This week seems to be shaping up to be all about knowing and teaching and learning right from wrong. That is to say, all about morality. What I have mentioned yet, though, that bears mentioning in this context, is how morality and teaching through example apply to parenting.

It is tempting, as a parent, to lecture to your teenagers about the right and wrong thing to do in this situation or that one. But then, as the parent, to completely ignore your own rules. Even though it may chafe, you need to start living by the rules you set for your teenager.

If you want your teenager treat friends, family, teachers, adults, etc. with absolute respect, then you have to make sure that you absolutely do the same. No exceptions.

If you want your teenager to refrain from smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and doing drugs, then you have to do the same. No exceptions. Yes, even though it’s legal for you to do some of those things and not for your teenager.

If you want your teenager to be home by midnight, you need to be home by midnight. No exceptions.

If you want your teenager to go to school every day unless they have a fever or are vomiting, you need to go to work every day. Only the same exceptions.

If you don’t let your teenager go out with friends unless you’ve met them, make sure your family has the chance to meet your new friends before you go out with them.

Let your teenager know that you’re living by the same rules you set for him/her. Talk about why you think these rules are important.

Living by your teenager’s rules will have two important outcomes:

  1. Your teenager will see you really think the rules are important, and will have a higher respect for them.
  2. You will think very carefully about what rules you set before you set them. Your rules will probably be more appropriate and thoughtful as a result.

A couple of disclaimers:

  1. You do not, of course, have to live according to changes in the rules because your teenager has had privileges removed. But it’s best if you do, because it will probably give you more time together, and spending time together is what will bring you closer to your teenager.
  2. This mostly applies to older teenagers who can drive and fend for themselves – the 16 to 18 set, not the 13 to 15 set. But it’s good to start thinking about and planning for it even earlier!