Responsible Behaviour

Parenting | 10 Ways to Talk to Your Teenager About Responsible Behaviour

Responsible BehaviourMany parents dread the teenage years. Drinking alcohol, smoking, sex and many other issues come up when our children reach this age. Many of them are normal for this stage of development. At times we can worry too much about what the teenage years will bring so we ban everything, thinking if we take full control nothing can go wrong. The unfortunate thing is, you are not spending as much time with your child now, so you are not going to be able to control everything they do or everything that happens to them.

Here are some tips to help you survive the journey with your child and see them through the teenage years in a positive way:

  1. Try to not expect the worst. We hear so much from other parents and the media about what young people get up to. This is usually a smaller percentage than you would think. Try not to be afraid to hear what lies ahead for your teen. It can be a wonderful time for them and for you if you trust your skills as a parent and trust your child to make good choices.
  2. Try not to ban things. The more you say ‘no’ the more your teen will focus their energy on finding a way to get or to do whatever they want. Instead explore with your teenager how they can make good choices around what it is they need to do.
  3. Almost every teen will try alcohol, most likely between 14-17 years old. There is very little you can do to stop them from accessing alcohol if they really want to. Talk with them about your fears around what alcohol can do to a person. Talk with them about how they would cope. Who would they go to for support if they made the wrong choice? Talk with them about making responsible choices.
  4. At this age teenagers can also be in and out of many relationships. Some young people will engage in sexual behaviour before the age of 18. You can talk with them about self respect, feeling safe, saying ‘No’. Try not to back away from talking with your teen about contraception. Make a GP appointment for girls especially and help them get information about their options. Introduce your teen to literature around relationships. By supporting your teen to be armed with the correct information you will be supporting them to make the right choices. Just because you give them this information does not mean you are giving them permission to engage in sexual relationships, but making sure that if they choose to they are doing it in a responsible way.
  5. Allow your teenager some freedom. If you can start in the very early years to give your child opportunities to make choices and act in responsible ways then as teenagers you will have some idea of what your teenager is capable of. Teenagers need space and need for you to trust them. Start from a place of trust, if they prove unable to act responsibly, then take away the freedoms and start again.
  6. Be very clear with your teenager about boundaries in the home and the community. Stick to your principles. Ensure your teen understands the boundaries and why they exist. Review them regularly as you will need to shift the boundaries as your teen grows and shows you how responsible they can be.
  7. Be fair. Listen to your teenager and hear what they have to say. Try not to do things because that is how you were parented or because you feel you are expected to parent in certain ways. Be confident in how you parent, you know your child best and you need to trust your instincts. If you really feel you are out of your depth seek professional support. Call the askonefamily helpline on 1890 662 212
  8. Try to be not too strict with teens. Allow them downtime. Do they really need to get up by 10am at the weekends? Why not get a piercing? What about it if they wear to much make up or dye their hair? Choose your battles wisely and be open to hearing their views. Explore the issue for yourself. Educate yourself about Facebook and other social media. Share your views with teens and try to reach agreement with them.
  9. Although you are asked to be open to the challenges of the teenage years you must also be very clear about what you expect from your teen. Follow through and do not change the rules to suit you. Deal with issues when they arise and try not to imagine every wrong choice your teen will make. Making mistakes is part of growing up, making them in the safety of your family and home are what you want. You can then be there to offer support.
  10. Try not to criticise your teen. They are trying their best. Life can be hard for them too. Do not belittle the challenges they face. Although they are very near to adulthood they are still children so allow them these years to explore, learn and understand the type of person they are and want to become.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Thursday 24 September from 5pm-6pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email