Setting Great Expectations For Your Teen
Studies show that teens usually perform up to what is expected of them. It’s important then that you set your expectations high enough that you encourage your teen to do his/her best and that you actually communicate those expectations to your teen. Some parents discount teenagers, thinking they will make horrible decisions because of their age, while other parents can have unrealistic expectations that place undue pressure and stress on their child. Finding a healthy balance is the best way forward.
When deciding what you will expect from your teen, keep in mind that you want your child to learn independence. The adolescent years are a time to instill responsibility so that whatever school, job or career your teen ultimately chooses, he/she will be successful.
Though it may seem like some expectations should be obvious, such as not smoking, it is important to communicate them to your teen. What feels obvious to you, may not be to an adolescent who is surrounded by peers who are making different choices. Communicating your expectations is important, plus it opens up the opportunity for you to address risky behaviors with your teen. Clearly defined expectations help your teen be prepared for temptations and challenges they will face.
Here are a few expectations that every parent should consider telling their teen:
I expect you to make good grades. As your teen enters high school, be sure to give them a positive message about their abilities and tell them you expect good grades. Don’t say that you know the workload is really hard in high school and you hope they can keep up. Reassure your teen that although there may be a fair amount of work, it’s manageable and you know that they are smart enough to excel.
I expect you to avoid drugs and alcohol. Research consistently shows that parents are a powerful influence on their children’s likelihood to experiment with drugs and alcohol. For example, in April 2014, a survey from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) showed that teens whose parents tell them that underage drinking is completely unacceptable are more than 80% less likely to drink than teens whose parents give them other messages about underage drinking. Teens need to hear a consistent message from you that you expect them to avoid substance abuse so that they are prepared to say no when tempted.
I expect you to act respectfully. Tell your teen the types of behavior you expect from them. Communicate your values to your teen and let he/she know that you are expecting them to act in a certain way. You may be surprised at how they rise to your expectations! Some parents make the mistake of assuming their teenager will be rude or lie to them based on what they see in movies or from stories they have heard, but there are many teens who act very respectfully, and you should expect that behavior from your son or daughter. The best way to ensure you receive this type of behavior is to model respect to your teen throughout their lives. By acting respectfully to your children, spouse, friends, and people in your community, you are setting a standard for your teen to live by.
I expect you to be responsible. Teens are well known for wanting many privileges as they become more independent. Be clear that with increased privileges comes increased responsibility. Communicate the specific things you expect your teen to do, such as making positive choices about risky behaviors, completing their chores at home, or sticking to the house rules. Lay out concrete consequences for not meeting your expectations and follow through with them.
Ironically, lowering the expectations you have for your teen can actually encourage him/her to make poor choices! Instead, make sure that the words you speak show high aspirations for your teen and build your teen up. Let him/her know that you see the courage, strength, and determination in them to make healthy, mature choices. When faced with a difficult choice, you want your teen to hear your voice in their head guiding them in the right direction.