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"Who's In Charge?"

In your family, who's in charge? A growing number of families raising teenagers have a real crisis in parental leadership. We live in a culture where instant gratification is the norm. If you want to ...

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In your family, who's in charge? A growing number of families raising teenagers have a real crisis in parental leadership. We live in a culture where instant gratification is the norm. If you want to do something, you should feel free to do it, no matter what boundaries or rule are violated.

Most parents raise their children with some very basic values and rules. Children grow up knowing that murder, rape and violence are wrong. They learn that stealing is wrong. For the most part, they grow up being taught that school is important and that respect and honesty are cardinal values.

During elementary school, small children start to understand various things about social relationships. They learn some important social rules and boundaries. When they violate those social rules and boundaries, they experience their first consequences for choices they have made.

By early adolescence, some children start to press the social rules and stretch the social boundaries. They begin to rebel against consequences or any kind of restrictions. Believe it or not, there are some eleven and twelve year olds who honestly believe they should not have a curfew. They feel they should be allowed to smoke cigarettes, have body piercings, see R rated movies and not be held accountable for anything.

In some families, at this young age parental authority is challenged and even threatened. How one responds to one's children at this stage of the journey will definitely impact on the "crazy" teenage high school years.

Should you survive until the high school experience, it is at that time the real adventure begins. For some, it is like your son went to bed on Monday a little boy and woke up on Tuesday as a monster. It sounds extreme, but unfortunately, it seems to be infecting more and more families.

If the real truth be told, the breakdown was probably subtly taking hold in late elementary school when you unconsciously started rescuing your son or daughter from his or her poor decisions. The message they were getting even then was that "I will not be held accountable for my choices, especially if I yell and scream loud enough."

A cardinal rule in parenting and probably in life is that: for every choice we make, there is a consequence that we must be prepared to be held accountable for. Sometimes, as parents, that is a hard rule to live by.

As our children approach teenage hood and high school (probably in these days, by middle school), we as parents need to have a clear game plan. You can no longer get away with "let's play as we go." That philosophy will crucify you and ultimately be a disaster.

The days of "do as you are told" and "put up and shut up" are long gone. The present generation questions everything. They demand an explanation for everything. That is why it is important for you as a parent to be clear, at least in your mind, as to what your rules and boundaries are, and why. Don't feel
compelled to allow your teenager to nickel and dime you. You will end up going crazy. Remember, you are in charge. You have the right to set certain standards without checking with your son or daughter first or seeking their permission.

Any young person living at home should expect some clearly defined boundaries and rules. It is not unreasonable to have a curfew. It clearly should be flexible and shaped around the person, age and circumstance. You are not running a boarding house.

Even in our permissive society, it is not wrong to expect your son or daughter to obey society's laws. Thus, drinking, pot use and false ID's are clearly breaking the law. No one, at any age, has the right to pick and choose the laws they comply with.

As most of you know, if your underage teenage son gets caught drinking or has a drinking party in your home without your permission, you can be held liable under the law.

When John or Mary gets busted at nineteen for pot or using a false ID, who ends up paying the legal fees, which are not cheap? You do!

A growing number of parents feel compelled to live with all of this nonsense. One does not have to be a prisoner in one's own home. You not only have the right, but the obligation to assert yourself as parents. Be clear that you are not going to compromise the law and that drugging and underage drinking in your home are not inalienable rights for teenagers.

"No" is not a dirty word. As parents, we should not be afraid to use it.
We should not abuse it or hide behind it. However, when we feel it necessary, we must use it, stand behind it and enforce it.

A growing number of our teenage children think that once they reach high school they have this endless list of entitlements that have no consequences.

Mr. & Mrs. P. have two children. They live in a strong, middle, upper middle class community. Their oldest son just graduated from high school by the skin of his teeth. Their second son is in middle school. At the moment, he is a good student and mostly compliant.

JP was a cooperative child until later in teenage hood. He was a good student until tenth grade. The decline began in eleventh grade. He attended a large high school and was reasonably respectful. He started to hang out with a group of boys who cut class regularly. He caught their disease. The problem was further compounded because his parents were not notified. He was strategic in how he cut. It was often, but selective. He knew from the start that as long as he was not a discipline problem, it would be weeks, even a month or more before he would get caught. He also knew that even though he should have been dropped from certain classes, he could cut a deal, and he did! That's how he completed his junior and senior years of high school. Needless to say, this approach was not to his parents liking.

JP is a high school graduate. His senior year was the year from hell. He broke every family rule and stretched every social boundary imaginable. He came and went as he pleased. He smoked pot, drank at will and was arrogant. His parents felt trapped. They hoped against hope, that if they got him through graduation, he would change.

Unfortunately, it only furthered his arrogance and his belief that he had all of these social entitlements that his parents could not deny him. He is eighteen and on the slow track to no place. He has no plan or direction. His violence, as well as his acting out, is escalating. His parents have forced a basic social contract for living in their house - respect, responsibility and accountability.

His reaction three weeks ago, when faced with this, was to leave and punish them. To his shock, they did not beg him to stay. It has been a nightmare. However, they realize that if they do not reclaim their parental integrity and break his cycle of self-destruction, they may lose him forever.