There are many ways to raise a child, and every child is different. Therefore, there is no magic formula for raising good teens. Excellent parents can still have problem children, and good children come out of bad homes. But by staying closely involved in your children’s lives, even when they don’t appear to need you as much anymore, you’ll be teaching them the lessons they need to learn to be the successful and happy adults you’d like them to be. Here are some pointers for keeping teens on the right track:

1. Love them. Tell your teens that you love them every day. They may be too embarrassed to return those words at this stage in their lives, but it’s temporary. Some day, they’re going to remember that you always told them you loved them, no matter what. When they do something wrong, emphasize that you still love them, even if you don’t love their behavior. Teens tend to overdramatize when they’re yelled at and say, “You don’t care about me.” Make sure they understand that you can still love someone even if you’re not happy with their actions.

2. Don’t be afraid to set limits. You don’t need to be your teens’ best friend. If you feel uncomfortable about them going somewhere, put your foot down. Sometimes, they really want an excuse to tell their friends “no,” and what better reason than, “My mom won’t let me go!”? Don’t be afraid to be the “meanie.” It means you care.

3. Get them involved in something outside themselves. Teenagers benefit greatly from attending religious youth groups or community-based teen groups. These groups often place a strong emphasis on thinking about others while having fun. Mission trips and community service opportunities often become some of the greatest experiences of teens’ lives and a good lesson in seeing that others have it much worse than they do.

4. Emphasize the importance of family. Kids need an anchor, a sense of belonging to “something.” Stress the fact that your family is a team. And encourage your kids to spend time with their extended family, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. Eat dinner together several times a week, and talk about your day rather than watching TV.

5. Make them help out. Your kids may tease you by saying that you wanted kids just so you’d have household help, but don’t let that discourage you from insisting that they participate in taking care of the home. Teens are old enough to do their own laundry, clean their rooms, scrub the bathroom, do the dishes, and anything else that you do. You’re doing your kids (and their future spouses) a favor by teaching them how to take care of themselves and a household. Don’t back down just because they complain or do a shoddy job. All family members should be required to pitch in. And don’t give them allowance for things they should be doing anyway, like keeping their rooms neat. Give them cash for extra jobs, like mowing the lawn, washing the car, etc.

6. Respect their choices. Let’s face it: Our kids are never going to be the little clones we’d hoped to raise -- people who would act and think exactly as we do! Teenagers are constantly trying to figure out who they are and what they believe. Don’t criticize their choice of music (unless it’s particularly violent), hairstyle, clothing, etc. Take a look at your old high-school pictures, and you’ll see that your own children’s experimentation is perfectly normal! Yes, they’re still kids, but they want to be treated as adults. Exerting total authority over them is bound to backfire. For the things that are temporary, let them have the choice. Blue hair will grow out. (Tattoos, however, won’t. Say “no” to them.)

7. Teach them about future consequences. Kids need to know you won’t be taking care of them forever. Express the importance of education to enable them to get a good job. Explain to them how their actions today greatly impact the future. They’re not likely to be able to have the things they want if they have a criminal record or lack a high-school diploma. Show them how much a car and a house cost. Go over a monthly budget with your children so they see how much money it takes to feed a family, pay the utilities, provide housing and transportation, and so on. Kids tend to take these things for granted. They need to think about how their parents are able to provide these things, and how they’ll be able to do the same when they’re adults.

Today’s world provides many temptations and poor examples for adolescents, but parents are still kids’ most important teachers. Your teens need you now, more than ever, to be present in their lives. The appropriate balance of love and discipline will allow your teenagers to grow up in an environment where they will blossom into caring and responsible adults.

Author's Bio: 

Susan M. Heim is the author of "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year" and "It's Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence." She is the mother of two teenagers and twin preschoolers. Visit Susan's website at