Being good parents to kids in their teen years can be challenging. Teens go from being totally dependent on their parents to independent, self-motivated adults during their passage through adolescence. These dramatic personal changes are accompanied with dramatic relationship changes. Often, during these years, parent-child relationships involve plenty of conflict and require lots of compromise. Parents need to guide their kids into adulthood while making difficult adjustments themselves.

So, how do parents know that they are doing a good job of parenting? As it turns out, good parenting is about abiding by key principles that guide decision making and interaction. Below are a series of questions for parents to ask themselves. They provide a set of guidelines for good parenting.

Are My Boundaries Appropriate?

Having a good relationship with a teenager is all about understanding and using appropriate boundaries. Boundaries that are too loose or too restrictive are confusing for teenagers who often need stability, consistency and empathy.

Am I Too Permissive?

Some parents err towards the side of looser boundaries in order to align with their child. Their intentions are pure as they seek to have an intimate, and connected relationship with their children. At times these parents may be overly permissive and allow their teenagers more rights and privileges than their peers or even another parent. They want to foster a deep connection with their child.  Although their intentions are good, loose boundaries are actually confusing and potentially damaging to an adolescent’s overall course of development.

Sometimes parents who hold looser boundaries are more comfortable with being a friend and ally for their teen than being a leader and role model. This strategy tends to leave teens in a confusing position. They may find themselves taking on more maturity and responsibility than is appropriate for their age and stage of development.

Am I Too Rigid?

On the other side of the coin, many parents strive to uphold strong boundaries and discipline. They may err on the side of missing out on their teen’s internal emotional experience, and this can be damaging to their relationship. In upholding overly rigid boundaries, parents may discount the emotional experience of their teen. This can lead teens to seek out connection elsewhere, often through engaging in addictive behaviors.

Teens who feel overly disciplined or criticized tend to associate their self worth with their performance. These teens may or may not perform very well in school, sports and other areas of life. Regardless of their performance, they often feel lonely and emotionally disconnected from others. This is the unfortunate consequence of overly rigid parenting.

Am I Creating A Good Balance?

The real trick for a healthy relationship with your teen is to work on cultivating balanced and appropriate boundaries. Healthy boundaries are flexible and sensitive to the needs of the individual teen. These boundaries are strong and flexible, but not porous. This means that parents take responsibility for setting and upholding boundaries that are appropriate for a given situation. The key to healthy boundaries is consistency. Once a boundary has been set, sticking to it, even if the teen doesn’t agree, will provide the teen with a sense of stability and safety.

Parents who remain consistently clear in their role provide a strong model for a developing teen.

Am I Creating Appropriate Consequences?

Another key element of good parenting is natural and age appropriate consequences. This plays in with boundaries. If you have balanced boundaries you will generally have appropriate consequences. If boundaries are too tight, consequences are usually too restricting. If boundaries are too loose, there is often a lack of consequences.

Consequences help kids learn that their behavior makes an impact, and consequences allow parents to help shape their child’s behavior. Sometimes parents get overwhelmed with consequences because it frequently takes a while for a kid to feel the effect. Meanwhile, there is conflict and stress. If a consequence is tried again and again with no result, something is not working and a change in approach is required. Sometimes a kid needs support, encouragement, and a reward for making the right changes.

Am I Clear In My Communication?

Teens need to get the message from their parents that they are good, worthy and inherently healthy people regardless of their behaviors. Successful parents, when they are upset, take care to clarify that they are upset with a teenager’s behaviors, not inherently upset with the teen as a person. Teens thrive from knowing that they are not inherently flawed as they experiment, succeed and fail to discover who they really are as people. This is, after all, the appropriate developmental task for their age: to explore their true identity as they grow into adults.

Am I Open To Communicate With?

What is open communication? It is an agreement between individuals to do one’s best to hear the other, not take other’s experience too personally, not blame other, and respecting that the relationship is about compromise.

  • For parents – Are they talking with their kids about important topics: friends? drugs, sex, feelings, emotional coping, school, and stress?
  • For kids – Can they approach their parents? Will their issues be criticized or judged? If in trouble, can they call their parents and get the needed support and assistance?

Parents can get to know their child and have a sense when “yeah my kid is say no they are fine with all their friends….school is easy….they have only had sex once…they are not struggling” when in actuality the kid is not saying what is fully happening. Parents need to read behind the lines. Sometimes kids say no when they don’t mean no. Teenagers are teenagers, not adults. They are still learning what healthy communication looks like.

Am I Spending Quality Time With My Teen?

Enjoyable time spent together is an important aspect of good parenting. Most teenagers don’t always seek family time. However, parents can still schedule quality time with their teens. They are the parent. Taking in all members interest, parents can lead an activity that is reasonably enjoyable to all or most of the family. Teenagers appreciate connection, attunement, and doing neat things. You can’t always take teenagers fully at their words when they are trying to wiggle out of family outings. For example, they almost all hate hiking before going hike, then magic happens and they enjoy themselves and feel accomplished.

Quality time can also be a part of the household routine. Simple things like eating together with no TV each evening can lead to quality family time. The main point is to spend time with your teen in a family setting whether it is fun stuff, chores, or visiting relatives.

Am I Behaving Like A Parent?

Parents are parents and kids are kids. In our society there are a lot of situations in which kids act like parents and parents act like children. A good relationship is one where all individuals are in their age appropriate roles. In other words, good parents behave like parents. They set good boundaries, communicate openly and spend quality time with their kids.