How to help your teen stay out of trouble

Yvonne Godfrey is the founder of Miomo and author of Parenting Adults.

No one is exempt – messing up is part of life. However, not all mistakes have equal consequences, and too many of our teenagers are going down dangerous pathways. The good news is that we can help them find good patterns of living and help them avoid making choices that will land them in a sticky spot. 20-year-old Caroline asked me, “Yvonne, how can I stay out of trouble?” Quick as a whip I answered, “Don’t be where trouble is!” Trouble inevitably happens when we are in the wrong place, with the wrong people. Encourage your teen to think about their choice of friends and the activities they are willingly engaging in.

A good thing to remember is that nothing good happens after midnight. All the eating, drinking, dancing, talking and story-telling happen in the hours leading up to midnight. After that, you have bored and angry people looking for trouble. Ignorance, lack of knowledge, poor judgement, immaturity and misplaced trust are all foundations for mistakes that can cost dearly. Help your teen develop skills in discernment by talking to them about who to place their trust in, and how to recognise the potential for trouble.

To help your ‘yadult’ deal with the consequences of a bad choice, don’t only focus on the outcome – rather look back to unravel where the pathway began.  It is easy to call bad choices mistakes – and sometimes they are – but often, trouble happens because of some deliberate decisions that could have been avoided. We are all at the destination of our carefully trodden pathways. Be careful how much leeway you give your teens – think ahead and see where their actions and decisions might lead. Talk them through your reasoning and tell them stories from your own experience to help them understand that their choices have consequences.

Lastly, when your teens make a bad choice and find themselves in trouble, don’t be too quick to bail them out. Expect them to make restitution for any loss to another person. Let them know that because you love them, you are allowing them to experience the consequences of their actions and learn from their mistakes.