09/17/2013 02:19 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2013

When Teens Think They Are Beyond Rules

By Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D. for

Yes, it happens. Your teens may not only stop talking to you as much as they used to but they may also decide to stop following the rules. Some of them think, "I'm older now so I'll follow my own set of rules and I'll do as I see fit."

Not so fast here. A teenager is not an adult and it is your job as a parent to set structure and rules and look out for your teen's safety. As much as your teens would like to think that they are ready to set their own set of rules, they simply are not. They are inclined to take risks and often use bad judgment.

So what are parents to do when teens announce by their actions or lack of actions that they are now marching to their own beat?

1. Explain to your teen that you are setting the rules for both their safety and your own personal comfort. After all, you live as a family and a family is a community where individuals look out for each other.

2. Let your teen know exactly what the rules and expectations are. Try to set this up with your teen's input. They are more likely to buy into things if they had a hand in creating the plan.

3. Clearly, and very specifically, let your teen know what the consequences and rewards will be if they follow the rules and if they break them. I have never met a teen who doesn't secretly want to earn rewards including positive feedback, privileges etc.

4. If your teen breaks the rules then consistently enforce the consequences. Your teens are watching you. They will want to see if you mean what you say. Surprisingly, they may secretly be watching to see if you are looking out for them.


5. Catch your teens being good. When they follow the rules give them a hearty helping of praise but do it privately. We all know how embarrassed they get in front of their friends.

Overall, your goal is to make it worthwhile for your teens to follow the rules. The corollary, of course, is to make life less appealing if they act as if they are beyond the rules. They are not adults...and even if they think they are 'almost 18'... we all know 18 is a far cry from being 'grown up' as well.

Good luck!

Barbara R. Greenberg, Ph.D. is currently a professional consultant on teen issues at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT. She also maintains a private practice in Fairfield County, CT. .Dr. Greenberg is the author of 10 e books on parenting teens:

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