When Can Parents Trust a Teen?

Hi Readers — Let’s help this teen together, shall we? Here is his letter:

Dear Free-Range Kids: You probably don’t get too many emails from kids and teens, but being a child with overbearing parents I have some things I’d like to ask.

I’m in the middle of reading your book (how sad, a kid reading a book on parenting) and I find it very intriguing. Actually,  my parents let me be fairly free in my childhood. The problems I’m facing now are being free enough in my teen years.

I can now drive and my social life is returning (I used to be quite anti-social). I can handle the curfews  and the need to answer the cell phone when my parents call, but the problem that I am facing is what happens when my friends’ parents are not home, or when my parents want to call someone’s house before I go over. My parents go insane over the prospect of a friend not having a parent home, or of me not having them home when I am hanging out with a friend. I feel like this is very detrimental to my social life and I’d like to give you an overview of different factors that come into play.

I’m an avid reader (non-fiction books on politics, economics, and history), and my parents always tell me I am very mature for my age. As a matter of fact I socialize very well with many adults (sometimes better than I do with kids). I am in a martial arts class (Oom Yung Doe, to be specific) and I truly have developed a system of responsible/socially conservative principles that I adhere to — not because my parents said so but because I truly believe in them.

I have been offered drugs (only weed thus far) and have always turned it down. Nowadays kids don’t put as much pressure on other kids to drugs — contrary to what many adults think. As a matter of fact, there are many situations when one kid will put more pressure on someone and the rest call him out and tell him to “stop being a dick… dude.” They realize that peer pressure is a bad thing. Furthermore, I suffered from a major depression in 8th grade and I saw, first-hand, many kids with psychological problems (many of them pertaining to drugs) and I saw how much drugs can screw up your life.  I would never take that risk.

I have a close enough relationship with my parents to let them know that I have been exposed to drugs and always turn them down (and they believe and trust me). But I really feel let down when they feel that I cannot make a proper judgment on what friend’s house it’s ok to go to. They build up my ego with this praise of my maturity but then shoot me down and act as if I can’t make proper values assessments. I feel as if this will tear our relationship apart because exposure to these things is inevitable unless I’m truly locked in cage and became a “teacup child.” (But generally teacup children go off to college and then get incredibly drunk and high and it works against what the parents were planning.)

What I now have been driven to do is to say that I am hanging out at a friend’s house and then, when I get there,  we all head out somewhere else. I don’t like lying to my parents but I want to maintain a social life and get a girlfriend for once (that is right, age 16 and I have never had a girlfriend).

So, as you can see, I have a few questions. Where is the line drawn? Should I really not be allowed to go to a kid’s house if the parents aren’t home, or without my parents and theirs being in contact? How do I get this across to my parents?

Please, please, please respond and I will be incredibly grateful.

That’s the letter. Personally, I’d say two things to the writer:

1 – His parents may be more worried than they’d be otherwise because they remember his bout with depression and it scared them to the core. (Understandable.) If it reassures them to have some basic contact with his friends’ parents, that shouldn’t be such a big deal.

2- Knowing that their fear comes out of love and perhaps trauma, he has to assure them that he is almost of legal age, he has made the conscious decision not to take drugs, and he is both mature and responsible. They can’t ask for more than that, except to have him also promise never to get into a car with a friend who has been drinking or doing drugs. Of course, if it would help, maybe he and his parents could also pay a trip together to his former psychologist or his pediatrician, who could assure them that at some point kids need to be able to hang out together without direct parental supervision.

I’m wondering if you, readers, have any more advice for the parents, or for the letter writer. If so, please add it. Maybe he can share your thoughts  with his folks. Thanks! — Lenore

106 Responses

  1. My parents didn’t even let me date until I was 16. As a matter of fact, my family moved to a foreign country (Kuwait, no less) a month before that (un)happy birthday where there was no one for me TO date.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for parents to want their teenage children to have adult supervision. Even in a case where their child is mature for his or her age, like in this case, I think it’s ok to want a parent at least in the house when friends are over.

    My parents had fairly strict rules when I was a teenager. I was able to be free range in that I could wander around town where I wanted, when I wanted (except for one time when my mom chewed me out for wandering the beach at night). But I wasn’t allowed to be in a bedroom room alone with a member of the opposite sex, for example. On the whole, though, my parents trusted me enough not to freak out the one time I got home after midnight (nothing even remotely mischeivous happened)

    Being a free range kid doesn’t mean that all bets are off once you become a teenager.

  2. I have no advice, but when I started driving at 17, I was hardly ever home. I didn’t have a cell phone, but my parents knew that I usually just hung out at a friend’s house. I don’t remember them calling around to try to find me. My dad had a pager and I would beep him when I left and was on my way home. This way, he would know about what time to expect me. They knew my parent’s friends, but also knew that we were usually on our own. We did things like walk around the mall, rent movies from Blockbuster, order chinese food late at night, and spend hours in chat rooms on the computer (yes we could tell the jerks from the others).

    I think that Lenore’s advice about involving his prior therapist might be a good idea. Good luck!

  3. Ah, I remember when I was just this age and my parents wouldn’t let me go with my boyfriend downtown to a particular street in Portland where the houses are all decorated for Christmas. I was surprised because I thought, with the fact that I could drive, had a license, had a job, did my schoolwork, that they suddenly decided I wasn’t mature enough.

    It wasn’t that at all. It was the other kids and drivers on the road they were more concerned with – and we didn’t live close by; it was at least a 25 mile trip one way. It was just too far to go with a boy who hadn’t had his license for very long, either. Not trust – but lack of experience.

    Your parents don’t necessarily know these kids. But they do know that kids on the cusp of adulthood can make stupid decisions – it’s not just about you, but these other kids who could get something up without thinking and there you are, swept up in it before you realize it.

    You only have two more years. Continue to show your parents you are responsible. Continue to be honest with them, and I promise you, it will all work out for the good.

    Parents; Look at your kid. Has he given you reason to be distrustful of his judgment? Is the depression the concern? Compromise with each other – together you’re climbing that staircase to adulthood, and you all want to get there in one piece and relatively unscathed.

    Also, teenager – what seems like a big deal to you now will later pale in comparison to real, real-life things you will face. One step at a time.

  4. My mom also praised me for being a “good child”. Like you, teenage boy, I read books for fun and was typically anti-social until midway through high school. I hit the same roadblocks when my mom would ask who I was with and where we were going, but she eased off on calling other parents before I went to their house. Eventually I was going off to IHOP after 11pm and staying out until about 2am (during the summer only) and only needed to let her know where I was going and to call her when I was on my way home. She would even let me take her car!
    If your parents tell you how responsible you are, continue to show them you are. One slip could reinforce their reasoning that calling your friends’ houses to talk to the parents before you go over is a good idea. Ask them if perhaps just one time, as a trial, they could trust you to go out without them calling your friends’ parents, or without their parents being home altogether. If that works out, ask if you could do that once a month. Keep showing that you are responsible and make good choices and maybe your parents will ease in to the idea that you don’t need constant monitoring.
    I let my mom come in to my after-prom party for a little while to take photos and also to ensure that she knew we were in a safe environment and weren’t planning mischief. She was at every birthday or holiday party I went to, if only for five minutes before she left, because I felt comfortable having her there. Why? Because I knew the party was clean and she did too.
    All you can do is set an example and hope your parents react accordingly. You may need to suggest reactions on occasion, but when you do…start off with something small. 🙂

  5. I don’t know if this helps, but when I was a teen I would do that to my parents, “Hey we’re going here” and then we would just wonder around town. I think that’s a fairly normal teen thing.

    Also as far as drugs and peer pressure I think there has been a history rewrite on that. When I was going up no one pressured anyone. Offers were made and sometimes they were accepted and sometimes not. never knew anyone that said you had to do drugs to be cool. Especally the people doing them.

  6. I don’t have a teenager (yet) but I was one, and a pretty free-range one at that. I had a great relationship with both my (divorced) parents. The handful of times that either of them imposed arbitrary (and they were arbitrary) rules (such as a curfew one night when I’d never had one before and never had one again) were the handful of times that I lied to them. I think this boy’s parents need to lighten up if they want to keep the open relationship they have.

  7. I have to agree with LauraL. Your parents are not so much concerned about you making bad decisions as they are about the bad decisions of other teens. Hang in there. Follow your parents’ rules. It’s just for a couple of years, which will go by in a blink. And stop lying to your parents about your evening plans.

    By the way, being able to “socialize very well with many adults (sometimes better than I do with kids)” is not necessarily a good thing. Your parents would rather have you socialize with “age appropriate” groups. A 14-year-old who thinks she/he is comfortable “socializing” with a 28-year-old may find that an adult’s ideas of socializing are vastly different than a teen’s.

  8. Sorry, but the point at which he says he is currently sneaking around behind his parents’ backs is the point at which he proves their point, as far as I’m concerned. Teens are great manipulators, and I think you’re being used by one right now.

  9. I think his parents are sending him mixed messages: praising him for being mature, then not trusting him to make mature decisions. When I was a teen, all the parents had full time jobs. If I always had to have a parent home, I never would have been able to hang out with friends. My kids aren’t teens yet, but it will end up being the same with them. Currently, I’m the only stay-at-home mom in the neighborhood. There are no parents at home before 6pm. This seems like an unreasonable requirement in this day of dual income families.

