Often, a teen’s behaviors can be the result of an unhealthy environment that exasperates existing emotional or social conditions. Unfortunately, in these situations, it’s often difficult for parents to recognize how their own actions and choices may be making the problem worse. From simple disorganization and lack of routine, to more critical issues like substance abuse or domestic violence, a chaotic home creates more problems for troubled teens. Some parents dislike the notion of contributing a teen’s behavior to environment, because it seems to excuse the behavior. However, parents who humbly decide to address their own parenting and actions as part of the process of redirecting their child’s behavior see more growth and change. First, establish a routine. Creating expectations for regular activities that occur daily, weekly or even monthly can help organize the whole family. If your teens know, for example, that homework is completed immediately after school, dinner is served at 7 p.m. each evening, and that the family will attend services together every Sunday morning at 10 a.m., they will begin to shape their other activities around those events. Assign responsibilities to your teen – and yourself. Work together to create a chart, chore wheel or checklist to track household responsibilities. Can assign tasks, bid on them, draw them out of a hat – have fun with it! Not only does this tool help ensure everything gets done; it increases accountability, and creates feelings of cooperation.
Model the behaviors you want to see in your teen. “Do as I say and not as I do” is a poor precedent for a parent to set. If you struggle with substance abuse issues and your teen is modeling that behavior – seek treatment with her. If you caught your teen stealing your cigarettes, commit to kick the nicotine habit together. If too few family dinners and two many trips through the drive-thru have left you and your teen with a few extra pounds, become her workout buddy and set regular dates to walk or hit the gym together.
Set consistent boundaries and consequences for bad choices. Make sure your teen understands the family rules, your expectations for her conduct and the specific discipline she can expect if she is late for curfew or gets in trouble at school. Finally, take steps to make your home a calm, tranquil place. Kids of all ages do better if they live in an organized home. Make an effort to keep everything in its place to establish order and teach your teen good life skills. Again, model organization and set a good precedent by making your own bed in the morning! It’s much easier to convince your teen to clean her room if your own is consistently neat. To learn more about ways to help establish a more positive home environment for your teen, visit www.compassroseacademy.org.