You’ve waited for these years for a long time — the teen years. The years when everybody sleeps in, your kids can finally be left home alone for an extended period of time, they’re fiercely independent, and hell, they even drive themselves to football practice. (Can I get an amen?!)
But what you didn’t anticipate was what total asshats your once loving and polite children morph into when they hit those angst-ridden teen years.
So how do you make it work so you both come out the other side alive and still liking each other? You compromise, you stand tough, you stay consistent, and most of all, you never let ‘em see you sweat, ever.
And you also put into place some new house rules and a few genius hacks for living with teens that can make everyone’s life a little more peaceful and a lot less horrible.
1. All phones and tablets go away at night.
As in, they are turned off and put away in a designated place (your bedroom) where they can’t be stolen back. At what time this happens needs to be mutually agreed upon by both parties, and written in stone. I repeat, in stone.
2. Firewall your internet and control when (and if) there is available Wi-Fi.
Because porn, seriously. Listen, whatever it takes and however you decide to do it, get some type of router that blocks “things” from certain devices and/or one that allows only you to control when there is available Wi-Fi.
You are the parent, and you own the Wi-Fi. Period. (It’s also one helluva bargaining tool.)
3. Gas money is not a given.
The gas money fairy doesn’t magically show up when your teens start driving. If they’re not getting a job, then they need to figure out another way to earn money to keep them riding — in order to stave off future arguments over empty tanks, and their newfound dramatic need for freedom and the car and blah, blah, blah. Cars don’t run on your tears. Sorry, kid.
4. Don’t monitor grades anymore.
This may be difficult for some parents, but cut off the academic grade parent portal now. Obsessively checking your teen’s grades will leave you frustrated, and it will fuel many unnecessary fights.
Explain your academic expectations up-front and early, and also the consequences they will suffer if they’re not met, and move on. They will inevitably fail, and then learn how to get back up again all by themselves — and this is a good thing.
5. Car use is always earned, not assumed.
My car didn’t instantly become my kid’s car when he passed his driver’s test. Sorry kid, but if you want my ride you’re gonna need to earn it, and this is non-negotiable (see No. 4, good grades = my wheels).
6. Deal with messy bedrooms.
You will not see a clean room again until they move out, so just learn to live with it, and your sanity will forever be saved. Set basic personal hygiene rules about bathroom cleanliness and dirty laundry, and then shut their door and walk away.
Trust me, it’s not a fight worth battling.
7. Be consistent with everything.
Everything — with discipline, rules, curfews, all of it. You need to stop wavering, and don’t budge. The second you give an inch, these suckers will take 10 miles.
“Consistent, consistent, consistent” is your new parenting mantra.
8. Eat together.
It’s still important, and it really is that simple. And there will be more opportunities for this than you can imagine because teenagers never stop eating. You can feed them food and their soul all at the same time, and they won’t even realize it. Besides, when their mouths are full, you can talk and they can’t talk back. Brilliant.
9. Set personal privacy boundaries.
Set some, and keep them. Your teenagers will be craving the privacy, and as much was you want to be involved in every aspect of their lives, it’s time to not be. Closed doors don’t mean they don’t love you anymore, so don’t take it personally.
10. Never debate.
Ever — because it’s a never-ending circle of frustration. Your new favorite sentence needs to be “This conversation is over.”
11. Take your kid on teen date nights.
Want your teenager to open up to you? Make one-on-one time a priority. Not you, your spouse, and your teen. Nope. I mean one on one.
Get in the car and start driving, anywhere. And then just wait, because the floodgates of conversation will suddenly open as the miles go by.
12. Give them a prepaid (only) debit card.
Don’t give them their own debit card from your family’s checking account because it will be lost within a week. Use some type of prepaid debit card that you keep a very low balance on, and then can transfer money to instantly via your phone.
13. Make your house “the cool hangout” house.
It may end up costing you a fortune in all the extra groceries you’re gonna need to have around, but make your house “the house” where all the teenagers want to hang out. It will help you get to know their friends (a must), and you’d be surprised at how open your kid will become to having you around and hanging out with their friends.