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Enforcing Rules for Teens: Stick With Consequences For Breaking Rules

Dear Your Teen:

As parents, we have made our rules around electronics clear to our daughter.  All literature encourages parents of teenagers to place a “bedtime” for electronics. Our family created an electronic contract with the help of a family therapist that reflected compromise from both us and our daughter. We all agreed and signed the contract regarding electronic time limits.

Nevertheless, my daughter immediately put a spin on the contract. Under the agreement, she was to hand me electronics at 10:00 p.m.; then she convinced me to let her have them until 10:30 p.m. Soon after, she simply refused, claiming that she was behaving responsibly. And both my husband and I failed to impose any consequences for breaking rules.

Answer:

Your rule regarding bedtime for electronics is very wise and it will never be popular with your daughter. In the future, I suggest that you state what your expectations will be without emotion involved – it just is the way it is, and that won’t be changing. If she wants to discuss it, hear her out and pay attention to her concerns in a calm conversation. There may be some adjustments you can make over time, however it is more likely that it is just difficult for her to have a restriction and she would rather be free of it.

Enforcing Teen Phone Rules

If you believe that it is best for her to be without distractions at bedtime (and all logic and studies point in that direction), stay steady. It’s hard to hold the line with an irritated teen chipping away at your confidence. Trust your wisdom and offer empathy in response to her frustration.

Here is an example of a response you might be able to use when faced with anger or a fight with your daughter: “You want your electronic curfew to be later. It must feel frustrating when you believe you are capable of more responsibility, yet we are restricting you. Our job as your parents is to pay attention to what is best for you. And this is what we believe is best.”

If she yells, stay calm. If she stomps off, wish her well in your thoughts as she learns to manage her frustration (this is a valuable lesson, too). It’s a long journey and teen years are challenging for everyone who is involved. Breathe. Laugh. Learn as you go.

Susan Borison

Susan Borison is editor of Your Teen.