My wife is a smart person. When she took a full time job several years ago, she wanted us to split the household chores and insisted we write down who agreed to do what.
All families - like all groups - must have compliance to certain rules to survive as a group. The problem in families with teenagers is that teens are at an age when they may rebel against rules. As they are about to be on their own, they don't want to obey anyone's rules but the tyranny of their peers.
So how do parents get them to comply?
This will be less of a problem if adolescents have been well disciplined as children. They will have been accustomed to following rules, or being punished for breaking them.
There are three ways parents can establish household rules with adolescents. The first way is to include them in the process of deciding what the rules shall be. Everyone has a say in the formulation of rules, so everyone has a stake in seeing they're followed.
The second way is for the parents to formulate the household rules themselves, and then explain the reasons for them to their children. Teens will then understand the rules even if they don't like them.
The worst way to encourage compliance to rules by teens is to lay them down with a Because I told you so ultimatum. This usually works when kids are six but not when they are sixteen.
What I recommend to families is the first method of formulating rules. It's a process called negotiating and contracting. I try to get everyone together to agree on certain rules and to write them down so each knows exactly what is expected of him or her.
But isn't that allowing teenagers too much freedom? Aren't there some rules the parents should lay down regardless of what teens say or want?
There certainly are. These are what are called non-negotiable items. Thirteen year old Johnny cannot stay out until two or three in the morning no matter what the occasion and Kathy cannot drive the family car without liability insurance.
Once rules have been established, it is imperative the family then agree on rewards and penalties for keeping or breaking those rules. These should be automatic and inevitable, with some room for legitimate mitigating circumstances. It just may be that Suzy is late because she really did get a flat tire and couldn't get to a phone.
Once rules and consequences are established, ideally there should be no fussing, yelling, lecturing, nagging or repeated warnings. I allow parents one warning, but no more, to save wear on their nerves and vocal cords.
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