Dr. Tim Thayne Homeward Bound Rallyest Not By Chance

Just like the actual New Year brings a fresh start, a new school year is another chance to welcome positive change in your life. You can leave behind the mistakes you might’ve made last year and set your family up for success.

Here are a few tips for setting a positive and constructive tone for your family this school year.

Demonstrate Strong Leadership. Leadership has been described as being able to keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs. It’s important to be a leader for your teen by providing structure, consistency, and boundaries.

Structure is found in everyday routines and a stable home environment. Consistency comes with getting the same kind of results for the same type of action (upholding consequences and rewards). Boundaries provide both structure and consistency when steadily maintained.  

Nurture Your Relationship. People will only follow leaders they respect, trust, and love; so it’s paramount to nurture your relationship with your teen. The first step in doing this is to focus on the good that’s already in your relationship.

What are the activities you like to do together? Does your teen respond positively when you show your affection in a certain way? Make a concerted effort to nurture the positive aspects in order to build trust and improve your relationship over time. Remember, as frustrating as parenting can be, withdrawing your love or affection as a form of punishment will never give you the results you’re looking for.  

Make Your Expectations Clear. How is your teen supposed to live up to your expectations if they don’t know what they are? Expectations that are implied, blurry, or fluid are a recipe for disaster. Set your son or daughter up for success by communicating your expectations clearly.

I suggest creating a family “constitution” that outlines expectations of behaviors, contributions, and rewards. This structure must be upheld with love, consistency, and enough freedom for your teen to be able to thrive.

Encourage Growth and Accountability. Teens need to be able to prove that they can make appropriate decisions if they are to continue to grow and mature. If you don’t give them the freedom to choose anything for themselves how can this be accomplished?

Hold your teen accountable for their decisions. For example, if your teen chooses to participate in a sport that requires early morning practices, they are in charge of getting themselves up on time. Also, if your son or daughter is in a tough spot, it’s natural to want to “rescue” them, but this is another instance where they can be held accountable for their actions.

Create Family Stability and Strength. Make sure there is parental unity. Consistency can never be achieved if parents aren’t on the same page with their attitudes, expectations, and disciplinary style. Make decisions slowly and as a team.

Be Patient. While it can be easy to adopt a “New Year, New Me” attitude, changes take time. Don’t throw in the towel when it feels like these new habits aren’t sticking. I promise that if you keep coming back to these tips, you will see improvement over time.

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