Teen Troubles?  5 Simple Steps That Will Help!

Teen Troubles? 5 Simple Steps That Will Help!


Do you find yourself yelling at your kids all the time?  Are they ignoring you?  Do they spend all of their time on games and other devices?  Have they stopped showing you any respect?  We have gone through all of this and more with our boys.  Here is some hard-won advice that might hopefully help as you move through these years with your teens.

*I talked with one of my boys last night as I was finishing this post.  We talked about a time a few years back when we caught him sneaking out, lying to us about some things, and drinking with some older boys.  I asked him what he thought of us taking his phone away and cracking down on his activities at that time.  He thought about this and said, “Mom, that was the best thing you all did for me.  I was really mad at the time, but you guys were right.  When I was little, you all were pretty strict, but I really thought all that stuff would be fun.  I was glad you took the choice away from me because it was kind of getting scary.”  Looking back on that time, we thought that we were paying attention!  One comment from a friend who saw an unfamiliar car parked near our house was enough for us to figure things out.  It takes a village!

If you have not been consistent (this is the hardest thing!) as a parent or haven’t had much luck enforcing rules, it will be challenging to turn things around, but not impossible.  Here are a few strategies to think about.

First things first.  As soon as you decide that you want, and/or need to discipline your teen, then you will need a plan.  Get on the same page as your spouse or significant other, or on a similar page in order to work together.  If not, then your teen will sense that the adults in their lives disagree, and they will use this to their advantage every time!

Pay attention to everything.  If there are any little signs, then investigate.  The example of us above is proof that you never know.  Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart, you will have to be vigilant and strong.  We never thought our boys were angels, but that was a very humbling time as a parent.  I am so grateful to that friend for making her observation.


Decide what your rules will be.  They need to be simple and few.  We have had the same 2 rules for years.

  1.  Obey first time with a smile on your face.  (In other words with a good attitude.)
  2.  Be respectful.   2A.  No arguing or bickering, no matter who started it!

That’s it for us.  If you think about it, these cover all of the little stuff anyway.  They are simple to learn, and you don’t get bogged down with lots of little rules.  2A came about as an addendum to the area of respect– regarding siblings.  For some reason this needed to be spelled out in our house.  Grab our printable rules below.

Rule # 1

Rule #2

Rule #2A

(Some behaviors can be dealt with by using a contract.  These would include driving, cell phone use, gaming time, dating curfews etc.  This will be addressed in a future blog post.)

Once you have established your rules, then these need to be discussed as a family and one-on-one with each child to make sure that they understand the new plan.  Write down some examples of disrespect that you don’t want to see (or hear) anymore.  Don’t call anyone out on these examples, since probably until now, there has been no rule in place or you have been inconsistent in requiring their respect.

The goal is to let everyone know where you now stand, not to pick on anyone in particular.  (Of course, if you have an only child, then try to be sure that you don’t overwhelm to start.)  This is the time to explain what you want, but also to give your teen(s) a chance to talk about what might be going on in their lives and to ask questions about the new policy.


This is where the rubber meets the road.  You, as parents, have to say what you mean, and mean what you say!  At all times.  By the way, it is your right as a parent to say NO–about anything!  There cannot be a day where you give in because your teens will be testing to see if you will give in!  That is how teenagers are made.

Josh Shipp makes a great analogy saying that kids push and push and push, as if against a safety bar on a roller coaster.  Not to see if the safety bar (parents) will give in, but to see if you will hold firm–so that they can feel safe. This is exhausting to say the least, but gradually as your kids see that you really do mean what you say, then they might ease up, but most likely just to push you in another area. I feel your pain!  The more consistent you are from the beginning, the more success you will have.

Teens have so many things going on in their lives right now.  Changes to their bodies, new schools, hormones are raging, friendships constantly evolving, social media issues, as well as news from the world around them that are all scary things in their lives.  They need to know that they can count on us to be strong.  They need to know that we will be there through the good and the bad.


Be involved, but not nosy.  Ask questions, be interested, give them a chance to share.  Don’t push too hard.  Try to remember what your life was like when you were a teen.  You didn’t tell your parents everything, so don’t expect it from your kids!

A great time to talk is after school when they’re eating a snack–  I like to keep lots of leftovers and snacky foods around for the boys.  I try to be available at this time to hang in the kitchen with them.  Of course, if they have any evening activities, they always come home hungry after those, too.  So, that’s another good time to talk.  Evaluate what works and what doesn’t.  Some kids like time alone when they get home, and others are ready to spill their day out right then.  If no time seems to work for them, tell them that you would like a few minutes to chat and to let you know what time works best.

Car rides are good for either talking or listening, especially if you’re the carpool mom.  They are on their phones, of course, but not always.  I try to keep my music low, and listen for little tidbits here and there.  You never know what you might learn.

After lights out is one of our favorite times to talk with the boys!  The dark is such a comfortable and non-threatening place for heart-to-heart conversations.  Keep it calm and just listen.  Try not to jump to conclusions, but ask open ended questions, present ideas, and mostly give them the floor.  They will say so many things in the dark, that might be impossible in the light of day.


A big part of being a teenager is trying to figure everything out.  They need time to be alone–to think, to chill, to just have time to process what is going on in their life.  This is a natural part of growing up.  The rule in our house is no locked doors, and if a door is closed, then knocking is required, even for us as parents to enter their rooms.  This is a sign of respect on both sides.

There are certain times that we want them to be with us as a family, like mealtimes (when we are actually all home at the same time).  Also, if we want a family night for a movie or a game, we talk about when this works for everyone’s schedule.  They have jobs and homework, so a lot of times, it doesn’t happen until weekends.  I take what I can get these days since our middle son is getting ready to leave for college at the end of the summer.

If you notice that your teen is starting to spend a lot of time in their room, and it’s not for studying or a quick nap, then you need to  have a conversation with him or her.  This is one of those times to tread carefully.  No accusations.  Try gentle questions.  Make their favorite meal and try to get some one-on-one time before it becomes a problem.  This goes for gaming as well!  A good rule to have is no Wi-Fi password until homework, reading, chores or whatever are finished.


These years are the time to really keep your radar fine tuned for changes in behavior that are alarming.  There will be changes, no doubt, but not all are bad.  Keeping the lines of communication open are key so that your relationship doesn’t become adversarial.  (Obviously, there will be times that are rocky, but hang in there, and remember how much stress is in their lives.  Step away for awhile, but come back to disagreements at a different time.)

Discipline for teens is NOT easy!  I think that these years with our boys have been really hard, but really rewarding!  We have come out on the other side with one so far, and our second son is getting ready to leave for college in the fall.  These 2 older boys have pushed us and tried things that we were not ready for, and there have been some really challenging times as parents.  Our youngest son might be the biggest challenge so far, and we are weary.  But, we will continue to try our best to be consistent and stay the course.  He will keep us on our toes I am sure!

Ann and I have been there for each other through the years and miles as different situations have occurred with our kids.  Find a good friend that you can lean on for support as you wade through this challenging time.  It is so much better when you can commiserate with someone who is going through the same or similar situations.

Let us know if you have any good ideas that have worked for your family.  We really would love to have you share for our readers to learn from!





6 Books You Should Read if You’re the Parent of a Teenager

6 Books You Should Read if You’re the Parent of a Teenager

6 Books To Read When Raising Teenagers, In No Particular Order

There’s a lot information that I have learned about raising kids, teenagers in particular. This has come from real life with 3 boys, two of whom are still teens, and lots of reading. 

I am a such a reader, that it is really hard to pin down my favorites, because I rarely meet a book that I don’t like.  We all look for answers, strategies, and ideas to try.  I have tried to think about where I have looked over the years to help us when we were frustrated or upset, or just needing a few pointers with this whole parenting gig.  When it comes to teenagers, here are 6 of my favorite go-to books. (*affliate links are included in this post.)

1) Teen-Proofing Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager I have to say that John Rosemond is my parenting mentor, guru, go-to guy!!!!!!!  I have every single book of his, or did have, because I have loaned out some and never got them back!  He is amazing.  No nonsense, but loving strategies that work.  He terms himself as a parent, as someone who uses “grandma’s law”.  I love him!

If you have toddlers, then Making the Terrible Twos Terrific was awesome, that’s the first book of his that I read.  I have recommended it hundreds of times to personal friends and families that I have come into contact as a preschool teacher.  

Teen-Proofing research was begun by him as a parent of teenagers himself years ago.  This is a great book to refer back to again and again, as are all of his books.  “Managing teens so they make self-protective rather than self-destructive decisions is teen-proofing.”  The book is full of real world examples that are simple to implement.  

2) This was a book that I had to read back when I was still teaching, long before I had my own kids, let alone teenagers, but it was so good that I held onto it.  On the back of the book, the blurb says, “…Dr. Seligman explains how to break an “I-give-up’ habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting your behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue.  These skills can help break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, and make you happier.”  Huh!  That’s a big mouthful, but really it means that you can learn how to talk to yourself in a more  positive way.  I had to read it, so I did.  It’s a bit text booky, but really interesting.  So, I do recommend it because it gives real life examples and you really can use the information to change your life for the better, which in turn will help your kids, your marriage, really all aspects of your life.  It truly might save someone’s life with some of these strategies.

 3) The Optimistic Child is a sequel to Seligman’s first book with children specifically in mind.  It shows the relationship between what children think and how it affects their lives.  “This book shows that learning the skills of optimism not only reduces the risk of depression in children but also boosts school performance improves physical health, and provides them with the self-reliance they need as they approach the teenage years and adulthood.”  

Again, a bit text booky, but so applicable!  I have tried to use many of the strategies with my kids in conversations over the years.  As I am skimming through to write this post, I am amazed at all the strategies that I could still use, and thinking maybe I will reread a chapter or two!  You can teach your child how to talk to him or herself in their heads.  It is amazing how negative we can be to our own selves.  This book and his first show how this is a skill that can be taught (and learned!)  both for adults and kids.  Try it:)


4)  The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch  Ok, this is a gem.  Pausch wrote this as a “last lecture” which many professors are asked to do imagining that it is the end of their life and wanting to share a great lesson.  He actually was dying, and it truly was his last lecture.  But, it wasn’t about dying.  His lecture and the book are all about LIVING.  I have read snippets and chapters out loud to my kids at bedtime, in the car on trips, in the middle of a teenage drama scene in our own house…  His words are great, and not to be forgotten.  Life is too short, so get busy!



5)  Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement This book is hilarious.  It is the journal of Wyma’s year of working with her family to get back to the real world.  She has a great writing voice, and I loved everything she had to say.  She breaks down each month’s goal into bite-sized chunks, gives advice to the reader about the ups and downs of living through this experience.

She has a blog called The MOAT blog www.themoatblog.com  (MOAT stands for A Mother of Adolescents and Teens) which I recommend.  She did a bootcamp this past summer with her Cleaning House goals in mind.  

I have 3 boys, and the last thing that I want a future daughter-in-law to say to me is that my son doesn’t know how to help around the house.  All of my boys know how to cook and clean, among other things.  It was nice to read her book for affirmation that I am not the only “mean mom” around!

6) the Homework Hassle John Rosemond  I told you that I was crazy about this guy!  This is again a book that we have gone back to again and again over the years.  Such practical and user friendly advice.  We have used many of his strategies, and I will have to say ALL have worked.  His advice is the type that you do a headslap and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”  

I’m a teacher, and I wish that I had known about this guy back when I was in my 4th grade classroom.  The main thing that I like about this book is that it helps the parent move the child to independence at school which leads to more success at school.  

Okay, so that is my list for your reading pleasure.  I always like to have a parenting book with me as well as a book for pleasure.  Actually, I’m such a book nerd, that I love these non-fiction parent-help books just as much, maybe even more, than some fiction because they are so helpful.  It’s always good to feel smarter at the end of the day!

Good luck, and let us know if you have any parenting books that you would recommend!

3 Ways Teenagers are the Same as Toddlers and Why!

3 Ways Teenagers are the Same as Toddlers and Why!

Toddlers Vs. Teenagers…Are they so different?

These girls will be teenagers soon!How are teens different than toddlers? 

My life today consists of teenagers.  But, I love to read about all kinds of topics including parents in earlier stages of this game called life.  I just read a blog post yesterday written by a mama of 2 preschool girls.  She has a darling family, and she is a great writer by the way, Jordan Hall and her blog is called A Sprinkle of Jo. Her post was about the annoying habit of toddlers using the word “mom” one million times a day and how it was really getting to her.  It was a great article because it was spot on.  I remember those days.  Those days when it’s a good thing your kids are cute (at least to you…most of the time…) or you might pitch them out the window!  They need you so much and want you even more.  (Note: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post).

Those days are gone now, sort of.  

When I was thinking about writing this post, I started to think how fleeting those toddler days are.  

For me, they lasted a little longer.  We have 3 boys, but they are spread out age-wise 7 years.  So, I was the mother of a toddler/preschooler for nine years if I start counting when my oldest was two until my youngest went to kindergarten.  Not so fleeting!  And, to add insult to injury, when my youngest entered kindergarten, my oldest had just turned 13.  So, I went from toddlers to teenagers in the space of one summer.  I had not realized this, and it explains a lot!

No wonder my husband and I are tired.  We have not caught a break from toddlers or teenagers for 18 years.  My oldest just turned 20, one less teenager, but, one week later, my youngest turned 13.  This means that we have 7 more years to go with teenagers.  I think I want to go back to bed…

Seriously, though, I think that parenting teens is just as exhausting as parenting toddlers, but it’s more of a mental exhaustion.  

–Toddlers have physical needs to be met.  

They are learning to do things for themselves.  Feeding them 3 meals a day, getting them to bed on time, and making sure that they stay active are the ways this happens.  Obviously, there are more things than this, but those are the basics.

–Teenagers also have the same physical needs.  

They have hopefully learned how to take care of themselves in general by now.  But, they are so busy, you still have to at least provide the food—just wait for those grocery bills!, get them to head in the direction of bed at an appropriate time, and encourage them to be active.  Again, this is a list of basics.

Teenagers togetherThe difference is that teenagers know things by now, and are much smarter, which makes the entire process more challenging because they’d like to be the ones in charge of themselves.  Toddlers like to be in charge too, but hopefully, with good parenting you have nipped that in the bud, and you might have some fairly peaceful years during elementary school.  Teens still need to be told, but this is a process which needs to be carefully navigated.

Make an observation like, “Your morning went really well yesterday.  Why do you think that was?”  Get your teen to think about things, to realize on their own, what works and what doesn’t work.  These “almost adults” will be leaving you soon, like it or not.  Telling them to go to bed isn’t helping them to learn anything at all.  This is a great way to start conversation with a teenager.  They can be a bit touchy, so try different approaches, even with each of your teenagers.  What works for one may not work with the next.  Keep trying though, that’s the key.   

Some of your parenting becomes suggestions and leading questions.  

“I’m heading to bed soon, what are you thinking?”  This, hopefully, leads to a decent conversation about what their next day holds.  This can be tricky, so be careful that it doesn’t turn into an argument.

Tone is everything with a teenager.

 I am really bad about forgetting this.  This is a bad mistake.  It starts everything off on the wrong foot.  Take a deep breath and start again.  There are lots of apologies on both sides, but we are learning.  I must be a slow learner since I already have a 20 year old, and I’m still saying, “I’m sorry,” a lot.

–Toddlers need structure in their days.  

This helps them to learn and feel safe.  A couple of good rules and consistency on your part with a pair of vigilant eyes at times, and you are good to go.  My favorite go-to book for these days was Making the Terrible Twos Terrific by John Rosemond.

–Teenagers also need structure in their days.  

This helps them to learn and feel safe.  It just looks a lot different.  This is the time of driving, dating, nights out with friends, and all sorts of other adventures.  The thing is that they aren’t with us for all of these activities.  So, what are the rules?  How can you keep them safe?  I talk about the book, Teen-Proofing Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager also by John Rosemond, in another post.  He has great ideas for setting up this structure.

Here’s the thing.  You have to have rules, and they have to be firm, but flexible.  And, you CANNOT keep them safe.  This is the mentally stressful and scary part.  We, as parents, know all the things that could happen, but teenagers think that they are invincible, and just don’t think things through.  They CANNOT in fact think things through.  Brains are not fully developed until mid-20’s, and never is this more evident than when you are in the middle of a discussion with your teenager about why he needs to be home by 11:00 on a Friday night when he is 16.

Finally, both toddlers and teens have milestones in their lives.  

–Toddlers have some big milestones in their little lives.  

Learning to talk and walk, potty training, dressing themselves, feeding themselves, writing their names…These are just a few.  This is such a fun era as you watch your kiddos start to develop all of these skills.  These things hopefully all happen before kindergarten.  

–Teenagers also have some major milestones happening in their lives.  

Going through puberty alone is a huge event.  So, keep the lines of communication open while this is happening because this is a very confusing and overwhelming time in life!  You know the other big events:  getting a driver’s permit, getting the actual license, heading from middle school to high school and then to college or perhaps right into the working world.  All of this happens over a longer period of time than toddlerhood, but there is so much to figure out as they move through all of these events they need more time!

I guess my major thought on all of this, now that I have written this post, is that raising kids, to quote a cliché, “is quite a journey.”  I cannot tell you what your rules should be for your family.  

I will say that our rules evolved over time with our boys.  The main thing is trust.  We set rules and expect them to be obeyed.  Once they proved to us that they could be trusted, then we were open for discussion.  A good article on rule setting is here.

We always told them to be aware that no matter where they were or what they were doing that they would be caught.  Maybe not at the time, but we would find out from someone.  This has been the case every time one of them would try to get away with something.  

The beginning of raising a child is busy and exciting and exhausting.  Rest while they are in elementary school, because the end is just as busy and exciting and exhausting but, in a totally different, but equal way.  

Support your fellow parents!

 No matter where they are in this journey.  We all need help and understanding all the time!  

Do you see any similarities in these two age groups?  Have any stories to share?  We’d love to hear them:)