  10. Parents supervising 16 year olds? That’s crazy! I could see if it’s a night and it’s a party but what about after school? During the day on a weekend? ALL summer when parents are at work? When they go to the beach, the mall, downtown, etc. I suppose they don’t expect him to be chaperoned so why should they have to be at home/his friends’ homes?

  11. I was a free-range kid whose boundaries completely contracted as a teen. All of a sudden, after years of come home at a reasonable time, use your judgement, make sure to watch out for cars, it was suddenly be home by 6(!), no phone calls from boys, no going to movies unless my grandfather was parked in the lot directly in front of the theater, wasn’t allowed to drive (got my license at 23!!)… horribly demoralizing.
    I too was a brainy kid who read lots of books and was very mature for my age. BUT it was at this age that many of my peers started to become interesting, finally, and at 16 I was interesting enough for 17 or 18 year olds. And now I couldn’t go out the door unsupervised. I was a straight-A student (until their sudden irrational control manifested), never did drugs, never stayed out unreasonably late… UNTIL they exercised the aforementioned undue control. They too gave me the song and dance about not worried about ME, but about those ‘OTHER KIDS’. You know… the ones they’d known for the same 12 years I’d been in school with them. And the same parents. In the same houses. Made no sense. I rebelled with the best of them, lemme tell you. Why I went from having near complete freedom to being on near complete lockdown seems to have correlation only with developing breasts and getting my period.

    I have teenagers now. My youngest, at 17, is a college sophomore. With a 3.97. He won’t even be 18 until right after he gets his AA, and is ready to transfer to a 4-year. He and his sister, who is 19, and off climbing rocks in the California desert, GAINED freedom as they got older, they didn’t LOSE freedom. She’s done some stupid-ass stuff, but she’s got to find her own way through. He’s awesome, and probably couldn’t figure out how to make a bad decision if he set out to do so. It would go so against his nature that he’d be unable to follow through.
    Since he was 15, he’s been out with friends, sometimes at the lakeshore for days. I sometimes don’t hear from him for several days. He’s moved out too, I should mention. But even when he was a younger teen, with his friends, which have about a 4 year age range, he would go for periods of days in the summer without calling. He’d let me know where he was going, and when he got back into town. Yes, this meant I had to trust his friends too. I’ve known them all since they were 11-14. For the most part, they’ve honored that trust. One or two, not so much, but my kid didn’t pay the price. In fact, he’s been the one to stop hanging out with kids that he feels take too many risks. On Halloween this year, he came and got his truck from us (we’d borrowed it to move), because he was going to a party where there would be drinking, and it was crucially important to him to have his own transportation. Yay him! And he let us know WHY he wanted the truck back right then.

    In my book, you get the trust, you get the chance. Only AFTER you’ve totally blown it do you have strict limitations for a time. You can’t prove your trustworthiness if you can’t go anywhere, man! How do you prove it from your bedroom?! How do you get ready to go off to college maybe somewhere far far away? You go out in the damn world, and practice your skills! Choosing friends, judging situations, learning what to avoid, and what’s cool.

    Just as when they’re ten and we let them go to the park, and school, and their friends’ houses and they have guidelines about how to communicate, and how to stay safe, we have to carry that through as they get older. When they’re young, maybe they call when they get to their destination. Maybe they have to be home by dinner as opposed to 11pm. Maybe they are instructed to call if they feel uncomfortable somewhere.

    When they’re older, maybe they are required to call when they’re at a friend’s, with a number for that house. Maybe they have a curfew. For sure they are instructed that if they are EVER in a situation where they either get in a car with someone who’s been drinking or call a parent, they call the parent, no questions asked, and if they EVER get caught having driven drunk or having ridden in a car with a drinking driver, then they don’t go out for X amount of time… we CAN’T put the fence around them first. They’ll just start shoving at it, looking for ways to push it over.

  12. I won’t go as far as katie and dismiss Lenore’s correspondent as a manipulator, but I do agree that by telling his parents one thing and doing another he’s inadvertently proving their point. We’ve just gotten one teen past his 18th birthday and we’re working on our second. We certainly didn’t do things perfectly, and, frankly, neither did he. I agree with others who say that the parents in this case may be as worried, if not more so, by the other teens’ potential poor judgments, not their own son’s. Both my son’s mother and I (we’re divorced but communicate well) made it a point to communicate with parents and make sure that there was adult supervision in private homes where he would be with friends; the agenda there was to make sure the other parents weren’t in some way being bamboozled by their kid. (On the other hand, if the kids were going to a public place, such as the mall or the beach, that was permissible, so long as we knew where and for how long.) It was our routine to ask our son to check in with whoever was the parent in charge (me, my wife [his step-mom], or his mother) about his whereabouts. The reasoning was so that we’d know where to look in the event that we couldn’t reach him on his cell phone and needed to find him in an emergency.

    My advice to your correspondent is this: 1) Stop deceiving your parents, however justified it might seem to you to be. 2) Sit down and brainstorm with them options for expanding your boundaries, and be open to creative solutions.

  13. No no no…

    A 16 year old boy is much more vulnerable than a 6 year old boy! and needs a lot more supervision. I would sooner trust a young boy alone than a teenager, that’s for sure.

    The parents are right.

    For one thing, the OTHER parents will not hesitate to accuse your child of all sorts of things.

    Getting a boy from 15 to 18 is the hardest job; it’s easy to blackmail the parents into fearing to assert their authority; it’s easy to be lazy and let a lot of bad stuff happen — the consequences are just far too high when no one has any standards in our society.

    So does he own and pay for all the expenses of the car? Is he thinking of getting married that he thinks he needs a girlfriend? Does he pay rent? He needs a good talking to, because maturity isn’t what he thinks it is.

  14. I agree with Katie. The way to prove to parents that one is mature enough to visit with friends without parents being there is NOT to lie about where one is going to be so that one can be unsupervised. I guarantee that “Actually, I was out with Johnny and his parent(s) weren’t even there and nothing bad happened” is not an argument that will succeed.

    To the teen letter writer I say: Continue doing what you’re doing; everything but the sneaking out part, anyway. Visiting a family therapist and inviting the ‘rents along is an excellent idea. It wouldn’t hurt for you or your parents to get an unbiased third party opinion as to whether or not it’s time to introduce greater freedom.

    The fact of the matter is, teenagers almost need more supervision than younger children do. Most of the dangers to younger kids — barring horrible accidents — are of the band-aid variety provided they’ve been taught basic safety procedures. Teenagers often are their own worst enemies. As a previous poster pointed out, it may not be that your parents are worried you’ll make a poor decision as they are that someone you’ll with will do so and you’ll end up stuck with the consequences.

    I grew up pretty free range and at all times I could ride my bike to visit friends pretty much whenever I wanted — said bike ride being up to 10 miles away as I grew up in a very rural area. That said, I always had to be home before dark until about your age and my friend’s parent(s) needed to be home while I was visiting. My first dates at the ripe old age of 16 were all double dates and I was under strict instruction that I was to be stay in public places…no visiting the boyfriend’s home unless his parent(s) were there and my parents knew that was where I was.

    Best of luck!

  15. I checked a few times to make sure that wasn’t my daughter writing this post. My kids are quite free range…they get themselves where they need to go, they are responsible for homework being done and accepting the consequences of when it’s not. I believe and trust in what they tell me unless they give me good reason not to.I manage my kids’ lives much less than most parents do. I’m flexible on the parents must be home rule. There are certain friends with whom I’m totally at ease with being here when I’m not home or DD being at their house when the folks aren’t home. Parties? Forget it. Parents must be home. Direct supervision is different than a parent being home.
    With the OP, I’d be inclined to be more free with parentless hanging out. Parentless parties would be non negotiable.
    To me, Free Range Parenting is not a lack of boundaries or values. It’s providing our kids with guidance and reasonable boundaries and trusting them and ourselves.

  16. Whether or not a six year old boy needs less supervision than a 16 year old boy, to the kid it sends a completely contradictory message; you trusted me more when I was in 1st grade than you do now, and I’ll be at COLLEGE in two years!!!! How are you going to trust me to do that if you can’t trust me to pick well who I hang out with now?

    Boundaries MUST expand with age and experience, not contract.

  17. Wants to be alone with friends and thinking about how he’s old enough to have had a girlfriend by now? That’s exactly the kind of “maturity” that I would be worried about if it were my kid. My rule would probably be “don’t be alone with anyone of the opposite sex,” but, then, broad rules like this teen’s parents have are less awkward to explain to peers.

    Does our culture really send the message that part of adolescence is having casual romantic relationships? Because that’s all they can be at 16.

    I don’t know if he has someone in mind when he makes the girlfriend comment or if he thinks he just should have had one, since everyone else seems to have had three or four by now. If it’s the latter — sorry, that’s called being motivated by peer pressure and shows a lack of maturity.

    If it’s the former, think of it this way: you’re probably not going to marry your high school sweetheart, but it you happen to know your soul mate right now, do you seriously think 5 or more years of tempting yourself (or tempting fate with birth control if your definition of moral is different from mine) sounds like fun?

    Trust me, you’ll have time later. Enjoy the freedoms you do have now, and more will come soon, I promise.

  18. I agree 100% with Leila, above. I consider myself a “free-ranger.” However, I wasn’t allowed to date until 16 either, and you know what? That’s pretty developmentally appropriate. Many people don’t have a “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” until their later teens.

