I talk with parents all the time who are concerned about what kinds of rules, or punishments, or curfews, or whatever, they should be instituting at home. For the most part, it is parents of older teens who are asking these kinds of questions. I find this highly telling. Parents of younger teens generally feel pretty comfortable with their rule systems. But as teenagers age, the systems loose their relevancy.

I remind these parents that in a short time, perhaps a year or two, these same young people will often be completely on their own. They’ll be living in a dorm or an apartment somewhere, making entirely their own decisions about when they come home and when they wake up and what they eat and whether they study.

In response, parents often give me the eternal wail: “I know, but…!!!” And those “buts” can go on for some time.

Nevertheless, we’re talking 12, 18 months here for Juniors and Seniors in High School. That’s not much time.

So should you just remove all of her rules? Let him fall on his face? Surely that can’t be good parenting.

Ah, but it is. In fact, it’s the best possible kind of parenting an older adolescent can get. Your goal during all of the high school years is to be moving consciously and deliberately towards a senior year with no rules. That means no curfew, no enforced homework hour, no dictates about which parties or which friends. That even means no rules about your teenager not having sex. Your teenager must be allowed to make the kinds of mistakes he or she will inevitably make when you are still nearby to help pick up the pieces.

Can that be scary? Yes. Terrifying? Absolutely.

Does this mean that your house becomes the local party house, with no parental input about drugs, alcohol, or sex? No. Absolutely not.

Tomorrow: How to balance the scales, so the lack of rules for your teenager doesn’t become a lack of respect for you.