Make rules and discipline clear before a problem arises

Establish expectations and consequences in advance, then follow through. If you don’t follow through with discipline, your teen will be less likely to take your rules seriously. Don’t give in.

Talk about the risks

Whether it’s drugs, driving or sex, your kids need to know the worst that could happen.

Consider check-ins

Give teens age-appropriate independence, especially if they behave appropriately. But always know where they are. If necessary, ask them to call you to check in at specified times.

Devise a game plan

Assist them in figuring out how to handle potentially unsafe situations. Let them know that it’s okay to call you any time, day or night. Or provide them with cab fare to avoid having to ride with someone who’s been drinking. You can even come up with “safe phrases” they can use in front of friends that signals they are in trouble without humiliating them in front of friends. Brainstorm and come up with a solution that feels comfortable for your teen.

Conversate, don’t interrogate

Share information about your own day, then ask about theirs. Be specific with your questions without being accusatory. “Was the concert packed? What songs did they play that you liked? Did you get to see so and so?”

Get to know their friends

Befriending your teen’s friends and their parents improves the likelihood that your child, when with their friends, will make good choices when you are not around. It takes a village to raise teenagers, so keep in close touch with the parents of your child’s friends. Compare notes on what your young people are doing. And work as a team to help them make positive choices.

Choose your battles

Help your child understand that the choices they make can have a big impact on their lives going forward. Define choices that are unsafe (texting or drinking and driving) and permanent (tattoos, unprotected sex), and make it clear that poor decisions come with consequences. But find it within yourself to let other, less important things (messy room, their choice in music) go, so that you can find a middle ground.

Offer kind words

Embrace every opportunity to praise your teen for making good choices, being responsible and showing kindness to others. Avoid hurtful words and skirmishes — this undermines their self-esteem, alienates them and gives them a reason to rebel even more.

Grant them independence

Giving teens a chance to establish their own identity, is essential to helping them find their place in the world. This doesn’t mean you should treat them like adults. Instead, establish curfews, encourage them to check in and let you know when plans change, and make it easy for them to come to you when they find themselves in a difficult or unsafe situation.

Lead by example

If you tell your teen not to text and drive then do it yourself, your words won’t hold water. Make good choices and your child will hopefully model your behavior.

Learn more about rules and discipline for these age groups: