A good relationship is based on trust, security, and love. Nurturing these three values is essential to having a healthy relationship with your adolescent. Even though your child is becoming more involved in her relationships with peers, it is still important for you to remain responsive to her needs and be there to guide and support her. You are your child’s first teacher, and your relationship with her forms the basis of her emotional and social development.
Set expectations and boundaries. Taking the time to talk to your child regularly about your values, rules, and expectations, and the reasons behind them helps provide her with a blueprint of proper behavior. You can begin to do this by explaining the rules of your household and making sure you stick to them consistently. For example, curfew becomes a big issue during the middle-school years. It’s important to explain to your child the reasons why you set this particular curfew time and to discuss the consequences involved in failing to meet this expectation. If she violates her curfew, make sure to follow through and allow her to suffer through the consequences, as this can help build her sense of responsibility and accountability. The same goes for school-related expectations. If she fails a test, ask her about what happened. Allow her to express her reasons for her actions and help her understand how she can improve upon these behaviors, such as by studying more or finishing homework in a timely manner. Try to make these conversations as natural and in-the-moment as possible. Middle-schoolers have a very low tolerance for moral lecturing.
Find creative compromises. In addition to keeping the communication lines between your child and you constantly open, you may also want to resolve conflicts between the two of you as peacefully as possible. In these types of situations, creative compromises can help you solve dilemmas. For example, you may find that your adolescent is talking back and not meeting her responsibilities at home because she wants to spend more time with friends. If this is the case, explain to her why talking back is unacceptable behavior and why she needs to contribute to the household. You can also both reach a constructive compromise by giving her more time to complete her chores if she earns the privilege by not talking back to you for a week. Education consultant Jennifer Miller suggests that you also work on logical consequences together. Adolescents are still learning and understanding what consequences may follow a particular choice or behavior, Miller adds, and even the most well-behaved middle-schoolers are going to make some poor decisions. If your child makes a poor choice, work together to find ways that she can handle these situations better in the future. For example, if she destroyed someone else’s property, you can provide her with ideas on how she can replace it or make amends.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Maurice Elias, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.