teens

"We all pitch in." A mother-of-three shares her Five Golden Rules for parenting teenagers.

Mamamia’s Five Golden Rules series takes a pervy look into the lives of Australian families. From parents of toddlers to parents of teenagers, the series asks parents to share their golden parenting rules, including the rules for their kids, and their rules for just getting through the day.

This week, mother-of-three Cathy shares her Five Golden Rules for parenting teenagers.

I'm Cathy, and I'm a mum to three kids, including my son, who is nearly 20, and my identical twin daughters who recently turned 16. We live in Wollongong, just south of Sydney. 

These are my five golden rules for parenting. They may not be perfect and may not work for every family, but we make them work for ours. 

1. No technology in bedrooms. (Well, most of the time).

This used to be so simple and easy to manage because our kids went mostly through primary school without personal devices. My son was 12 and going into Year 7 when he had to get an iPad for the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program at school. 

He also had to catch the bus to school, so we got him a very basic phone (so basic he "accidentally" left two of them in the pocket of his school pants hoping to score an old model iPhone from his Dad or I) with pre-paid credit in case he needed to contact us. The personal devices came a little earlier for our twins when their school introduced them in Year 5, much to my annoyance. 

Even though the kids needed their devices for school, we had a rule that homework had to be done in the living area of the house. We tried to get homework over with before dinner each night so that they had a break between using their device and bed. 

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We had a "charging station" set up in our room that the kids would plug their devices into each night before bed. Of course, kids being kids, they found a way around this. Each night, I would just check there was a charging cable plugged into the iPad cover. I was incredibly trusting until I discovered there was no iPad in the cover! 

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This rule changed for me when my son went into his senior years in high school. He was doing school work later and later each night, so it became much harder to police. And as we all know, COVID has changed everything, meaning our daughters are doing school in their bedrooms right now. 

However, we still know the passwords for their devices, and they know we could pick up their devices at anytime to check them. 

2. Family sharing is on.  

I set up family sharing when all three of the kids had to have devices for school, meaning that I can manage the apps that they download to their devices and any other purchases like movies and music. This also means they couldn’t (and still can’t) rack up huge in-app purchase bills because every purchase has to come through family sharing.  

By having this shared access to apps, I always knew what they had downloaded on their devices. We also agreed as a family to share our locations with each other, including my husband and I. This is the rule while we are paying the bills. After that, it is up to them. 

3. Social media and screen time.

We were fighting a losing battle in constantly saying no to our kids setting up social media accounts, so we agreed they could set up Instagram accounts with the two provisos that I have to follow them and their account had to be set to private. 

Since my kids were babies, I have absolutely used the TV as a babysitter. When I needed a break, I would plonk them in front of a video if it kept them happy (yes, I had kids pre-DVDs being mainstream!) This is something that I have continued through all their lives. 

My twins have a "set" bedtime of around 9.30pm, and my son works now so it is on him when he goes to bed because I also don’t get him up for work! When they were younger, the TV was off 30 minutes before bed and they would read in bed to go to sleep (unless they would sneak devices under their pillows!) These days they have smartphones and they read books on their phones or iPads and have them in their hand all the time. 

That said, my husband and I have a phone permanently attached to us so it feels hypocritical to tell the kids they have to put their screens away during the day. I still monitor our girls at night and make sure they are going off to sleep by around 10pm at night. 

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4. We all pitch in. 

Let’s face it. With five people living in a house together all 16 and older, no-one is a baby anymore. Over the years, we have always had our kids doing jobs around the house/yard within their capability. 

My kids have made their own lunch for school for years! It started when they were little in primary school and complaining about what I made, so I put it on them. This was super helpful when I was sick for a couple of years and actually couldn’t do it for them. It meant they could already get lunch ready for themselves or each other. We all also take turns at cooking dinner.

There is no one set laundry person, we all do what needs to be done. This means seeing there is overflowing washing and getting it washed and hung out. It isn’t perfect but I long ago let go of perfection to hanging clothes on the line or folding them. As long as it is happening, and I don’t have to do it, I am happy. 

I have to make sure that this gets shared around as one of our twins will take on a little more responsibility than her siblings. And our son learnt the hard way that if you aren’t home helping out, then maybe your washing doesn’t get done. He has outsourced his dirty work uniform to the laundromat which I don’t particularly mind. 

We are all big people and we all need to pitch in. Everyone in the house has a job of some sort, plus studying, plus volunteering, which means even in lockdown times, we are all busy. I am certainly not going to do it all for my kids and I am not doing them any favours if I don’t teach them how to cook or do laundry.

5. My kids can come to me and tell me anything, no judgement.

This is tough but for me, it's important. I have always told my kids that they can tell me anything and I will help them sort it out. I might not like the behaviour but I don’t want them to feel they have to hide anything from me. If it is something that needs to be "punished" then we will deal with that later. We will deal with whatever the situation is first. 

An example of this might be the time that our son was covered in grazes and we at first got a story about falling that seemed quite legitimate. The truth later emerged that it had actually been a failed car surfing attempt and thank goodness grazes to his hands and knees were all that he had. 

Our kids know this goes for their friends too. They can all call anytime day or night to talk! I have had a 2am drunken call or the 10pm too drunk to get into the venue call as well. 

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For this to truly work, it means you need to listen to all the little conversations with your kids (which can be boring and tedious), because if you don’t have the little conversations, there is no room for the big ones when they need to happen. I have always found that these chats are easiest to have in the car when no-one has to make eye contact. 

This sounds like I am the super cool parent and chill about everything, which actually couldn’t be further from the truth. I am a big one for no alcohol under 18, especially at my house. But if it happens; I want to know. 

This rule is really one that I grew up with. My parents always said that we could go to them with anything and it is still the same today and I am 50 now. I have gone to them many, many times over the years with my dumb behaviour and they still love me unconditionally. 

Over to you, do you have five rules that you won’t bend on? To share your Five Golden Rules, email [email protected] with 'Five Golden Rules' in the subject line.  

Feature Image: Supplied

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