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Raise a respectful, polite teen by setting appropriate boundaries

Twelve-year old girls are the smartest people on earth. Just ask them. While they value what a 16 year old says, they tend to consider anyone over the age of 20 to be old and irrelevant. A 30 year old is a dinosaur, and if you are 40 or 50, forget it. Twelve year olds know how to dress, how to wear their makeup and how to style their hair. Due to their knowledge at this age, one would think raising them would be easy, but this is not the case. In fact, the knowingness they exude is quite shallow, and age 13 is typically when they realize that what they knew or felt at age 12 was not only childish, but wrong. For parents, this means that age 13 actually may be a great deal worse than age 12.

Raising daughters is extremely tough. And while raising sons may seem easier due to the easygoing emotional demeanor of boys, appearances are not everything and boys struggle as well. So how can parents manage these teenage years and successfully raise a respectful and polite teenager?


Do

Do set appropriate boundaries

As children age, and especially in their teen years, they continue to go through stages of development. One of these stages includes separating from their parents, and they do this by looking for differences between themselves and their parents. They focus on morals, relationships and lifestyles. Teenagers point out when their parents are being hypocritical, as well as when they are parenting incorrectly. They do this by comparing their parents to their friend’s parents, homes and lifestyles. This is normal teen behavior.

As parents, we are not perfect. However, we definitely deserve our teen’s respect. When kids continually think of their parents as flawed, they are being disrespectful. Parents will do their kids a disservice if they don’t step in and set appropriate boundaries. Being a target for your 12- or 13-year-old’s disrespect, rudeness or boundary-pushing is not acceptable. At this age, your kids need very strong boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not.

Do begin teaching manners early

The younger you begin teaching manners, the better. Trying to teach a child who is 12 years old to say, “please” and “thank you” are very difficult. When kids are 2 years old, be sure to use positive reinforcement for saying a simple, “thank you,” “please” and “May I?” This will go a long way when kids are 12 years old. And remember that kids learn best when their parents and others around them also are saying these polite words.

Do monitor your kid’s virtual life

It is essential you know your child’s friends—both real and virtual. Social media has kept parents more connected to their kids, but unfortunately, it also has left them in the dark in regards to whom their children hang out with and converse with. Parents who do not monitor their kid’s virtual lives run a greater risk of not knowing who is most influential in their lives.

Do engage with your kids

Listen to your kids, talk to them, do things with them and hold them accountable. The teen years are the years where you need to negotiate with your child in a way that helps them learn to be accountable. But never negotiate the structure or boundaries of your family. If you do not have boundaries or rules that you enforce with consequences, your teen will actually become more anxious and disrespectful.


Don't

Do not allow kids to manipulate you

Parents need support from other parents, they need guidance from pediatricians and teachers, and they need one another to help add balance and discipline to their child’s home life. Kids have manipulated mom against dad and dad against mom for generations, but when you are a single parent, your own guilt about not being able to do it all can be a source of manipulation that your child will use with the skill of a professional con artist.

The key is to be honest with who you are, what you are, and forgive and deal with this appropriately. Sometimes, as an effort for parents to feel close to their kids, they tell them too much of what has happened in their lives with previous relationships and/or their other parent. This can be a big mistake because kids will--and do--manipulate with any kind of guilt that they sense in their parents.

Do not assume your teen will grow out of the behavior

If you are a parent of tweens or teens, and you feel out of control with your child’s attitude and disrespect, you must get things back on track immediately. Do not wait or procrastinate by believing your kids will grow out of the behavior. Remember that problems with disrespect and attitude are ageless.

Do not overlook a family history of mental illness

Puberty affects not only children’s bodies, but also the way they think. If your family has a history of mental illness, share this information with your child’s pediatrician. This way, your child’s doctor can be alerted to possible changes, which are not part of a normal adolescent’s thinking.

Do not rescue kids from legal problems

If your teens are involved with the law or arrested, do not jump in to rescue them from this situation. Go to their side as a respectful, loving parent and be supportive, but do not blame the police or the law. If your children do something wrong against society, it is vital they understand this is unacceptable, and the law is the law. Parents need to respect the law, teachers and any other authority their children encounter within their teen years. Respect is learned in the home.


Summary
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Parenting tweens and teens is tough. They are emotional, dramatic, egocentric and strong in their beliefs. But they are also watching, listening and wanting a parent to parent them. Always keep in mind that we cannot blame our kids for being disrespectful if we allow it to happen in our home.


More expert advice about Raising Teens

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Mary Jo Rapini LPCLicensed Professional Counselor

Mary Jo Rapini is a licensed certified intimacy/sex relationship psychotherapist in private practice. Mary Jo serves as an intimacy/sex therapist for hospitals and clinics and evaluates patients for bariatric surgery in the Houston area. She wa...

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