When it comes to discipline, parenting experts focus on the things that change for parents when their child begins adolescence. This is because teens start to form their identities and need more independence. Therefore, a parent's job changes from being the person in charge all of the time to being more of a monitor and advisor much of the time.
As you notice your parenting job changing, it may seem like your rights and responsibilities as a parent also change. It's true, some rights and responsibilities do shift over to your teen, so that they can have more freedom to make their own decisions and be more independent. But, there are some that will remain consistent throughout your child's adolescence. Here I have put together a list of ten parenting rights and responsibilities as they pertain to parenting teenagers:
- Parents, along with everyone else in the family, have the right to be treated with respect. This includes not only parents and teens, but also siblings and extended family members who may be living in the home.
- Parents have the right to set rules and limit privileges when rules are not followed. This includes house and family rules that are followed out of respect for everyone who lives in the home. Some examples are rules about chores, guests, curfews and illegal substances or activities within the home. Parents can say no, even when they just think something is wrong. Trust is a big issue between parents and teens. While teens are allow to make mistakes - and parents should give their teens the ability to earn back their trust - that does not take away the responsibility of a parent to keep their minor child from hurting themselves by setting rules and saying 'no' when needed.
- Parents have the right to ask questions and expect that they will be answered truthfully. Parents should be aware of a teenager's growing need for privacy when invoking this right. Also, remember to ask questions when emotions are not running high to avoid arguing with an angry teen, as that will only add to the problem instead of solve it.
- Parents have the right to know where their teenagers are, who they are with and generally what they are doing. While teens do not have to go into detail about private matters, like their thoughts about the person they are dating for instance, they do have to let parents know things like the location of the party they will be attending and who is chaperoning the party.
- Parents have the right to talk with anyone who is involved in their teen's life. This includes, but is not limited to: teachers, doctors, coaches, mentors, friends and the parents of friends. Parents should also expect that they will get truthful answers to their questions when talking to these people. I, myself, find it hard to deal with parents of my teen's friends when I know that they have a habit of lying for their own teenager. What is to keep them from lying to me about mine if they feel it will help my teen 'stay out of trouble'? Nothing. Knowing how that makes other parents feel is the reason why I am always honest when asked questions about my teen's friends by their parents. I encourage you to do the same.
- Parents have the right to encourage family unity. They can expect all members of the family to take part in family traditions, family vacations, family meetings and other activities that build strong family bonds.
- Parents have the right to monitor their children's access to the outside world. This is true whether that access comes from physically going somewhere or it is through the technology of a cellphone or the internet.
- Parents have the right to encourage and monitor a teen's view of their future. While teens are given the ultimate choices of what they want to do with their future lives, parents can influence using encouraging methods, but not through discipline. For example, encourage your teen to like science by sending them to space camp, but don't take away privileges because they didn't read the book on the solar system that you gave them.
- Parents have the right to make mistakes and change their minds. Mistakes happen, learning to fix a mistake and apologizing is important. Parent can learn more about this in our article: Learn to Fall Back and Regroup.
- Parents have the right to let their teen know they love them and care about them. While giving your teen a huge hug in front of their friends when you drop them off somewhere may not be the time, letting your teen know daily you care is important enough to mention, text, email, etc. A simple message works best, being careful not to embarrass them around their peers.
You'll note that if you go back through this list and exchange the phrase 'Parents have the responsibility' for the phrase 'Parents have the right', you will see that it also fits. As a parent, I feel it is important to remember that what gives us the right to parent is also what expects us to take on the responsibility of parenting. Taking a minute to remember your parenting rights as responsibilities will humble you any time you ever begin to feel authoritarian when you discipline. Give it a try.
Source: Adapted from the Parents Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, Tri-City Substance Abuse Coalition.