There are a few things that I see again and again in my work with parents of adopted teens. The topic that inevitably comes up is their difficulty setting limits and expectations. Now, let’s be clear, teens, in general, are tricky because they are in between childhood and adulthood, and you never know which one you’ll get on any given day or moment. I just wanted to share a few tips that can make all the difference and minimize the damage that setting limits can often ensue. Who knows. You may even gain a little bit of respect from it. Wouldn’t that be nice!
Tip #1- Take the “why” out of it. The only thing that matters in the setting limits conversation, is the actual limit, not why you’ve decided to institute this, or asking them why they haven’t been able to do this before, etc. With setting limits, the “why’s” just muddle the issue.
Tip #2 – Consequences should be short-term, and frequently handed out, not longer-term and less frequent. Maybe you’ve already been in this situation before – your teen does something totally unacceptable, such as take the car without asking, or totally blow off curfew and you ground them for a month. Then, what happens? They do something else wrong and you have nothing else to take away. Or, it drags on and even you’re starting to get sick of it and so you “negotiate” with your teen to shorten the sentence. Also, a no-no, but understandably tempting, given the situation! The other reasons? The consequences starts to separate itself from the actual thing that happened that led to the consequence in the first place. Then, it’s power is shot, anyway. I usually recommend to parents to keep it short and sweet, one to two nights, or a weekend, tops. Keeps it fresh.
Tip #3 – Consequences should be simple enough for everyone to remember correctly. If you need a contract, that means it’s too convoluted. It should not be our goal to control the adolescent. It is our goal to give them the opportunity to make informed decisions. Whether they do what they’re supposed to do or not, really is up to them, but you want them to be able to weigh the pros and cons accurately. It’s important that the consequences are clear upfront, before something goes wrong.