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Raising Responsible Teens
By Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Peer pressure move over. There’s a more powerful influence in the lives of teens and it’s found at home.

While peers undoubtedly influence each other, social science research demonstrates time and time again that parents actually matter most. However, having parents per se is not the determining factor. Rather it is the degree to which mom, dad, or guardian actually monitors the teen’s behaviour that is a decisive factor in reducing the risk of pregnancy as well as drug, alcohol, and cigarette use in their teen.

Higher degrees of “parental monitoring” is measured by the parent’s knowledge and ability to respond to these questions:

Do you know who your teen’s friends are?

If your teen is going to be late, does s/he know that you expect him/her to call?

Do you know where your teen is and what s/he is doing after school?

Does your teen tell you who s/he will be with before they go out?

Do you know where your teen is when he or she goes out at night?

Do you know how your teen spends his or her money?

Do you know the parents of your teen’s friends?

Do you talk with your teen about the plans s/he has with his/her friends?

Some parents back off from monitoring their teen thinking they are thwarting their teen’s independence. In other situations, the teen may view such questions by their parents as intrusive and may balk, feeling their parents are demanding and interfering.

There are 3 key things to remember for successful parental monitoring:

Parental monitoring works best with parents who already have a reasonable relationship with their teen. Family members should show mutual respect and there should already be family rules in place that govern behaviour.

Parents must approach the issue of parental monitoring from a point of view of concern, guidance and respect. Many of the questions are a matter of courtesy and cut both ways. It is reasonable to know when to expect family members and to know how to contact each other in case of emergency. It is equally important for children to know where parents are and how children can make contact. This is simply mutually respectful behavior for planning and safety.

Start when your kids are young and be a good role model. If you want to know where your kids are, always let them know where you are too. Explain and demonstrate from an early age that family members stay in touch and show concern for each other.

Children and teens develop self-esteem as a result of their parent’s involvement in their lives. Parental monitoring may seem like a pain to some teens, but hey, you only concern yourself with things that are important. So, parental monitoring isn’t about surveillance, it’s about caring. That’s a good message to any teen.

Gary Direnfeld is a child-behaviour expert, a social worker, and the author of Raising Kids Without Raising Cane. Gary not only helps people get along or feel better about themselves, but also enjoys an extensive career in public speaking. He provides insight on issues ranging from child behaviour management and development; to family life; to socially responsible business development. Courts in Ontario, Canada consider Gary an expert on matters pertaining to child development, custody and access, family/marital therapy and social work. He can be reached at www.yoursocialworker.com or (905) 628-4847

To order Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, send a cheque or money order in the amount of $12.00 to:
Interaction Consultants
20 Suter Crescent, Dundas, Ontario, L9H 6R5

Are you the parent of new teen driver? Check out this teen safe driving program: www.ipromiseprogram.com

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