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Dealing with Unreliable Teens: Tips for Parents

Most moms and dads lament the fact that their adolescents are unreliable. For example, their room is always a mess, they don’t do their homework, they don’t respond – or even acknowledge – their parent when he or she talks to them, etc. 
But then, those same teens are driving their own cars (that the parent paid for), talking on cell phones (in which the parent pays the monthly bill), and enjoying non-stop social activities (with few limits). All provided by the “free hand-outs” parent.

Reliability is not a lesson that can be learned from nagging or long lectures. You can’t tell a teenager to be reliable, and then assume your job as a mother or father is done. Reliability is a growing and learning process. 

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

So, how does a parent help her adolescent to be more reliable and responsible? The same way we as grown-ups learn to be reliable. We know that if we don’t pay our gas bill, we don’t get to have heat or hot water. We know that if we don’t renew our license plate, we get a ticket. 
We know that if we don’t earn enough money to pay for dining out, we have to eat left-overs at home. We learn this because we are aware of the “consequences.” And, therein lies the issue. It’s the consequence part that these adolescents don’t experience (which, by the way, is not their fault).

If the gas company would only lecture me for not paying my bill, I would never pay it. But they turn off my gas, and suddenly I’m inspired to resolve the issue …I’m ready to be reliable when it comes to paying the gas bill on time. The same goes for all the other obligations I have. I’m not necessarily any more inherently “reliable” than my adolescent neighbors, but I do understand the consequences of being unreliable. Sometimes I learned the “hard way,” and sometimes I was smart enough to “get it right” the first time.

Adolescents can learn reliability from their parents – but they usually learn by watching, not by listening. Parents can teach their adolescent to be reliable and obey the house rules by setting – and sticking to – consequences. If you buy her a car, make her pay half the insurance. If you buy her a cell phone, she pays half the bill. 
Make her earn spending money by doing chores if she doesn’t have a part-time job (YET!). Require that her room meet your standards before she goes to the movies with her friends. Insist on decent grades, and stick to the consequences for poor academic performance. You get the picture!

Unfortunately, too many moms and dads are held hostage by their teenager. They tolerate back-talk, swearing, poor grades, a bad attitude …and more. These same moms and dads are often the ones paying double car payments and insurance premiums, and charging trendy clothes for their teens on maxed-out credit cards.

This article should be your wake-up call. If you don’t change your parenting style from over-indulgent to assertive, you will see the results of what happens when adolescents are raised without being held accountable. 
I see the consequences of over-indulgent parenting on a daily basis …teens driving under the influence of alcohol, becoming addicted to drugs, entering and exiting rehab, getting arrested and involved with the juvenile courts, child-neglect from young parents who never had to suffer the consequences of their poor choices …and on …and on …and on. Don’t make the “over-indulgent parenting-mistake.” You’ll live to regret it!!!


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents


Thank you for this article!  I actually managed to have my wake up call last week.  Had had enough of my son's disrespect, swearing, bad attitude, etc. so decided to stop paying for his cell phone.  He refused visitation with me last weekend and instead chose to stay with his dad, so his dad can pay for his cell from now on.  I have paid for it for three years now, since his father and I got divorced.

No longer a doormat.


Dear Mark,

I tried your help too late. My 19 years old prodigal, left the house a month ago and like he did for the last three years, even when living with me, he does not call me at all. I do not know where he is or what is going on with him.  I adopted him and did everything I could by myself, as a single mom to him and his sister.   Now,  it hurts so much but there is nothing else I can do but to wait that he matures and gets shaken with the realities of life.


Dearest Mark, YOU are a god-send. TKU so very much for every piece of advice you send us parents. We NEED all the help, wisdom and experience we can get from you. Bless you and your loved ones.

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