Parenting Tips - The Dangers of Lowering the Bar for Teens

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As the parent of a teenager, you almost certainly have experienced the moment when you wished your teen would understand you. Just like they want you to understand them, you probably want them to get why you are punishing them. We set limits as parents and teens break those limits. We then have to enforce consequences and become the bad guys. As parents we often feel like the bad guys and some of us actually respond to such feelings. This is referred to as “lowering the bar” for our teens and it is potentially destructive.

A good example of lowering the bar for our teens would be bending on curfew. Imagine that you set a curfew for your teen of 9:00 and they arrive home at 9:05. Do you lower the bar and let that be okay or do you enforce the consequences just like you would have if they got there at 9:30?

Hopefully you would enforce the consequences. This is very important because our teens take note of these types of things. Lowering the bar...even for a tiny situation like this...can have drastic and long lasting implications as the teen develops.

Let’s say that you let them slide on the five minutes instead. The next night they are out with a friend and get offered a chance to go to a party but they know they will be fifteen minutes late. What is your guess as to what they would do? You can be sure they would head out to the party and take their chances. If you enforced the limits and consequences on the five minutes, you will get compliance that next night more than likely.

This continues to expand and become more dangerous as the opportunities present themselves. Sooner or later, the decisions won’t be about five minutes at curfew. They might be decisions about sex, drugs or drinking. The precedent you set will play a part in how they respond to such serious things.

Lowering the bar and wanting our kids to like us is a natural thing. We naturally want the people we love the most to not be angry with us. Unfortunately, we are destined to have kids that are upset with us on occasion. We are the person stopping them from spreading their butterfly wings too quickly. It is a role we took when we decided to have a child.

Make the tough decisions and enforce your limitations. The kids will be upset, but lowering the bar to meet their wants is only going to cripple them (and you) in the future. Raise the bar and your kids will stretch to meet that instead. This teaches them a powerful life lesson and keeps them safe at the same time!