Which of the following scenarios scares you the most?
1. Your 16-year-old son hops into the car to pick up his girlfriend and you don’t know where he’s going. You think you gave him a curfew but you can’t remember.
2. Your 16-year-old daughter hops into a car full of guys and says she’ll be back, “later.”
Who would you worry about more? Their personalities may play a part in your decision, but in general, most parents would feel uneasier about allowing their daughters to go out. Is this a sexist double standard grounded in old-timey thinking? I don’t think so. I believe it’s a sexist double standard that has a proper place in raising teens.
Every teen is different, but you’re going to be less inclined to worry about your 200 pound boy than you are your 110 pound girl and let’s face it, they have much different needs. Your son may get a bloody nose from running his mouth, but a girl’s potential for trouble is the stuff of nightmares. Boys could be in horrible scenarios such as driving too fast and crashing, but give him the tools and he’ll hopefully not kill himself. Put a girl too far into some risky situations and she may be unable to get out. Looking for acceptance, she may do more than smoke a cigarette. The boy, you have to protect from himself, but the girl, you must protect from others.
Here are some suggestions for both sexes to help them find their way with your guidance even when you’re not around.
- Cell phones – What teen doesn’t have one these days? They might not realize it but this cell phone helps you keep track of them. Sort of loses its coolness factor doesn’t it? Initiate policies that require them to answer when you call. Don’t worry them to death but keeping in contact with them verbally will keep them mindful of their behavior.
- Safety plan – What would your daughter do if she did get into trouble? Does she know what trouble looks like? Convey your values and expectations to her early and hopefully she will head them when she’s challenged. Plus, a girl who can take care of herself will get a great deal of respect. You don’t want her to be a victim.
- Explain – Do your children know why you make the decisions you do? Nothing can infuriate a teen who thinks you set up rules, “just because.” Be honest about the curfew times and of your concerns. Don’t trust one of her friends or even his? Talk to them about it. Maybe they’ll see your point of view, and if not, hopefully they will before it’s too late.
Basically, raise your kids the best way you know how. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or really even what happened to you. What do your children need to thrive and survive? Give that to them.
About Dale Sadler
Dale Sadler is the author of 28 Days to A Better Marriage and How to Argue with Your Teen & Win. By day he works with middle schoolers and by night he is a family counselor specializing in marriage, parenting and men's issues. He works hard to be the husband and father his family needs. Follow him @DaleSadlerLPC or visit www.DaleSadler.net