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How to Create Out of Control Teens
Top Ten Steps for Parents of Teenagers

These ten easy rules will lead your teen into disaster. An experienced social worker provides professional advice on behaviors parents of teenagers will want to avoid.

By Pamela Lowell, author of Returnable Girl

  1. Parents: you should laugh or think it’s amusing, or simply do nothing when your kids disrespect or challenge you or other adults (especially when they are youngsters). This will set them up for a lifetime of thinking they don't have to follow the rules.

  2. Adopt a “boys will be boys” attitude about teen drinking, athletic hazing, smoking pot, staying out past curfew, or vandalizing the neighborhood. Ditto for girls.

  3. Minimize consequences to help their “high school resume” stay clean. Challenge the school’s rules of conduct if they get into trouble. Always help your kids with their homework (college essays etc.) so their work is much better than the kids who do it themselves. Insist that your teens stand up to teachers when they don’t get the grade they think they deserve.

  4. After your children reach a certain age (certainly after fifteen) never ask where they are going, or call other parents to check on their whereabouts. Leave them home alone a lot to help build their independence. Don’t give up your social life, especially on weekends and/or if you are home, let your teen spend lots of time unsupervised (at least you know where they are). Always try to be the cool parent who says “yes” so that all their friends will like you--never mind the nerdy parents whom you might be driving crazy.

  5. Don’t search your teen's room for drugs, listen in on phone calls, check their computers for downloaded porn, etc. because their privacy is much more important than any suspicions you might have. In light of that, don’t share information with other parents when you hear that their child may be in trouble because they might get mad at you. Most importantly, be sure to become defensive when anyone questions your parenting--or the behavior of your teen.

  6. Jobs are for after college graduation. High school is for fun.

  7. Don’t seek professional help if your teen often seems angry, depressed, rude, high, drunk, or is failing in school. This is a phase that all teens go through.

  8. Undermine your spouse by being the soft touch, and disagree with him or her, often, in front of your teen.

  9. Devote your life to arranging your child’s schedule and activities. Prompt them to get ahead no matter what the cost. Don’t take care of yourself and overwork or overvolunteer. Feel guilty when you can’t provide them with all of the material things they desire: remember the latest clothes/electronics/car is more important than time spent with you.

  10. Believe your kids when they tell you to leave them alone, get out of their life, and let them make all of their own decisions all of the time--after all, they are teenagers, they know everything.

Pamela Lowell is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in the East Bay, Rhode Island. Her novel, Returnable Girl is about a teen in foster care who must choose between the woman who wants to adopt her and the mother who abandoned her all amidst the perils of middle school. Read our review of Returnable Girl.


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