    I became a teacher so that I could be around in the after-school time. Not now that he’s 10, but later when he’s 13-16. And at that time, he will be allowed to go to public places with his friends without adult supervision, but not be alone with other teen(s) in a house with no parents for any length of time. Because that’s when and where teens get into trouble.

    Babysitting and being alone at home are different, and my son might have a few friends I trust when the time comes. But right now, those were the rules that my friends and I grew up with even in the “bicycle the neighborhood ’til dark” days, and I think they were good ones.

  19. I would also see if the parents are protecting this young man from potential false accusations. Being alone with another teen in a house (esp. if it’s a girl) is ripe for he said/she said situations.

    In order to work in our local Catholic church, I had to take Youth Protection training. In addition to reviewing how to behave properly, they also taught us how to protect ourselves from potential accusations, which included never being alone with a child. This includes things like giving a child a ride home after an event. Boy Scouts and other organizations also teach things like this.

    Being with another teen in public or with parents isn’t foolproof, but it provides some measure of defense against false accusations.

    So, I would agree that as a parent, I am less worried about what my kid will do, but more about what the other kids will do.

    That being said, I also agree with a number of other people who commented here on the young man living up to his parents expectations by lying to them already. Lying to get out of dumb rules never works. It just makes your parents make even more rules.

  20. I am the parent of two teenagers (and a tween) and I struggle with these issues daily.

    I was also a teen, and unlike 93% of adults I know, I actually remember what that was like.

    Teen’s side: I’m older, I’m more mature, I’ve never done anything seriously wrong although I’ve seen dozens of my friends screw up in every possible way and get away with it, and it’s about time I get a little respect and a little relaxation of the boundaries.

    Parent’s side: We know this kid. We’ve known him since birth. We know where his weaknesses are. We fear that one bad decision will cause a decade or two of pain and misery. Or – We fear that a friend of his will be the one to do something stupid and he’ll just be there and suffer for it. We have to tighten the boundaries, for his own good. That will keep him on the straight and narrow path.

    Both sides are wrong, and both sides are right. The kid is never as mature as he or she thinks they are. Every teen is extremely eligible for life-altering decision blunders. It’s simple math: they haven’t been alive long enough to have the experience to avoid a lot of stuff consistently. BUT . . . The kid is never as immature as the parents think. The parents are a year or two behind in their perceptions, because they have all those memories of the diapers and the kid eating poisonous berries and doing other dumb stuff.

    It’s hard for parents to get past the past and catch up to where their kids are. It’s hard for kids to slow down just a little and give mom and dad a few extra chances to see how mature they are. The kid wants them to see it after one or two instances, but the parent needs to see it twenty times before they START getting comfortable.

    One slip-up . . . one deception . . . one time you’re caught at a different friend’s house when you said you’d be at another, and no matter what ingenious excuse you come up with, you will lose about a thousand maturity points in their eyes. You will reset yourself to age 14 in a heartbeat.

    My advice is don’t risk that. Keep building the reputation with them. It WILL take longer than you want it to — sorry, that’s life. Just hang in there. They really will see it eventually, unless they are totally nuts, but they raised you to be pretty good and sensible so far, so they can’t be that.

  21. @DJ,

    I’m sorry, but you need to ignore that nonsensical training and give a kid a ride home. It’s called being helpful, and against such, there is no law.

    Accusational fiction cannot harm you. The burden of proof is upon the accuser to show that you actually did something wrong. There has to be evidence.

    We all need to stop being afraid of things like “accusations”. We all need to start encouraging each other to do what is right without fearing the wagging tongues that try to ruin everything with insubstantial silliness.

    Make a list of everything that Jesus was accused of, and I think you’ll see what I mean. He didn’t fear that stuff. He went on doing what he was supposed to do.

    (I use Jesus as an example because you mentioned your work in your church, so I figured that he would present a good frame of reference.)

  22. @Lafe

    Yes, officially in court the burden of proof is on the accuser, but people go ahead and convict of those things ahead of time in their minds, the newspapers, etc.

    Accusational fiction can be VERY harmful to one’s state of mind, as well. Our computer dept sent us a news report today about new computer viruses that open up porn sites on your computer or give another user remote access (who then looks up porn). This is problematic on work computer and sometimes on home computers, as it is sometimes linked to child porn sites. The grief some of these innocent people have gone through to prove it was a virus was horrendous.

    And, (not personal experience), it can be very expensive and time-consuming to prove your innocence. Plus, being charged, even if found not guilty, can stay on your record and cause future issues. It takes a lot of time and money to get stuff like that expunged.

    The solution to taking the kid home was to pick a neutral party and call them on your cell phone — preferably speaker phone — and keep it on the whole car trip.

  23. gramomster is my hero.

    That is all.

  24. Can’t speak to all of it, but I’m having a lot of trouble with the idea of 16-year-olds not being allowed to hang out together without parental supervision. I can’t imagine having been 16 and managed to stay sane under such rules, and can’t see expecting current teens to be able to do same.

  25. DJ — In regard to your virus analogy.

    As one who also had more freedoms at 10 than at 15 (including/particularly the friends of either gender over without parents), contracting the boundaries of a child/teen is more equivalent to locking your computer up in a closet in response to that virus.

    Computers (specifically, Windows machines) are prone to thousands, if not millions of viruses at any given time. This is akin to the risks that we, no matter what age, take simply by getting up in the morning (fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, car accident, electrocution, dog attack, tetanus, broken bones, and falling down the stairs, just to name a few).

    We protect our computers with reasonable measures, such as closing unopened ports, using a firewall, or simply using anti-virus software. If we got so scared over what MIGHT happen if/when we connected to the Internet, or network with any computer in general (after all, they MIGHT have a virus on them that destroys everything), then our computers would all be, essentially, locked up in a closet (after all the safest computer is one that’s powered off, disconnected from any networks, unplugged from power, and locked in a fireproof state).

    The same goes with kids, no matter what age. I do agree with the “no parties without a parent present” and “no mixed genders in a private situation without a parent” rules, because things can get out of hand and one thing leads to another and so on, and it’s just easier/better to avoid that situation altogether. I would, however, make sure that my teen understands WHY those rules are in place. Things happen, and “bad” things are more likely to happen in those situations.

    However, I don’t necessarily agree with things like 6pm curfews (though I do agree with “reasonable time” type curfews, such as 10pm on school nights and midnight or maybe 2am on non-school nights, depending on how much trust they’ve earned). Like others have said, it’s impossible to gain the trust of parents without having the room to do anything that would gain the parents’ trust. If you have to be home by six, that gives you MAYBE two hours to do anything on an evening after a day of school (unless you’re one of the lucky ones that gets out of school at 2:30 and live right by it, but even that might only buy you 3 hours, instead of 2). That’s not even enough time to go see a movie.

    If you set unreasonable rules, or even rules that may seem reasonable to you, but don’t seem reasonable to your kid(s) (either because they think they deserve more freedom, or because they simply don’t understand your point of view), they’re going to push against those bounds. That’s a behavior that even carries over into the corporate world (one of the big common pieces of advice in the plethora of management books and articles is that employees are far more apt to follow rules if they understand them and the rationale behind them, and will be even more apt to follow the rules if they had any hand in creating them).

  26. I have to echo gramonster:

    “Boundaries MUST expand with age and experience, not contract.”

    And disagree with the sentiments in this statement:

    “Also, teenager – what seems like a big deal to you now will later pale in comparison to real, real-life things you will face. One step at a time.”

    All I’ll say to this is – when I was a teenager I wish my parents had given me more respect about my “big deal” stuff, because it WAS a big deal – to me!. I don’t tell my small children (5 and 7) that their feelings and passions are “no big deal” – because to them they ARE! And who’s to say our grownup issues are MORE of a big deal? I notice people diminish teen feelings and emotions a lot. I believe people have a right to their feelings even if the issues seem “small” to others.

    Teen boy, I do hope you stop deceiving your parents. I would advise meet with them and admit you have done so, apologize, and promise not to do it any more. I truly hope they start giving you more freedom (unless there is some other factor that is not being disclosed here, that would lead to more danger) but in the meantime, now is a good chance to show your integrity. I’d imagine this is pretty hard; I remember how much my friends and my social life meant to me at your age.

    Joette said:

    “To the teen letter writer I say: Continue doing what you’re doing; everything but the sneaking out part, anyway. Visiting a family therapist and inviting the ‘rents along is an excellent idea. It wouldn’t hurt for you or your parents to get an unbiased third party opinion as to whether or not it’s time to introduce greater freedom.”

    This sounds like a great plan to me!

    Best of luck!

  27. Wow! I was really surprised by the anti-free-rangeness of most of these comments! Free range until they become teenagers? How does that make sense?

    I like and totally agree with the short and to-the-point gramomster comment:
    “Boundaries MUST expand with age and experience, not contract.”

  28. While I sympathize with the teen’s complaints, unless he is ready to move out and become completely financially responsible for his own life, then he needs to respect the rules of his parents. And he if then uses this as an excuse to go wild and crazy in college, well that’s just cutting your own nose to spite your face.

  29. I think I need to go through my memory box and make sure this kid didn’t steal a page out of one of my diaries! I was the oldest of three kids and the only daughter, so my Mom and Dad saw me as their baby and the role model by which all was set in our house. Although considering both of my brothers have both spent a night in jail and I haven’t had a ticket in six years…maybe my folks weren’t so right after all!

