5 Rules for Teenagers

Having stopped his son from swimming out into great danger, Marlin looked down at his son, exasperated. He said, “You think you can do these things, but you just can’t, Nemo!” Nemo glowered at his father and mumbled, “I hate you.” A few moments later, Nemo would defy his father, swim out to sea, and be taken by a diver back to Australia.

While many of us have watched (and loved) the heartwarming moments that follow in Finding Nemo, this conversation between Nemo and his dad highlights the heart of many conflicts between parents and teenagers. Teenagers want the freedom of being grown up while parents see the ways they aren’t quite there yet. It’s your job as a parent to create boundaries for your kids, whether they agree with the rules or not. Here are 5 rules for teenagers.

1. When you fight, you have to fight fair.

It’s possible to disagree with someone while still respecting their character, but it seems like arguments these days quickly turn into an attack on the other’s character. Teenagers often see people fighting under the assumption that the other is not only wrong but also bad. You need to teach your teenager how to fight fairly, expressing his position and feelings while still respecting the value of the other person.

Teach your teen how to fight fairly, expressing his feelings while still respecting the other person.

2. You can’t start dating until you’re X years old.

While dating rules seem to be about some magical threshold when dating is allowed, there’s a deeper lesson at play. Society tells your teens to date whoever they want, whenever they want, and to do whatever they want with this other person. Having rules for when your teen can date is one answer to these problems. As a parent, you need to teach your kids the purpose of dating. You need to warn your teen about the dangers associated with dating, like giving your heart away prematurely or getting too physically intimate with someone. Teach your kids to maintain high standards for anyone they might date and a willingness to walk away if the relationship is unhealthy.

3. Watch your language.

When you were growing up, you might remember certain words being bleeped out in a show or movie you were watching. This is not your kids’ experience. Our teenagers consume far more media via the internet where the content isn’t monitored and the language is not censored. This means many teenagers often have no filter for the language they use. That’s why this is one of the important rules for teenagers. Your reminder that your teenager should watch his language helps him be more mindful of where he is and what he says.

4. Yes, you still have a curfew.

Teens will bristle at the curfews we give them, but the obligation to check in and be home at a certain time teaches them that there’s someone who cares about them, where they are, and what they’re doing. A curfew teaches them accountability and responsibility because they know you’re waiting up. It also has the added bonus of getting them out of awkward or difficult situations, because they can simply cite the curfew as a reason to leave.

5. Put the phone down.

While there are many moments it’s OK for your teenager to be on her phone, there are moments she needs to put the phone down. This might include at the dinner table, with others, or in bed. By setting limits on their phone time, you teach your teenagers how to use the phone rather than being a slave to it.

Sound off: What would you add to a list of rules for teenagers?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If you were in charge of making rules for yourself, what rules would you establish?”