1. Be a role model. Your actions -- even more than your words -- are critical in helping adolescents adopt good moral and ethical standards. If they have a good role model from early on, they will be less likely to make bad decisions in their rebellious teen years.
2. Choose your battles wisely. Doing themselves harm or doing something that could be permanent (like a tattoo) -- those things matter. Purple hair, a messy room -- those don't matter. Don't nitpick.
3. Decide rules and discipline in advance. If it's a two-parent family, it's important for parents to have their own discussion so they can come to some kind of agreement and stay on the same page. Whether you ban them from driving for a week or a month, whether you ground them for a week, cut back on their allowance or Internet use -- whatever -- set it in advance. If your kid says it isn't fair, then you have to agree on what is fair punishment. Then, follow through with the consequences.
4. Discuss "checking-in." Give adolescents age-appropriate autonomy, especially if they behave appropriately. But you need to know where they are. That's part of responsible parenting. If it feels necessary, require them to call you during the evening to check in. But that depends on the teen and how responsible they have been.
5. Give teens some leeway. Giving adolescents a chance to establish their own identity, and giving them more independence, is essential to helping them establish their own place in the world. But if it means he's going out with a bad crowd, that's another thing.
6. Give adolescents a game plan. Tell them: If the only option is getting into a car with a drunk driver, call me -- I don't care if it's 3 in the morning. Or make sure they have cab fare. Help them figure out how to handle a potentially unsafe situation, yet save face. Brainstorm with them. Come up with a solution that feels comfortable for that child.
7. Invite their friends for dinner. It helps to meet children you have questions about. You're not flat-out rejecting them, you're at least making an overture. When children see them, see how their friends act with their parents, they can get a better sense of those friends. It's the old adage, you catch more bears with honey than vinegar. If you flatly say, you can't go out with those children, it often can backfire -- it just increases the antagonism.
8. Keep the door open. Don't interrogate, but act interested. Share a few tidbits about your own day; ask about theirs. How was the concert? How was the date? How was your day? Another good line: You may not feel like talking about what happened right now. I know what that's like. But if you feel like talking about it later, you come to me.
9. Let teens feel guilty. I think too much is made about self-esteem. Feeling good about yourself is healthy. But people should feel bad if they have hurt someone or done something wrong. Children need to feel bad sometimes. Guilt is a healthy emotion. When children have done something wrong, we hope they feel bad, we hope they feel guilty.
10. Talk to adolescents about risks. Whether it is drugs, driving, or premarital sex, your children need to know the worst that could happen.
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