    Kiddo, all I can say is that I am immensely jealous of you. While your situation sucks, it’s way better than my adolescence and I commend you for the progress you’ve made. DON’T lie to your folks because you WILL get caught…karma’s a b*tch and really, you don’t want to take ten steps back from the great progress you’ve made.

    It hasn’t even been ten years since I graduated high school and a lot has changed in the last nine years since then. I’ve grown a lot and so have my folks. I see now why they did the things they did (it doesn’t make all of it right) and I see now that I made some less than smart choices in my time. You’re doing a great job at communicating with your parents and that’s important. I agree that they should be rewarding that to some extent, but you ARE a minor and as such, you are still under their laws until you reach the age of majority. Your feelings ARE important and you should be able to communicate that with them. You sound like a smart kid and I bet the three of you can come to some sort of arrangement that’s a win win for everyone.

  30. Wow, I too am surprised at the sudden willingness of free-rangers to suddenly not be just because a child has hit teenagerhood.

    At 16/17, I was babysitting for my boyfriend’s little brother at their house every afternoon, parentless for several hours. We got up to stuff that probably wouldn’t have been “parent-approved” but for the most part we were quite responsible. I also had a part-time job, was involved in a ton of music/performance programs, was an honor and was basically, never, ever home. I can’t even imagine my mother or my bf’s mother (yes, had the same bf for three years in the end of high school… to counter the idea that all teen relationships must be casual just because they are teens) suddenly clamping down on the freedoms we had as we got older, after we’d always proven ourselves to be so trustworthy.

    I agree that people unfortunately do a lot of dismissive poo-pooing of teenagers’ emotions, troubles, and experiences. I think this is because teens look adult-esque and sound adult-esque, but aren’t quite yet struggling with issues that are totally adult and add in a dash of hormones and impulsivity, and thus people tend to react to this disparity as ridiculous. Doesn’t make it right, though. All people have problems and feelings and those are valid and a big deal to them. No one should be told that their problems are ridiculous or will “pale in comparison” because right now they are not their future 30-something selves, and right now they need solutions to the problems they face at the moment.

    To the teen in question: definitely try getting a third party to talk to your parents… if not your former counselor, maybe a friend’s parents who could share some strategies or bear witness to your excellent behavior, or a clergy person or adult relative. I’m guessing your parents might need the outside perspective of another adult, since all their believing you to be mature doesn’t seem to change their minds.

  31. Sara – I had the same sentiments. I am shocked to read so many anti-free ranging comments, and especially comments because he’s a boy and a teen we can’t trust him. I’m reading a lot of fear of boys, so we fear them as a teen, and as men they are sexual predators, or because he’s a boy a.k.a. man, then he’s a sexual predator now? We are doing a huge disservice to society with attitudes like this.

    And I agree with gramomster: “Boundaries MUST expand with age and experience, not contract.”

    I can’t blame him for sneaking behind his parents back with they way they have treated him. He had more freedoms as a child, and now he has less. They say they trust him, but don’t act like it? I admit to having the same behavior as a teen (for the short time I lived with someone who gave me less freedoms than I was used to). It may not be right, but it is understandable considering the circumstances. Frankly, his parents asked for behavior like that by not trusting him.
    Sounds like parents and son need a serious sit down conversation, open and honest. And perhaps the parents need to read a couple books – Lenore’s, and “Parenting With Love and Logic,” because they are not being logical in their parenting, and by doing so, are not showing their son love (by not teaching responsibility when it needs to be taught the most).

  32. I sympathize with you. I agree that you are old enough and describe yourself as mature enough to go to friends houses without parental supervision. You also sound mature enough to make many–maybe most–of your decisions on your own, and I get the impression that you don’t have too deep of a resentment or your parents. It seems that you would ask for help if you found yourself in over your head.

    BUT, aside from validating your feelings, you may not have a lot of power in your home. Nobody’s advice to you can change your parents’ beliefs. My only suggestion would be to make your case to your parents (and hey, it’s already in writing!), stay very calm, and hope they will make some changes. If not, while it seems like forever now, the fact is that you will be 18 in less than two years. You are almost to the finish line here, and very soon you will be in control of your own destiny. My own children are young, and right now I cannot imagine subjecting them to some of the rules your parents have when they are teenagers. However, I may feel differently when they’re older. Your parents might have good reasons for making the rules they have, and at the same time you might think, “what more can I do to prove I’m responsible?” I guess the only way to find out is to ask. Even if you do everything right, though, other posters may be right–it may be outside risk they are more worried about.

    Funny, when I was a kid in the 90s, I felt the same way. Where was this peer pressure adults seemed to believe was rampant? I had friends who did drugs, but they were always just as happy not to have to share 🙂

  33. I think my comments re: computer virus were misunderstood — I was simply showing an example of people who were wrongfully accused and how damaging an accusation can be and how much burden of proof lies these days lies with the accused. {which was in response to someone who said we shouldn’t worry about being accused.}

    I was simply throwing out another idea — we really don’t know WHY the parents are concerned about this young man being alone at another’s house. Preventing their son from being in a situation to be accused may not be the best free-range, but it would at least be an understandable concern to be discussed and addressed.

    I think this young man should dig deeper and learn the reason for their restrictions — only then can they be addressed and possibly lifted or modified.

  34. I don’t think it has anything to do with his parents not trusting him, but perhaps they don’t trust his friends and/or their parents. They may be trying to protect him and themselves from lawsuits brought about by other parents, or even rumors that may ruin his good name perptrated by a friend’s angry parent. I was the same as a teen. I had my troubles, but I was a pretty good kid for the most part. When my mom didn’t want me hanging around certain friends, it was because she saw something that I did not. Even very mature 16 year olds are naive when compared with the wisdom their parents have gained as adults.

  35. We would avoid a lot of difficulties if we clearly communicated our own needs to each other and worked from that position. This is classic to conflict resolution that starts with each stakeholder presenting “I need …” then “I feel …” then ” I feel this way because..” and, because we are listening to the other person we can reflect back to them “I understand you (need), (feel) (because)”, and then finally a proposal for solution – could be a compromise, could be a whole new way of looking at the problem. Of course the negotiation is now only just beginning for real, so, while the other party (parents) are in the room and not yelling, stick in there and try not to start yelling or running off. Remember the solution for a group is not going to be all in favour of the wants of a single member. If emotions get unmanageable, just call a halt to proceedings. But let it known it is a postponement of the discussion, not a capitulation or a dummy spit.
    Also, do your parents know many of your friends and their parents. We made it a point with our children – it fosters friendships between families and lets parents become much more relaxed (or sometimes not) about the teenager going into particular environments. We’ve raised three sons who don’t drink but mix regularly with drinking peers, some who were drinking alcohol regularly from 15 years.

  36. Been there, felt that, and not too long ago.
    I suspect many of the commenters who say ‘it’s only two more years, hang in there’ have never been in this position, or are just too far away from teenage-dom to remember.
    To the poster:
    First, don’t worry about the girlfriend. Yes, it could be nice to have one, but it’s really not the end of the world. At sixteen, even if your friends have had relationships, they’re nothing too serious, and will mostly probably be remember with laughter. Sixteen and never had a girlfriend is not remotely freakish, so stop thinking that. Give it time, and don’t worry too much.

    As for your parents, I’m sorry. I know that feeling. It’s not just annoying, and it’s not just something you need to work harder at. I can tell most commenters haven’t been there, because i have. It’s soul-killing. Your parents tell you they trust you, tell you you’re mature, and smart, and responsible, then demonstrate they don’t mean a word of it, because they don’t trust you. the line that ‘we trust you, we just don’t trust your friends/the other drivers/the world at large’ is a cop-out. Not trusting my friends means you don’t trust my choice in friends. Not trusting other teens means you don’t trust my ability to know when to leave a situation. It’s not an answer, and shouldn’t be used.
    I wish I could tell you to just keep showing them that you’re responsible, and that they’ll get the point and give you more freedom. Many people have said that. I won’t lie. Do your best. It could happen. But it also could not. Some parents are simply irrational, and there is nothing a teen can possibly to to show they are ready for more responsibility.
    I was in this same situation. I was eighteen, didn’t smoke, drink, or touch any other drugs. Had never tried. Didn’t date, and told my parents I was not yet interested in dating. Did okay in school, and spent most of my spare school time in the band room (was a raging band geek with four groups). My reward? Denial of permission to attend birthday parties that would include boys. I can’t tell you it will get better. What I can tell you is that you can survive it. Keep trying with your parents, and if it doesn’t work, remember that it’s their mistake, not yours. Their inability to trust you is their own failing, and not yours. If things do not get better, you will reach an age where you can move out, and leave this situation behind. You may end up feeling behind your peers, but you can catch up, and you’ll miss out on some of the sillier parts of growing up.
    So point one – it’s not your fault, it’s not your failing, and you can get through it.
    Point two – be careful with your choices. If it continues, and your relationship deteriorates, you’ll have to think carefully when you make decisions. I understand why you’ve done what you mentioned. Be cautious not to become one of those rebellious acting out and wild kids. When you reach a certain level of frustration, there is temptation to do things just to break away. If you can avoid that, and be sure you’re making any choices just to allow a shred of a social life, you’ll get through it and move on as an adult.

