10 Ways for Your Tween to Avoid Trouble
by Steve McCullen
shape the news
1. Supervise your teens: Yes they are seeking independence - but you still need to know where
they are going and who they will be with. Don’t assume every “teen” activity is properly
supervised or safe unless you have chaperoned it or have otherwise satisfied yourself. All kids
want a little fun, adventure and to “hang out” with their peers. You are probably going to have to
work with other like minded parents in your community to provide safe supervised outlets for
2. Friend Control: This will certainly bring the most controversy and experts disagree. Strictly
from the standpoint of keeping your teen out of trouble, help your child pick a core group of
friends who you are comfortable with. You should know them and their parents.
Undoubtedly, next to properly supervising your child, his/her friends will have the greatest impact on their
actions and what there exposed to.
3. Teach values and character: This is what your child will rely on when you are not there to help
them. Respect for other people and their property, assertiveness, self confidence, honesty and
empathy. You don’t have the time and they don’t have the attention span to teach them what to
do in every possible situation. They should trust their conscience.
If it feels or seems wrong, dangerous or unfair - it probably is.
4. Set boundaries: You have the absolute right and responsibility to set the rules. Where they go,
who they go with, how late they stay out, what they wear. These are all examples of boundaries.
Have you ever driven on a high twisted mountain road? You were probably comforted to have
the guardrails there. How high or low you set the boundaries is your decision
- and yours alone. As a guide, you can remember if you set the rail too high, your child may have trouble being
independent, and worse, constantly look to others to tell him what to do. We have all seen the
"no and low" boundary kids. They are the ones who skip school, stay out as late as they like, drink,
experiment with drugs and sex. These kids also have that strong adolescent need for the company
of friends. Since most parents have boundaries that prohibit their children from joining them,
they are constantly on the look out to make new friends that can join them. Don’t let your child
be one of them.
5. Communication- Talking, alone, is not going to solve all the conflicts that are inevitably going
to occur between you and your teen. But communication is at the base of the parenting pyramid.
You can't set clear boundaries, educate, counsel, or coach with out it. There are times and
situations where active listening and exploring feelings are appropriate. There are also times
where a more direct approach is needed. Remember, “tweeners” are experts at verbal judo. Don’t
expect them to thank you for your wisdom or see your logic when you have to make an
6. Responsibility: Look for appropriate opportunities for your adolescent to start solving his or
her problems on their own. They may need gentle guidance at first and you may need to approve the
solution. Chores are good and absolutely necessary for self confidence and character
development. Be patient and give them step by step instructions - written if necessary.
It's easy to get upset and finish the job yourself, but think of it this
way: If you have to spend two hours a night for a week teaching your fourteen year old son how to wash dishes, you will get four years of
7. Compassion: We all want our children to be loving and to help others. It is best when they do
this through organized activities such as church, school, and scouting. Emphasize to your child
that there are some problems that require the immediate attention of an adult, if not a specialized
professional. Examples include anything involving a firearm, a friend who is even remotely
considering suicide, peers who have drug and alcohol problems, and sexual activity with an adult.
8. Unity of Command: This means working with your spouse, ex-spouse or child’s step to
develop a consistent boundary and discipline system. It may be very difficult if you are not
getting along but again this is an area that is going to pay big dividends for both of you and your
child. Allow each parent to have flexibility on the little things and hang together on the big
9. Stop looking for silver bullet: I have searched long and hard, high, and low, and I can assure
you there are not any medications, boot camps, therapy or discipline styles that
are going to work all the time, and for every child. The teen and preteen years are going to be filled with ups and
downs, fits and starts. You are going to have successes and failures.
10.Resources to learn more:
www.ed.gov/pubs/parents/adolescence (U.S. Department of Education- site is
sometimes hard to get to but well worth it)
THE ROLLER COASTER YEARS- Charlene C. Giannetii and Margaret Sagarese
CRISIS PROOF YOUR TEENAGER- Kathleen McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman M.D.
THE LOVING PARENTS GUIDE TO DISCIPLINE- Marilyn E. Gootman Ed.D.
Steve McCullen is a Maryland Police Officer with experience in Youth Programs. In addition to writing about parenting issues he hosts the website
http://www.shapethenews.com Please send comments about this article to Steve at