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10 Universal Laws for Parents of Teens

1 "Law of Belonging": The greatest need of teenagers (after music and the phone) is a strong sense of belonging. They need to feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. If they don't get it in a healthy place - with family, worthwhile friends, clubs, sports, youth groups, etc. - they will get it in an unhealthy place - with inappropriate friends, drugs, gangs or cults.

2 "Law of Hope": Recent statistics show that one of the age groups in which the suicide rate is rising is adolescents. This is the direct result of a lack of hope - hope for the future, hope that things will get better.

3 "Law of Power": Once you enter into a power struggle with a teen, you have already lost it. Remember the closing line of the movie War Games: "Interesting game . . . the only winning move is not to play."

4 "Law of Management": A management approach to raising teens puts parents clearly in charge. The goal is to manage them eventually out of your lives and into their own. Parenting is one of those jobs in which the goal is to eliminate the need for your job.

5 "Law of Modeling": If you don't want your teen doing something, make sure you are not doing it yourself. Teens have very strong and sensitive hypocrisy meters and are eager to use them.

6 "Law of Differing Views": It's no great insight that parents and teens view the world in different ways. One clear example of this is school. For parents, the view is we work all day, kids don't. School is their job. Therefore, they should get good grades. The view of teenagers can be that school is right in the middle of their important social world.

7 "Law of Punishment": Punishment often springs from anger. Punishment breeds resentment and a desire for revenge. Teens have many creative ways to retaliate.

8 "Law of Consequences": Consequences teach teens about the real world. In general, consequences need to be reasonable, respectful, swift and strong enough to get the attention of teens.

9 "Law of Structure": Parents need to set boundaries and structure from day one. If you don't do this while they are young, what makes you think they will obey a curfew once they have a car? We tend to over structure the time of young children and understructure the time of teens. Teenagers need structure as much, if not more, than younger children.

10 "Law of W's": When teens are away from home, parents need to know who they are with, where they are, what they are doing, and what time they will be back.

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist specializing in working with teenagers and their parents. A nationally syndicated relationship columnist and speaker, Jeff is also the founder and CEO of http://www.ParentingYourTeenager.com, where you can subscribe to his f'ree internet newsletter "ParentingYourTeenager." E-mail Jeff at jeff@parentingyourteenager.com

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