  37. I’m not sure what’s to be accomplished here. It’s not our decision, it’s his parents’. The line should be drawn where they choose to draw it, Freerange or not. I may not agree with another parent’s rules, but I respect their right to make them (exceptions of course).

    The best the young man can do is to make his point, which he seems pretty capable of doing, and accept the decision. A family isn’t a democracy, it’s an autocracy (or perhaps a biaucracy?)

    btw, I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 21. And yeah, I felt like a green banded finch, but I survived.

  38. Teen boy – sounds like you’re frustrated by the inconsistent messages your parents are sending. I would be too. I think Lenore’s comments are good – especially about the depression impacting the way they see you now. And there are several bits of wisdom in this thread. There are also plenty of people who seem to think you should just accept it – I don’t think that’s fair or realistic.

    It’s hard to really comprehend just how strongly your parents feel about you until you have children of your own. To them you are the most precious thing they’ve ever known. They’ve got you this far and they want to protect what you’ve become while they can. All the excitement and freedom of adulthood comes with so many consequences that it’s easy for parents to be overwhelmed by fear and to try to protect you from bad choices by removing the opportunity to choose. I say this only because I think red lantern is right about the lack of power you have in this situation – you need to persuade so trying to see things from their perspective may give you the insight you need to collaborate with them on rules that meet your needs and theirs.

    On the lying to them front – this is one way to go. It’s a well trod path, but it’s not a great one. I know quite a few kids from my childhood who never got caught, but more who did. Getting caught will change the way your parents see you and the relationship you have with them. If you don’t get caught you still have to live with deceiving people you love. It’s not a good practice to learn to feel comfortable with, and if you keep it up for two years it may well become almost casual. You’re trying out adult behaviors now – do you really want to be practicing deceit like this? What type of adult will this make you in to? How does it fit with the moral code you already have? You have to balance this with what type of adult you can learn to be if you can’t engage with your peers. It’s a shame you have to make such a choice and I suggest seeing if you can find a path that avoids the lying if you can without completely ruining your social life.

    To which end I’d also mention that I was surprised to realize when I was 20 how poorly I had perceived the way I was viewed in my social sphere as a teen. I think we all think we are less popular than we are and that all the cool stuff happens when we’re not around. But it’s not true! And you don’t have to be at every gathering to be a core part of a group. Different choices are generally more respected than you realize at the time if you act with dignity and grace. If you bitch and moan about every restriction your friends will see you as a victim, if you you act with equanimity and a sense of humor they’ll see you as someone able to take it all on the chin.

    On the girlfriend front – you can probably find girls that will be happy dating within the rules your parents have (unless it’s a “no dating” rule). Teen girls are nervous about dating too – regardless of appearances. So restrictions can be appealing to some, you can still push the boundaries a little here and there. At 16 you’re probably wondering how on earth you’re ever going to get intimate if you can’t be anywhere private unsupervised. But believe me, you’ll find a way once you have a girlfriend who also wants to.

  39. i understand that its not the whole “its not that we don’t trust you its that we don’t trust them” thing but…. isn’t that the point? you need to trust your kids to deal with ‘them’. isn’t that what free ranging is for? isn’t that what parenting is for; teaching your children to deal with the world? if you don’t trust them to handle reality and the other people who inhabit it…doesn’t that mean you don’t trust them at all?

  40. typos. my apology.

  41. I once read a book about “educating your parents”. Actually, my mum gave it to me when I turned 14. It more or less came to say that parents love heir children irrationally and so try to keep them safe from everything, with the drawback that they are older and more experienced than teenagers, and so their idea of “danger” is, unfortunately, more accurate.
    So the book taught me to introduce my friends in my parents’ house, first one by one and then as a gang. That sorted the “I don’t trust those buddies you got yourself” claim.
    I chatted my head off every evening, telling each little thing that happened that day. And always ask for their opinion on any decision I had to make (That sorts out the “growing away from us” concept that hurts them so much and makes them cling on to you so fiercely).
    When I went out, I would spend half an hour telling them where I was going, with whom, what time I would get home (we had no curfew), and what were my means of transport. It was tedious, sometimes humilliating, but it paid off.
    You just have to build trust. And NEVER break it. You can’t restore it, you see. And, as they say in my country, “you catch a liar faster than a crippled”. You won’t get away with lies, so I would advise to confess the ones you told them before they find out.

  42. First, what DairyStateDad said. 😉

    Second, Lafe is so right — the kid is never as mature as s/he thinks, and never as immature as the parents believe. And lying about anything substantive removes 1,000 (if not 10,000!) maturity points in a heartbeat.

    Third, to the commenters who think the parents are being inconsistent or excessive: All the parents are asking is “no kids AT [ANY] HOME without adult supervision.” There’s a whole world out there without adult supervision that a teenager can hang out in, and they’re not restricting his access to that at all (he doesn’t mention specific curfews and he doesn’t say he’s not allowed to go to Place X or Mall Z). If our young hero wants to practice his social skills on those girls, he’s got plenty of room to maneuver.

    And to our young hero: Honestly, hang in there. You sound like a great guy. I suspect you’re the kind of fellow who girls will appreciate very much, but it may take them a while to figure you out. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Really, really it is. 😉

  43. I think the parents are being way over-paranoid, personally. If this kid is old enough to drive, then he’s going to be old enough to do whatever he wants (except drink) in less than two years; do they honestly expect him to do that much extra growing up in that time? Unless he’s completely BSing here, he’s already smart and self-aware and has his head screwed on straight, with a pretty conservative outlook. What, exactly, are his parents worried is going to happen?

    Another thought is that they have what sounds like an excellent kid, as communicative and straight-arrow as any uptight parent could want, and through their own actions they’re driving him to lie to them and sneak around behind their backs. Way to go, folks.

    Bottom line, once your kid is that age, they’re going to do anything they strongly want to do. Short of chaining them to the wall, their parents can’t stop them. The effective strategy at that point is for the parents to work with the kid to provide feedback and help point out possible pitfalls and things to watch out for, make sure they know how to handle emergencies and unexpected glitches — basically act as a sounding board for the kid’s plans. If you have a good relationship with your kid to start with, they’ll be more likely to listen and consider your input and point of view when they decide what to do and how to do it. Trying to act all authoritarian and dictatorial just results in, well, your kid lying to you and sneaking around behind your back. [shrug]

    Some parents seem to prefer the illusion of absolute control (which tends to include the lying and sneaking as a special bonus gift) over the reality of the older teen making his or her own decisions, making their own mistakes, and sometimes choosing to do things the parents have said they’d prefer the kid not do. It can be tough to acknowledge that you’re not in complete control anymore, but allowing the reality to exist in the open (rather than hiding it behind the “I’m Really In Control” mask) allows for maximum knowledge and communication, which leaves the parents in the best position to jump in and help of something does go catastrophically wrong.


  44. I’m with Sarah. So many of the responses are based in fear. The idea of all of a sudden going from co-ed playmates in elementary school to don’t be alone with a girl because you might be accused of something is exactly the consciousness that Free Range Kids was written in response to! As I said in my previous post, my kids have boundaries. I have guidelines about parents being around but they are flexible and negotiable. It is insulting to a critical thinking teenager to have rules based in fear that are not in the least bit negotiable.
    Granmonster…I have not reached your level of parenting but you are the type of parent I aspire to be.

  45. I was in a similar situation as the writer when I was growing up. I’ll echo some of the things other people have said: 1) Stop lying to your parents. You will get caught and then what little trust they had will truly be gone, and for good reason. Don’t give them ammunition to use against you. 2) Keep your chin up. And talk to your parents. By being open and honest with them, you demonstrate that you appreciate how they’ve raised you. You need to prove to them that they did a good job. Parents always doubt whether they reared their children properly. You’ve got your head on straight, so try and keep it that way. The fact that you’re aware of your situation is actually beneficial to you. You can cope with it constructively, instead of acting out. And you’re not missing anything by not having a girlfriend at 16. We’re not worth dating at that age. I doubt any of them would be mature enough for you anyway.

    Meanwhile, parents need to understand how much this kind of thing influences the “good kids.” As I said, I grew up in a similar situation. Although I graduated college, I still live at home at 24. Even now, I feel like I can’t do things without the emotional/mental support of my parents. Pretty much everything I’ve done with my life has been to make them proud — it was how I showed them that I appreciated all they’ve done for me. But I still don’t like doing things that they’re against — things, mind you, that are perfectly normal, safe, reasonable things. We’re not talking outlandish ideas like selling all my worldly posessions and backpacking through Bangladesh. I just wanted to move from Philadelphia (where I live) to Colorado (where I did an AmeriCorps program and where I had a support system) and they listed every reason possible as to why it might not work, despite the fact that it actually could work. So here I am. Still in Philadelphia and missing Colorado every day.

    I’m sure I’ll understand this better when I have children. And I’ll grant that it’s far easier said than done. But if parents want to raise children who are independent, stable, capable individuals … then you need to let them be independent, secure, capable individuals. Not all at once, maybe. But eventually, you have to go all the way. Do not burden your children by being emotionally dependent on them. They’ll never leave and have lives of their own. And it’s a detriment to the parents too: their children will feel obligated to stay and take care of parents who don’t need taking care of.

