you don’t know the teen who has just walked in, offer to call his parents to touch base. The parents appreciate it, and the kids know other adults are watching out for them.
7. Always check in with other parents. Make the call. Or, go to the door when you drop your teens off or pick them up.
8. Have a secret code so your kids can call you when something is wrong, without making them say it in front of their friends. For example, if they have a pet dog named Gus, the code could be “I’m worried about Gus.” Then you can go get them — no questions asked (at least while their friends are near).
9. If they’re brave enough to call you when something’s going on that they don’t like, don’t punish them.
10. Get your own MySpace account, so it makes it easier to check their account.
11. Program their friends’ cell phone numbers into your phone — and use them to find out where your teens are.
12. Rally yourself when you’re most tired. Teens often are ready to open up about the time you’re ready to shut down.
13. If your teens have their own cars, check the glove compartment and trunk regularly. And, don’t forget to look under the seat. A bottle cap can tell you a lot!
14. You can have influence, but not total control. The more you try to control, the less control you’ll have.
15. Admit when you’re wrong.
16. Do more listening than talking. Be open with them about your expectations of how they are to behave. But don’t forget to hear them out, too.
17. Pick your battles. Sometimes hairstyles or clothing choices just aren’t worth the fight.
18. Encourage their passions. Whether it’s sports or theater, dance or debate, studies show that the more involved a teen is, the less likely he r she is to participate in risky behavior.
19. Keep family time sacred. Do something together at least once a week.
20. Tell them you love them — every day!

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