Parents matter

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

This may be a bad news/good news story for some parents. The bad: Your prime disciplinary tools for out-of-line teens - grounding, curfews, revocation of car keys and phone privileges - aren't enough. If you've got an unruly adolescent living under your roof, simply enforcing the rules won't cut it. For some, this is not a revelation. Your own adventures in parenting may have produced a similar conclusion. But there is an answer. A new study shows that a key element necessary to alter a teenager's behavior - and how a teen relates to his or her peers - is the quality of the relationship with the parent. "If you have a 16-year-old getting in trouble, work on your relationship with him. Don't try to address the situation only by setting limits," says Joseph Allen, associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Dr. Allen and other researchers are studying 131 ninth- and 10th- graders, their parents, and their peers. These kids are the "at-risk" half of their classes - have failed a class, have been absent repeatedly, or have been suspended. Teens without strong, positive relationships with their parents are "unresponsive to attempts at discipline," Allen notes. And kids with a good relationship with Mom are more "popular." They have a secure launching pad for other relationships. Moms and dads, let's take a cue. My teenager is no delinquent. But I'm going to look for new ways to tell her I care. We've got a movie date Saturday. Other options: Go out for pizza one-on-one. Just listen. Shop for a CD together. Whatever it takes. We're home. Tell us how we're doing. Write the Homefront, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail us at home@csps.com

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