  46. Teenage Boy, how well do your parents know your friends? If you’re just becoming social again, your parents will be much more comfortable if they know the people you’re with. Can you ask people over or organize some outing where your parents will be around? Like, have dinner together at your house before you all go out and do something else? Or just hang out at your house sometimes?

    And, re: girlfriends, you don’t need an unsupervised party to find a girl, unless you think that you’ll only have the courage to make a move after a couple of beers. Instead, can I suggest that you cultivate 2 or 3 closer platonic friendships with girls? It might demystify the gender a bit, and chances are, one of the girls will either start to “like-like” you or want to set you up with someone else.

  47. When I was a teenager, my mother told me how her parents had made arbitrary rules about not going out with this or that friend, and as a result she used to lie to them, going so far as climbing out of windows to get to parties. She still, in her 40s, thought her parents had acted irrationally, and so she wanted me to know that she didn’t want me to have to lie to her. She thought it would be safer to know where I was, rather than stop me from doing something, and have me lie to her and do it anyway. If she knew the kid and the parents, she would certainly not have prevented me from going to someone’s house just because the parents weren’t there.

    It seems to me the elephant in the room is sex – that’s why people think they can trust their own teenager with all sorts of responsibility at home, but not trust two teenagers together in a house without an adult present. Frankly I don’t see what’s so wrong with sexual exploration between two teenagers. They’re going to do it when they get to college anyway. Make sure they’re well-informed, not lacking in confidence in themselves, and they won’t be pressured into anything they don’t want to do.

    I also disagree with the belittling of teenage relationships. My teenage relationships were very intense (and I’m not talking about sex). Not the sort of things that could have lasted a lifetime, but they certainly informed my future relationships. I’m glad I had such relationships within the protective environment of school where I’d know everyone for years and years, before heading off to college where I was surrounded by strangers.

  48. I’m with sonya on this one. It does seem like sex is the elephant in the room. Worries about teen sex seem overblown to me. Of course many teens are going to have sex. Give them the emotional tools they need to make good decisions about it, and good access to birth control and STI prevention. Keeping them from being alone together is almost futile and encourages deception. And as many people have mentioned, they’re going to be on their own in a couple years anyway.

    In addition, I think it is unlikely that saying “stop lying to your parents” will help. People tell the truth if they are rewarded for it and see that their lives are better because of it. You can try to coerce people into truth-telling, but if the result of truth-telling is punishment rather than reward, almost anyone is going to lie instead. And severe restrictions on behavior count as punishment for a teen. If you want a teen (or anyone) to be honest, reward honesty with more privileges and trust. This teen doesn’t have much to lose by lying; he already feels that his privileges are fairly restricted.

    When I was a teenager, I was generally quite honest with my parents. Then my parents forbid me to attend a church service with a friend one Sunday (I believe because they thought his church was overly conservative). I thought at the time, and still do, that this was a ridiculous restriction. Did they think I was going to be converted to a religion by going to one church service? So I lied to them about where I was going, went anyway, learned something about different religious practices, and decided I wasn’t interested in going back. What the experience did was undermine my trust and faith in my parents’ judgment. They could give no good reason that explained what their fear was. They just sounded like the sexual-predator fear people, worried all out of proportion to the actual danger.

    If the fear is really that teenagers left alone will have sex, state that clearly. But then you need to explain exactly what is so wrong and damaging about teenagers having sex, and you need to explain it in a way that doesn’t sound, to teenagers, like fear-mongering.

  49. I highly recommend this kid watch the Frontline documentary, Inside the Teenage Brain and then understand why his parents are doing what they are doing. I also totally agree in contacting the parents of the house where the kids will hang out to make sure THEY know what’s going on. How many parties are held at the house where the parents are away? It just seems like common courtesy to me.

    I’m sure this writer thought he’d get all the support he needed in proving that his parents were in the wrong but frankly, it sounds to me like his parents are just doing their job.

    And I agree with KSB. Bring your friends over so your parents can meet them and know and trust them too.

  50. I said “present your case and accept the decision”. I should have added that your relationship with your parents is a constantly changing thing. Once the case is presented, that’s not the end of it. At some point things will change, it would just be better if they change amicably and before you reach 18. I don’t mean nagging obviously, but maybe, “I’d like to schedule a review of this rule, in say, 30 days.”

    You might consider coming clean and showing them this post and thread. That’s a risk, but it’s up to you.

  51. Have you ever wondered if it is the friends you hang with that your parents don’t like and are nervous about you staying out late with them?
    Thus when either child argued that a ‘friend’ made them do anything I explained the actions, consequences and personal accountability in such matters,
    Am I an expert in Parenting? No and I doubt there is such a creature. But what I have accumulated from experience and observation over the years of other parents and kids has given me an idea of what works and what does not. I also had the advantage of being old enough to be the parent of the parents of my children’s friends.

    A long while ago when my children were in early teens another parent accused me of giving my children too much freedom. I thought about this for a while and then responded thus; One give freedom to an anumal or a prisoner. I prefer to give my kids trust and if that trust is betrayed then I will deal with it accordingly.

    My children never had a curfew and they themselves decided being tired at school the next morning was not worth staying out late. If you want to smoke then you can smoke at home. If you want to drink then you can drink at home. If you sample drugs then let us know and what you think of it. Both kids sampled weed, crack and probably another couple but they did tell us. Neither one liked the stronger drugs and again decided themselves they would not try them any more. Marijauna was enjoyed by our boy but he waited until he was sixteen plus before he tried it again. However he would ofyen call to say he wasn’t driving home and would I mind if he smoked. I would simply reply that this is your decidion but I woulr prefer you didn’t. When the daughter was of dating age I made sure she carried condoms. Why? because in my experience most ‘first times’ are spontaneous and the guys are never prepared. Itwasn’t so much about pregnancy but more about Aids and other STDs.
    In short the forbidden fruit is always sweetest. It is not enough today to just say no. Temptation and peer pressure are tremendous these days far more than when I was young so why make temptation even more attractive by forbidding it. Rather explain the ramifications of their actions and remind them that they are accountable for their own actions and their consequences.
    I now have two industrious adults who have never been in trouble with the law for any reason. Who love their parenmts and constantly tell them so. So how does this help the young man? Perhaps show them this reply and ask them to show trust. BUT if they agree DO NOT betray that trust. Show them you can be responsible in many things through the day. Discuss your thoughts, do not argue them. Make sure you do chores or help out around the house without being asked or told. In other words give your parents a reason to trust you.
    Good luck.

    I will be starting a blog wuth the title of

    with your child(ren)

    I hope you will join me.


  52. Wow. I am surprised by how little FRK you can hear now. Your actions or comments in raising teenagers do not make sense. Teenagers have a common sense, you can trust them, they make sensible decisions and they deserve respect. Declaring teenagers to be dumb, emotional immature or “just to not know any better” does not help anyone nor does this teach responsible behavior. I grew up to be who I am because my parents gave me the freedom.

    Honestly, how many parents here think they are free range when in fact they are just another breed of helicopter parents.

    Why wouldn’t you let your teenager all in your house with a friend without your supervision?
    What is bad about dating when you are 16?
    What is so bad if you treat a 16 year old like he can think and feel for himself?

    Bad are all those parents that are so scared of reputation, accusation and sex… Fear driven parenting? Wasn’t that what needs to be avoided.

    Range needs to expand with age. Not contract !

  53. No one has offered the most obvious advice … Christmas is coming and what better gift for your parents than Lenore’s book which inspired you to write to her in the first place? Having the book as a neutral third party will be a great place to begin the discussion. Hmmm I wonder how I could get *my* teens to give me the book. 😉

    My cousin went through a lot of hardship his last few years of high school because his mother was controlling, manipulative, etc. It was a rough thing for him to go through. He also didn’t date until long past the norm. Etc. This was the time period during which my cousin and I became close friends via phone (I’m about 15y older than him, am married and now mom to 8 kids, though I had 4 when we first became friends instead of just cousins).

    That friendship was a gift to both of us. We reconnected our family ties and enjoyed getting to know each other. We discussed all sorts of topics from the meaning of life to life’s struggles to the joys and sorrows of being a teen vs an adult. I supported him through his struggles with his mom, through his parents’ divorce, etc. I kept reminding him that while his mother was difficult and irrational (she truly was), he would respect himself more if he found a way to honor her during those last years at home. We kept a running countdown of how many months he had left at home before FREEDOM. The days sometimes went slowly for him and the injustices were deeply felt.

    But you know what? He did survive it, the years did pass faster than the days had made it seem, and he went onto college and adulthood where he has done amazing things. So he never dated until college and beyond … but he did live in Egypt and Uganda for a semester each (back to Egypt again as an adult for 6m), bummed around Africa, nearly drowned in Lake Victoria, had adventures most of us could only dream about. He used to call me at ungodly hours of the day due to the time difference and we’d talk for a few hours about life, the universe and everything. Deep philosophical talks that were just so awesome.

    I btw was always a bit relieved I wasn’t his mom because it allowed me to worry about him a ton less. 😉 Seriously, this kid has some stories that knock off decades from a mother’s life. Great adventure experiences. I admire it in him … and hope if my kids follow his path, he will be there to support *me* through that! LOL

    But anyway, I bring him up in part because he spent a lot of time feeling bad about the lack of social life he’d had and the lack of dating etc. He was longing for a girlfriend. We talked through that a lot. Ultimately, he found an amazing woman to share his life and its been a great gift that he was able to go into his marriage with a whole heart. That has been a huge blessing for them in their marriage.

