Teens Breaking CurfewI thought I was having a nightmare when I heard the door crack open and woke me at 2:37am.  Thoughts started flashing through my head.  Did I forget to set the alarm?  Was someone breaking in?

The one thought that did NOT cross my mind was that the person entering the door was my teenage daughter coming in after curfew.  Since we had previously discussed a firm 1:30am curfew on many different occasions, and we had beaten the subject to a pulp, I just knew it couldn’t be her breaking curfew and coming in after our agreed upon time.

I was wrong.

Reality Check

Formulas are only good if you use them.  They are only a guide, not an absolute.  Recently we published a report called 5 Parenting Mistakes You Must Avoid You’re Probably Making.  In it, we discussed one of the top five parenting mistakes as lack of autonomy.    We identify the constant struggle between teen freedom and parental security and suggested overcoming the challenge by applying five simple techniques – accepting, addressing, adjusting and affirming.

What do you do when your teen repeatedly breaks curfew? 

This was the resounding question that rang through my head.  I was sick and tired of the same discussion.  My initial reaction was to take, take and take.  No car, no phone, no going out – basically no freedom.

Taking a stab at her autonomy should do the trick I thought.  But then I thought of Einstein’s definition of insanity and decided to take a different approach.  Insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”  Did I want to regress in to old parenting behaviors that never worked?  While giving in to initial reactions would appease my emotional outburst for the moment, would taking away autonomy from my teen daughter ultimately lead to the actual behavioral shift I wanted?

I didn’t think so.

How I ultimately handled the curfew breaking debacle.

I allowed the internal emotion stir and the heat rise to my head.  This was my natural reaction so I let it pass.  Then I calmed.  I breathed.  I allowed those initial sensations so subside.  I allowed myself to move from right-brain emotion, to left –brain reason.  Ultimately I decided to respond instead of react.

I remembered the parenting report we had just published.

I decided to apply it.

I accepted.  Teens are going to make mistakes.  Often times, they will make the same mistakes over and over again.  It is a reality that we as parents must accept.  When you really think about it, we all make the same mistakes  multiple times before we learn.

I addressed.  I didn’t beat around the bush with her.  I directly and sternly identified the previously identified agreements she had broken.   First she had failed to text me to advise she was going to be late.  Second, she came home more than an hour after curfew.

I adjusted.  First I adjusted my own attitude.   As I mentioned, I went from emotion to reason, then from reaction to response.  I addition, I adjusted my approach.  Rather than doing all of the typical parental talking , I asked questions – both open and closed ended.  What was your understanding of our previous agreement regarding curfew?  Were you unable to make a call or a text?  What do you think it felt like for your Mom and I to have to wait up worried about you?  Do you think we are unfair by including you in the conversation about decisions made about your curfew and other rules?

There were a bunch more, but you get the point…

I then affirmed.  I readdressed the firm curfew agreement.  I explained again my safety concerns with her being out after 1:30am.  I was clear that breaking agreements will be addressed and that consequences will follow – always!

What would you do?

What have you done in the past?

How did that work out?

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Parenting is not an easy job especially when dealing with troubled teens.  During the teenage years, children tend to be rebellious, cause all sorts of problems and may be very hard to deal with.  The reasons for the unwanted emotional and behavioral problems may be caused by several factors.  It is up to you as a parent to help your teen by being there for him during these hard and challenging adolescent years.

As a parent you should never give up when the situation becomes harder.  It is important to always be by your teenager’s side to help him manage this hard time.  There are several ways you can ensure that you are there for your teen.

Open Lines of Communication

As with any relationship, communication is key.  It is important to open all lines of communication and let your difficult teen know that you are always there for him and that you are always ready to listen to what he has to say.  To communicate effectively, it is important for you to learn new ways of communicating with your teen that encourage openness.

 As parents we sometimes tend focus on the verbal part of communication.  In order to improve your relationship with you teen, turn your attention to listening to him.  It may be a difficult proposition, but connecting with your by listening intently is a major advantage for you.

Focus on the Positive

It is important to be positive.  Despite the constant urge to point out the mistakes that your teen is making, focusing on the positive is beneficial.  Positive reinforcement will encourage your teenager try and do more positive things as a way of seeking attention.  Troubled teenagers like attention and will pursue it in all ways even if it means doing something good.

While the natural urge might be to lecture and scold, do your best to also acknowledge and praise.  Maintain a healthy balance between recognition and reprimand.

Communicating Your Love

Troubled teens need validation that they are loved.  The primary source of love should come from you.  There are many different ways to communicate your love to your teen.  The simplest way is to just tell him that you love him.  You can also write him a short poem or a letter.  This is an effective way to communicate love when you find it difficult to express verbally.  Also, try spending time with him by taking walks, going to an amusement park, or seeing a cool movie.

Recall for a moment their infancy and the way you cuddled and spoke with him.  Look at him with those same eyes and begin to express your feelings.  You are sure to see a reaction.

Adolescence is a difficult time for children but it is a necessary part of becoming an adult.  If your teen seems to be troubled or having a difficult time, ensure that you maintain the open lines of communication, remain positive and always communicate your love.  By doing so, you will help him move through this challenging phase with meaningful support.

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