February 18, 2009 —

In a survey from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, teens whose parents set zero-tolerance rules about substance abuse were less likely to abuse drugs than their peers. Teens who talk with their parents about drugs are already less likely to abuse them, but when parents set rules with their teens, the numbers drop even more. In this way, setting rules with your teens is an important step toward substance-abuse prevention, including preventing cough medicine abuse. Here are a few tips to setting fair rules with your teens and tweens.

Sit down with your teen to discuss house rules.

Take some time to talk with your kids and come up with your household rules together. When teens help out in developing the rules, they can see how the process works, and you will have a better idea of how much responsibility they are ready for.

Be specific.

Many of us know from personal experience that teens and tweens have their own unique way of thinking, and it means that we as parents need to be very specific when we are setting rules. Not only will this make household guidelines clear, it also will give you an opportunity to talk about specific issues, like the dangers of intentionally abusing medicine, with your teens.

Don't just set rules, set the consequences.

When you are going over your rules, also discuss the consequences when rules are broken. Ask your teens what they think a fair punishment is for breaking curfew, for example. Should they be banned from playing video games for a week or from going out with friends for the rest of the month? By discussing in advance what the consequences are for behavior that conflicts with established rules, your teens will know what to expect. And if they do break the rules, your teens are more likely to feel like the consequences are fair because they helped create them.

Stick to the rules.

This goes for parents as much as it does teens. Once you and your teens agree on a set of house rules, you must all stick to them. For your teens, this may mean coming home on time and calling you to let you know where they are, but you also have the responsibility to make sure that when a rule is broken, you follow through with the consequences. At the same time, praise your teens for following the rules you set together and let them know how much you appreciate their good behavior.

By setting rules with your teens, you will not only help your kids be better prepared to deal with peer pressure in school, but you also will be giving them a level of responsibility over their personal safety, and health and life decisions.