    My thought is … don’t get so hung up in the details. Don’t let your parents define who you are, you know it deep inside. You may feel like you are dying a thousand deaths because of lack of freedom or the slow passage of time. Hey, I still feel that way when I’m in the middle of a miserable situation. That’s part of life. But while the days pass slowly, the years pass quickly. Be patient with yourself, you don’t have to be perfect. Angst is a normal expected ordinary part of teenagerhood. Embrace it to the extent it needs. Best advice … play lots of music in minor keys, write passionate poetry, find some sort of expression for it all. The passion and depth you feel as a teen is a *gift*.

    The rest of life will unfold one day at a time. Perhaps like my cousin you will find yourself chest deep in adventures that span the globe. Your parents won’t always define the parameters of your life. GIve them and yourself the respect you all deserve during this stage in your life and recognize it for what it is, a stage … a transitory time that passes and moves on. Your parents aren’t perfect and that is awesome … because it means you don’t have to be perfect either. In their humanity, they will make mistakes. Forgive them and love them anyway.

    Life has so much to it and there will always be things that suck about life. But life is still deep. Live it with passion (speaking of that intangible emotion, not merely the physical) … not just when things are easy, but *all* the time. I’ve personally been through a heck of a lot in my lifetime. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate is that *every* experience, both good and bad, has helped shape me into the person I have become. And that is not a bad thing, even though some of the things that happened truly were bad things. My motto in life is … “a life deeply lived.” That’s what I want on my tombstone. Start looking beyond the next couple years. Life is about so much more than the teen years, thank God for that!

    So give your parents the book, keep lines of communication open, try to find out the “whys” behind their decisions, respect them as the current authority in your life, continue earning their trust, keep becoming the man you are growing to be, and hang onto the fact that this too shall pass…

  54. “Accusational fiction cannot harm you. The burden of proof is upon the accuser to show that you actually did something wrong. There has to be evidence.”

    Not to ruin your career or your reputation, there doesn’t. To be jailed, yes, but not to be ruined.

    “Make a list of everything that Jesus was accused of, and I think you’ll see what I mean. He didn’t fear that stuff. He went on doing what he was supposed to do.”

    Yeah, and got crucified. Fortunately, being the Son of God, he was able to raise Himself from the dead, but not every thirty-something guy can do that with his reputation every time it gets crucified.

    As for this teen—are you sure what they’re so worried about is drugs and not sex? He seems awfully eager to “get” a girlfriend at the tender age of 16. What does he plan to do with her once he “gets” her? Put her on his mantle?

    The message today is all about “safe” sex, and many a 16 year old thinks he’s mature enough to handle casual sex, provided he uses a condom. Of course, condoms are not always effective against preventing STDs and pregnancy (they fail 15% of the time), and there’s no such thing as an emotional condom. My guess is that this, and not drugs, is the parents’ primary concern.

    My advice– instead of sending this letter to an author of a book, why not put it on your parents’ bedstand? Then you’ll be able to discuss what they’re worried about and offer your point of view, and maybe you can thereby come to some sort of compromise.

  55. Sorry if this is a duplicate… didn’t show up before, though:

    I think that parents who want to teach their kids to wait on sex until marriage — not until college — will have a very different approach to these kinds of rules from parents who have accepted that it will happen in college anyway.

    Yes, rules should relax as the kid gets older, but the corollary to that is that they should start out stricter. And rules teaching adolescents to be careful with the opposite sex don’t start at age 6; they start in the early teens.

    My hope for my kids when the time comes is that as I relax rules, they will continue to be careful about situations they put themselves in. Even as adults, my then-fiance and I had very limited time alone together.

    BTW, I remember being a teen — I’m only twenty-five and actually appreciate my parents’ rules about riding in cars with teenagers and about double-dating.

    Free Range doesn’t mean childhood without rules. Parents still have a responsibility to be parents.

  56. “teacup child” – I’ve never heard that, but that description fits me well (repressed childhood, going apeshit in college).

  57. i do believed that you are responsible enough and matured enough to make such decisions but accept the fact that its not the point …sweety your parents trust you ….but they dont trust people around you …they are aware that they dont have any hold on the people around you….they loved you so much and each parent will feel the same and do the same specially nowadays ….the only way that you will be able to understand the way they feel is when the time when you became a parent like them ….trust me sweety ,,based on my own experienced

  58. I don’t know, “I love you so much I need to protect you, and you’ll understand when you’re a parent,” sounds an awful lot like the kind of helicopter parenting many people argue against here.

  59. And I am also shocked to see fake statistics like condoms fail 15% of all times… Since when? Please teach your kids correct statistics and not the ones from obscure religions right wing websites or whereever you got this number from.

    I mean seriously. We need a new blog for FRT (free range teenagers), since I am shocked how many parents are willing to discredit their own 16 year olds as being immature, not knowing, irresponsible… If you are not trusting his friends and people around him, you are indeed not trusting him in finding appropriate friends.

    My husband’s mother was overprotective to him as he was a teenager, no sex education, no open talk, same opposite sex rules, not trusting friends… when I moved in with him, she cried for days about him losing his innocence, because we were not married… she then send us a package with contraceptive information and condoms…
    HE WAS 31 AT THAT TIME. And I was 30. How ridiculous.

  60. He sounds so mature… maybe his parents actually wrote it for their own advice, haha.

    I remember very much what it was like to be a teenager. I sympathize very much because I was the same way – very mature, concerned about school, never touched drugs or alcohol. But I think a lot of that had to do with my friends, because they weren’t really going out and partying and staying out all night either. There wasn’t much of a desire to.

    On occasion, and really for no reason at all, I would tell my parents I’d go to the movies and actually go to some random person’s house. In retrospect they probably wouldn’t have cared, I had just become pretty paranoid. I was ALWAYS afraid of ‘getting in trouble,’ but I could never tell you what that was, because I was so rarely punished.

    I agree that lying about where you are is very typical teenager behavior, but it’s also not smart. I hate to say you never know what can happen, but you don’t, and I wouldn’t want to scare anyone unnecessarily. If the depression is the problem, absolutely have your parents go talk to your therapist again and have another way to show them you’re past it, and you’re able to handle more responsibilities.

    Speaking of, maybe offering to take on more responsibilities around the house in return for a later curfew might be a good idea – mowing the lawn, doing extra laundry/dishes, etc. for another hour or two of staying out? I feel like that could make everyone happy and your parents might not feel like they’re caving so much, as long as you continue to prove your maturity.

  61. Also, @Katja, that’s hysterical, and @Sky, check your facts!!!

  62. Just as an aside – 15% isn’t a totally unreasonable rate to quote for condom effectiveness at preventing pregnancy in typical, rather than perfect, use. The WHO quote 10% -14% (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs243/en/). 2% – 3% is the rate when used perfectly every time. But typical use is a better number to quote for real life situations.

    Condoms are way, way better than nothing and one of the best ways of cutting STIs but belt and braces is the way to go for birth control when you *really* don’t want to become a parent.

  63. If you want to raise compitent self assured adults by the time they are 18 you need to give them the opportunity to make small mistakes while they are young. If you never have to make hard choices while you are a teenager, and are never allowd to fail how are you going to become a self relient confident adult.
    When you overprotect you need to figure out who you are protecting, what is your motivation and is that really what you want to teach them.

  64. As someone who was a teenager (and has a brother who’s just coming out of that stage), I know it can be frustrating when you get seemingly mixed signals. Prove your maturity by being responsible (keep up with chores, schoolwork, etc). While you should talk to your parents about the rules, you should also follow the rules that you and your parents agree to.

    If you’re given a curfew, stick to it; if there are rules about visiting others (when you can, contacting other parents first, etc) follow them. While you might be able to create a compromise (i.e., “it’s fine to go to John’s in the afternoon even though his parents will be at work, because he is responsible, just let me know the day before, and get home by dinnertime”, but “we need to talk to Bill’s parents before you spend time over there”), every situation should be different. Some parents are OK with teenagers in and out of the house (with or without a parent in the house), while others prefer not to have visitors when they aren’t around, and still others want to know who is where and when.

    Back during my high-school years, I had two very different friends. One was an only child and her parents were always around for overnight visits — but both commuted and weren’t around in the afternoons. Another was an older sibling, and her mother worked out of the home — we were never left in the house without an adult. But, because of other factors, my parents preferred it when I visited the first friend — because she had established a trusting relationship with her parents, and my parents knew that our wildest shenanigans would include Monty Python and caffeine.

    As I (and many others) have mentioned, talk to your parents. Figure out where they are, let them know where you are, and work for a compromise. Until you do (and after you’ve established any “new” rules), follow the rules they’ve given. They won’t think you’re very mature or responsible if they catch you in a lie.

  65. My advice to the kid as a parent and former kid is– 1) first ask yourself what will happen if you get caught lying to your parents: if the consequences are dire, you probably want to stop, y’know. Because there’s no way to protect yourself from not getting caught. 2) Ask your parents to tell you about their experiences as teenagers. Ask them what it is they are afraid of. 3) Are you allowed to go places other than people’s homes with friends? Because that would be my solution to the parental supervision problem– what if you went to the park, or whatever? By the way, as a former teenage girl, I suspect someone in your shoes should be looking for a girlfriend who is cautious about personal girl safety– which will likely mean NOT being with a group of teen guys at someone’s house with no adults home. For a young woman, having reliable backup in case a guy does some that makes her uncomfortable is important, and a girl who’s using her smarts knows that. (And what would you do with a girlfriend who doesn’t use her smarts? BORRING!)

