Expectations for Teens

As many are aware, one morning two months ago the teenager left for school, went to her boyfriend’s house after, and informed us that she wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon. It was a shocking repudiation of our parental authority and led to a sobering realization that despite our best efforts, we really didn’t know her very well at all. On Wednesday night I was enjoying a nice dinner out with my girls and found myself on Thursday standing stunned at the door to an empty room.



With the aid of family counseling, conversation has recently been initiated about the prospects of her returning home.  One of the things that was asked of us was to compile a list of expectations that we would have for her upon that return. This is that list:

1. She needs to sit and listen, without argument or interruption, while we explain how this incident made us feel. One of the more infuriating things to me has been her cavalier attitude and seemingly complete inability to understand why any of this is a “big deal.”

2.  She will continue to attend school and do well. The school that she currently attends seems to make it easy for students to succeed. She needs to take advantage of that.

3. She will be expected to help out around the house. Simple chores such as washing dishes, raking leaves, and dusting are as much her responsibility as they are ours.

4. Her room and personal appearance need to be presentable. How this relates to her new nasal septum piercing remains to be determined.

5. Part of this process is exercise and eating healthy. This isn’t done out of judgement or criticism, but to encourage a healthy lifestyle that it turn leads to a more positive outlook on things.

6. A source of income must be found. Schoolwork will always come first, but there is a car and insurance looming on the horizon. Steps need to be taken to facilitate contribution.

7. There will be no internet access in her room after 9:00 PM.  One of the luxuries it appears that she has at her current residence seems to be a lack of this restriction. I feel it’s a important one that will remain in effect here.

8. When discussing things like this, where she obviously holds a contrary opinion, a respectful tone of voice will be maintained.

9. Time needs to be spent at home.  This isn’t just a place to shower and change clothes occasionally.

10. Time also needs to be spent with family. Lunches out, common television shows, simple things that are often overlooked. She also has a little sister that misses her terribly.


My concern is that this list is no different than the one that she previously seemed to find so unacceptable. As happy as I am that lines of communication have been opened, I don’t want this misconstrued as a negotiation.

I’m hopeful that resolution is close. She’s loved, missed, and will always have a home here. Most of all I hope that she comes to realize that she won’t be returning to a house, or to a set of rules, but to a family.  And that she always remembers that.



15 thoughts on “Expectations for Teens”

  1. Jeremy,

    I’ve been offline for a year now, and as my resurfacing is about to take place, I wanted, of all places, to come over here and hang out.

    As a father of 12, with 8 daughters and most being teens…I have a little experience in this area. Two of my daughters are now married with little ones of their own and it’s always fun to get those phone calls or have the conversations that include, “So THAT’S why you did that…”

    I really liked your expectation list. Have you also worked out what the conversation will be WITH your daughter when these are brought up?

    My wife and I are firm supporters of agency. The right to choose for one’s self. The thing is, there are twists to this that many people, especially teens, don’t realize.

    With agency comes consequences. There are ALWAYS consequences for the choices you make and it is never…and I repeat, NEVER just about “you”. The moment you are born, every single choice will affect someone other than yourself when someone loves you.

    Mom and dad love you, but you are part of a whole that requires….note that word…’requires’ your active participation and feedback. Not ‘hopes’ or ‘would like’, but requires you to take an active role in the functioning existence of this family. You can, of course, choose NOT to do so…but there will be natural consequences to such a route.

    I know you want a ride to your friends house, and yes, I DO realize it’s a snow storm outside….but I have other things to do right now.

    ….like taking a nap.

    What’s wonderful is when you develop a mutual love for one another, supported by respect…is more times than not, your teen has an awakening. It takes time, consistency and sometimes serious bumps in the road (with accompanying wounds) to bring this experience to light and into focus, but we have had it happen for every one of our children to this point.

    For a few of our kids, it was near instant. They saw the vast difference when hanging with their friends and realized they had it pretty good. For others, it took years.

    For one, it took going to prison in chains and having mom and dad there twice a week for over a year, crying, smiling and never giving up because “you are worth it.”

    That, Jeremy, has been one of the biggest successes my my fatherhood career thus far. A complete 180 when the judge, the court reporter and even the arresting officers and prosecutors stood up and cheered for my son when he was released back into our custody.

    We as parents should always have expectations. However, I would like to add that we will get much father if we learn to discuss and understand the “why’s” with our children.

    Both ours…and theirs.

    Just a few thoughts.

    1. A lot of good points made here. First of all, I’m flattered that my little corner of the internet was on your list to visit. Second, congrats on your son turning his life around. That must have really tested the limits of all your parenting skills. I’m glad that you got a happy ending, even if it was a tough road. One word that jumped out at me when you were talking agency was respect. Somehow we go to a point where neither side felt that they were getting it. Its going to be one of the hardest problems to try and overcome. Appreciate your feedback, man. Anybody that has successfully navigated the teens years with twelve kids is a valuable resource

  2. Hi mate I have been following your posts closely before and since your daughter left I’m a dad of 5 inc 3 teenagers it’s a difficult balance thankfully I have managed to keep it all together probably more luck than judgement.
    I was wondering that with your list is your daughter allowed a list with things she would like that you would consider
    I know you say this is not negotiation but maybe it should be to get your daughter home after all in a split second she is going to be all grown and gone
    I really hope it all works out for you all

    1. Her list consists of one thing: she wants a cat. I’m allergic to cats and got her a bunny last year that she ignored. I now take care of it. I understand your point and appreciate your input, man, I really do, but I’m not going to start taking allergy medicine just to bribe her into coming home. I can’t do it, and I think it would be doing her a disservice in the long run. Thats just not how things work. Thanks, as always, for reading Nige. I really do appreciate it

      1. Can’t…you just get the cat, along with a big dog that eats cats and let them both loose for a day?

        Fulfill a wish, eliminate threat, make room for ‘Daddy of the Year’ award on shelf.

        (Just make sure you stand over the dog and gasp loudly in horror….)

        Not that I would, ya know, PERSONALLY do something like that mySELF, but hey–trying to be supportive.

        (*nudge-nudge* *wink-wink*)

  3. I think they are very fair expectations, I remember having things like this set out for me by my parents and I plan to do the same for mine! Thanks for linking up to the #bestandworst 🙂

  4. Hi, Just popping over from your other post about friendship. I really hope that she comes home soon, if she isn’t already. I think that all your points are perfectly reasonable. So important that she knows what is expected of her. All these points are setting her up for her grown up years, when she will realise how important these were – even if she doesn’t see that now. x

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