Advice for parenting teenagers: rules of engagement


Handing holding pliers cutting wireRolling eyes, slamming doors, endless sulky demands for money and lifts: when you're at the receiving end of such in-yer-face teenage provocation – or even in the brief (and equally unsettling) periods when you're not – it can be tricky figuring out the most effective parental tactics. So, to help you manoeuvre yourself into a winning position, we've recruited Talk's most seasoned teenage-years campaigners for advice on parenting teenagers.

Battlefield prep

As any conquering hero (OK, only slightly scathed parent) will tell you, preparation is all. So, sort out your key strategies before the flak begins to fly...

  • Don't go mental over drinking, boyfriends/girlfriends, going to pubs or nightclubs. If you allow a certain amount of leeway then you can lay down the law about things that you won't allow. If my 16 year old was drinking in a friend's house I wouldn't go mad, but drinking on the street? I'd kill him. potoftea
  • I have stuck rigorously to standards of behaviour. Eldest son is 15, and he is allowed to vent and express himself but I don't swear at him or abuse him, nor am I rude to him. Therefore the converse is not acceptable. pagwatch 
  • When they are really being unreasonable, it is best to leave the room and ignore the behaviour, and quite often when you come back they have come back to normal! (For a while at least.) bagsforlife 
  • My mantra is: 'If it ain't illegal, immoral or annoying the neighbours, don't get your knickers in a twist about it'. Saggarmakersbottomknocker 
  • Be prepared to give up any control freak tendencies you may have. smartiejake 
  • Ignore secondary behaviour. For example, if they do their homework when you ask, ignore the face-saving 'huffing and puffing'. Blandmum 
  • Don't try to be a mate. Do worry and set rules, but be flexible and negotiate - and always come up afterwards with a cup of tea to talk. I remember getting into that spiral when I was a teen where I knew Iwas making it worse but had no way out - that's what the slamming doors is about. Umlellala 
  • Thick rope and duct tape. CustardoCraponChristmas 


Dodgy as the reception may be at times, keeping the channels of communication open is, let's face it, the only way you're going to get your messages across...

  • If they feel they can talk to you, and you won't be too strict, you actually have more control over them. I know so many teenagers who are going out or staying over with boyfriends, etc, while their parents are clueless. potoftea 
  • Don't forget to talk to them. Sounds ridiculous when your kids are small, but I've found the older they get, the easier it is to forget they're there. They start doing their own things and you see them less, so it's pretty essential to remember to initiate some form of conversation with them. ranting 
  • Hang a wipe board near the front door: when anyone goes out, they have to leave a note on it saying where they are. twirlywhirly 
  • Talk with them, not at them - until it becomes really necessary. ajandjjmum 
  • It helps if you can eat together as much as possible as that's when you get the best conversation. My 15-year-old recommended 'don't ask them too many questions 'cause they'll feel obliged to answer them, or you'll wonder what they've been up to!' BodenGroupie 
  • I've always found that listening to their (often utterly dull or complicated) interests is a good one. Even if it's technology stuff, or what's on TV. dancedance 
  • Invite them as Facebook friends - that way you can keep some tabs on what they're up to (had to bribe mine for this one but worth it). SugarBird 
  • Chat in the car - teenagers like to not have to look at you when they talk, so car is ideal as you need to look forward and not directly at them. Ivvvvyygootscaaared444

R and R

All teenage troopers need to kick back and relax but that doesn't mean you can't nudge 'em in the right chillax-choosing (get us!) direction...

  • Get them into sport - especially one which requires hours and hours of training! DS1 has no time to hang around street corners, go on MSN, etc, as pretty much every spare minute is spent in the pool. He's also very careful about what he eats and drinks as he knows his performance will suffer if his diet is as rubbish as some of his school-friends. mimsum
  • Encourage safe hobbies as much as possible in the early teens. girl
  • Make sure your daughter does not keep falling in love with your son's friends. Really makes for complications! ajandjjmum
  • Have a 24-hour notice rule. You will ferry them and the friends about but only with 24 hours' notice. Libra
  • Let them hang out with their friends in your house. That way you know who their friends are (and what they're like), and you know where they are. I cannot understand lots of my friends who say 'no way' to letting a group of teens hang out in their living room. potoftea  


Teenagers swiftly become much-decorated (sometimes, far, far too much) veterans in the art of disguise and deception. Cultivate your counter-espionage sensors and remember that not everything may be as it seems at first glance...

  • Don't get thrown by the fact that they suddenly look like adults - they still have kiddish bits. We do a crawling process of more maturity allows more freedom. Being a twat means freedom gets curtailed. pagwatch
  • Be prepared for them to need you a lot more than you thought. herbietea
  • Don't take it personally if they're grumpy. Chances are it's hormonal and they'll be nice as pie five minutes later. mumblechum 

Ceasing hostilities

Skirmishes, setbacks, flare-ups and ambushes there may be, but we're certainly not talking full-out parent-teen war. Sometimes your peacetime positionings can be the most vital moves of all...

  • Whenever they come home at the agreed time, are ready at the right place at the right time when you are picking them and their mates up from somewhere, text you to say where they are, always notice and appreciate. mumonthenet 
  • Don't back off. They need a bit more space and privacy of course, but it is too easy to anticipate the increase in distance and actually back away from them. pagwatch
  • It's so easy to think back to your own teenage years and wish that either your child would do the same things that you did (in my case piano) or stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that they may have interests which really don't strike a chord with you (like rap music, piercings, tattoos...) LaineyW
  • Take into account that some teens feel the full effect of puberty, hormones, etc, much earlier or later than others. CarofromWton
  • Someone once said to me that their best advice was to treat your teenagers as separate people from you. We had a 'dark' phase with our DD1 from about 12 to 14, then gradually, she seemed to realise that certain types she was hanging around with were just losers, and she was being tarred with the same brush. You have to let them make their own mistakes sometimes and hope that they learn from them. LaineyW
  • Don't moan about/ to them all the time - we were all young once and were not perfect. Give them space and respect their space. herbietea
  • A bit of them can't help being so awful because parts of their brain clearly shut down for the duration. They are like toddlers but with more hormones. BoffinMum 

And finally, some morale-boosters (to cut out and keep)

However visionary and brilliant your teen-taming manoeuvres, there will come a moment (or maybe several dozen) when it all blows up – and you fear all is lost. Chin up, old buddy, this is no time to waver; perk up your parenting resolve and remember...

  • Keep your sense of humour - you'll need it. jesuswhatnext
  • Don't worry about the teenage years - if you do a good job now, teaching right from wrong, teaching them to think for themselves, making them feel secure etc, you'll be fine. I find having two other 'adults' to share life with wonderful. tearinghairout
  • Lock them in the cupboard under the stairs at 13, let out at 18 ready to leave home. ShosheTheGhoshe
  • My dad reckons the years between 13 and 41 are the worst. I am 41, I should add. BoffinMum
  • Their rooms were always fairly disgusting while at home, but now the older DCs are at university and in shared accommodation, and I can honestly say their rooms now are really quite nice and tidy! bagsforlife 
  • Whether they are three or 13, babies or teenagers, never forget the mantra: It's just a phase. This, too, will pass. WigWamBam
  • Don't worry - they start to become human around the age of 22. joannie 


Last updated: about 3 years ago