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Most parents of teens think their job is to talk to these new creatures now living in their house, the ones that used to be freckle-faced kids and are now scowling adversaries.

I remember feeling I had to tell my teens zillions of things about life and I had to do it quick before they flew off into their own lives. I must have sounded like a blabbering preacher. Teens don’t need preaching, they need parents who understand contemporary adolescence.

I have found out through the years that the most useful parenting strategies for dealing with teens are COMMUNICATION, RESPECTING PRIVACY, and EXPECTING RESPONSIBILITY.

COMMUNICATION with teens is tricky. The biggest part is LISTENING and finding clever ways to encourage the teen to talk. Listening means being entirely present, not thinking about a million other things, and really hearing what is being said. Watch body language too. Remember how a young baby turns away when it has had enough feeding or play? Teens also signal they have had enough so pay attention (and get used to!) to the shrugs, downward glances and exaggerated sighs.

The best way to get a teen to talk is to share your own experiences as a teen, even some of the painful ones. The worst way is to criticize, nag, put the kid down, snoop–in other words all those things we hated when our parents did them to us.

RESPECTING PRIVACY is a must. Teens have new bodies, new thoughts, new urges and they need time and space to get used to themselves. So don’t snoop in their room or backpacks, don’t wander around in their computer don’t listen into their phone conversations, don’t open their mail. I have found that in families where teens can trust their parents not to violate their privacy, most teens model this trust and can be trusted.

I am not suggesting parents be oblivious to possible troubles the teen is into. Obviously there are times when parents are concerned about suspicious teen behavior when they may not be able to respect privacy. Hint: Tell the teen what you are doing and why.

EXPECTING RESPONSIBILITY means that you expect the teen to get up in the morning, go to school, do school and homework, keep body and room in reasonable hygiene and respectability, manage an allowance, etc.

Teens are busy, they need time with friends and that includes telephone and computer talk time but, nevertheless, the wise parent expects the teen to do MORE not less around the house. Work out who does what and when at a family meeting. The goal is that the teen can feel, “I count around here. They need me to keep the house running.” which is lots better than, “I just sleep here, nobody cares what I do around here!”