  66. Helen. No, it is not a better quote. Au contraire. It is a misleading and false quote.

    A better approach looking at the numbers is to teach HOW to use a condom and not to use faulty statistics to scare people/teenagers away. Again – just a scare tactic.

    It is also more likely to drown if you do not know how to swim. Or to get pregnant when on the pill if you take it incorrectly. Or fall of the bike if you do not know how to cycle.

    I do not like underage teenagers having sex, however, I would rather have my daughter know how to handle situations (no matter how she decides) instead of using scare tactics or lies or disrespectful parenting to make her obey.

    My best friend growing up was a boy. I talked to him about everything, we spent a lot of time together (alone, no parent supervision)… we never even kissed. I would be soooo sad if my daughter missed out on recognizing the opposite sex as friends. This is the most important lesson I ever learned: boys make great friends.

    All, please be realistic. If a teenager wants to date or have sex, they will. It is through our emotional preparation and support that they might be able to make the decision that is best for them. This should be possible without us lying about consequences.

  67. So, from about 4-12, its all about fostering your kid’s freedom and encouraging independence and all that good stuff.

    But as soon as they have their 13th birthday, BOOM! They can’t be trusted.


  68. I must be a bad parent already. I trust my daughters (14 and soon-to-be 12) at friends houses without parents around. Did I mention I know all the parents of the kids? We make it a point to be active within our kids lives so we know the people they are around. We may not be best of friends with them but I know names and faces and more… My daughters have phones and can call for rides, advice, or to let us know they will be eating with friends.

    I look forward to expanding freedoms to my kids as they age up and show they can handle it. I see myself more as a net to a high-wire walker than a helicopter parent.

    I also enjoy open and frank conversations with our kids. I listen and ask about thier days and friends and share mine. I especially enjoy one-on-one chats when I get them. Rare in a home with teens.

  69. “And I am also shocked to see fake statistics like condoms fail 15% of all times”

    Pregnancy rates for typical use is 10-18% a year. I just put down somewhere in the middle for that.

    Condoms reduce the risk of transmitting AIDS by 85%, not 100%.

    They decrease the risk of transmitting HPV by 70%, not by 100%.

    These are not statistics from a right-wing religious website, but from the New England Journal of Medicine.

    There may be a 3% failure rate for pregnancy with PERFECT use, but in REALITY, few people use a condom perfectly every single time they have sex. Thus the typical failure rate.

    I managed to get pregnant using a condom, even after multiple correct uses. So I know it happens. (And I thank the failure for my beautiful little boy.)

    People don’t always pause to get things “perfect,” as you can imagine, especially not teenagers.

    I’m not opposed to teaching kids how to use condoms. I’m opposed to implying that it’s always going to be effective, and I’m suggesting that since this kid is so gung-ho to “get” a girlfriend, his parents may be concerned he is going to get a girlfriend pregnant, and maybe he ought to address those fears with them directly and talk about his plans and intentions with regard to sex, what preventative measures he would take if he did have sex, both for emotional and physical protection of him and his partner. That might ease their fears somewhat, if he really is responsible, and not just looking to get laid.

  70. My only advice is to get a job and save every penny, then move out as soon as you turn 18. Controlling parents don’t stop being controlling just because you become an adult. Believe me, I have the stories to prove it.

    Bitter at the age of 20.

  71. Sky. This is bogus. Please send a link. Who was the author of the article? Wo is the editor? One source does not make it fact and I just googled and did not read or find it in that magazine, so I assume you lied until you prove that you did not. You did not even bother to put down a context of these statistics with HPV and HIV.

    This so false it makes me angry that people really believe this and mislead and falsly educate other people. In particular teenagers. And this in the 21st century. I cannot believe it…

  72. @ Katja
    “All, please be realistic. If a teenager wants to date or have sex, they will. It is through our emotional preparation and support that they might be able to make the decision that is best for them. This should be possible without us lying about consequences.”

    I like this statement. My question is what are the influences that would will affect decisions. Openly I’m social conservative, but I know that simply avoiding sex, will only allow the emotionally negative influences of relationships speak.
    I can’t trust myself with my husband when the little ones are gone, so why should I trust my teenage child?
    Yet I clearly know I have to teach them to do things on their own, before 16.
    Because my philosophical views on contraception, my husband and I are forced to address our fertility with natural family planning. This means periodic abstinence for us. I have to admit, it’s hard at times. Situations with no one else home is tempting to any couple, teenagers or not.
    If we’re going to be honest with teens about sex, it has to be more then birth control or abstinence. For myself abstinence falls short, and birth control for myself as a teenager sent the message people didn’t care just don’t pregnant.

    Ironically teenagers home alone is a self-made problem. People buy larger homes or bigger lots for privacy, and we don’t really like having teens in public. People see them as a nuisance.
    It’s natural to socialize, but we’ve removed so many places from our communities to just hang out. It seems the only way to socially interact with peers is through very controlled organized events or lie…

  73. Katja – education isn’t a panacea for correct condom use, though it’s very important. People who know how to use condoms correctly still frequently don’t do so.

    I’m all for sex positive education, but I think it ought to be realistic about how people actually have sex. Sky was incorrect to say that condoms “fail”, they rarely actually fail, people fail to use them correctly. But teenagers (and most adults) don’t have sex in clinical conditions, real world rates aren’t an unreasonable thing for them to know (if only because it reinforces the importance of using them correctly).

  74. @ Sky

    I do agree with you also. I should say. I believe the 15% failure rate is over the course of the year. People will always question me on Natural Family Planning, and I tell them if contraception is going fail, it’s going to fail when you’re in your fertile phase. Been really good with the rules of NFP, when we’re using it to avoid, never worried about it failing.

  75. @Katja: A quick search of the mayo clinic website backs up the 15% failure rate Sky quoted http://tinyurl.com/yf8dhyt

    The New England Journal of Medicine is the most widely recognized publication of its type and is, if I recall correctly, a peer-reviewed scientific magazine. Authors in the NEJM don’t just through random numbers around without the research to back it up. I couldn’t find a link to the original NEJM article, but here’s a reprint of it by the World Health Organization http://tinyurl.com/yjqggt9

    Your response seems more than a bit harsh, especially considering that the stats Sky quoted are pretty readily available. 😦

  76. I, too, am truly shocked by the responses to this post. I can’t even conceive that not trusting your teenager alone with his friends in a private home is a free-range parent’s logic. You have to trust that you’ve done your best at instilling values and morals in your child and trust them to make decisions based on those values and morals. If they break the trust, then there are consequences, sometimes natural consequences such as an unplanned pregnancy and sometimes parental consequences of restriction or additional rules and a deterioration of trust.

    I must say that I believe Sky’s quoted statistics are correct based on things I know I’ve read in doctors’ offices in the past. That is why using condoms is “safeR” sex, not “safe” sex. You cannot eliminate all risk from sexual intercourse. That is what teens (and adults) need to be aware of. I have gotten pregnant while on the pill, taking the pill correctly. There is some risk with sex not matter how many precautions taken. That’s life.

  77. Sadly, I fall into the free-range until teenager category. Only my parents became religious fundamentalists too. When I turned 13. Words cannot describe. The harder they came down on me and the more restrictive their rules became, the better I got at getting around them. I took many risks I otherwise would not have, and ended up in some dicey situations because I was desperate for a tiny sliver of freedom. To this day, I hold my parents at arm’s length because I do not trust them emotionally and cannot bring myself to trust their judgment. You cannot give a child a free-range childhood and then suddenly take that away upon adolescence. It is a very fundamental betrayal. How can a teen trust his/her parents when they have suddenly decided, for no particular reason other than age, that he/she is untrustworthy? That is a wonderful way to destroy a relationship.

  78. The statistics quoted here are more or less correct in terms of numbers, but what’s being left out is that is the failure rate is over the course of a YEAR. This is NOT the same as a 15% chance of failure every single time a condom is used, especially not if the person using them is educated in proper use and is careful. Look up the Pearl Index to see how this is calculated.

  79. I can understand not wanting your teen to be alone in someone else’s house without the parents’ permission. You don’t know if the parents approve of having unsupervised teens in their home and it’s important to respect other people’s rules. The same with having teens in your own home who are unsupervised–I can imagine a scenario where you give the okay and then get a screaming phone call from the friend’s parent berating you for allowing the kids to be alone together. If both kids are mature I can see allowing it but *only* if you get the okay from the other parents first.

    In terms of free-range teens, this discussion is reminding me of my own teen years. By the time I was 16 I was going to punk clubs, hanging out in friends’ houses unsupervised and getting into a lot of crazy situations (but not having sex, interestingly enough–that didn’t happen until I was 18). I also went to an Ivy League college and have grown up to be a pretty responsible adult. I cringe when I think of my son doing everything that I did, but OTOH, those are memories I really treasure and despite some close calls I had a whole lot of fun. So I’m not sure how I’m going to handle things 14 years from now, but it should be interesting.

  80. To put it more in lay terms… 15% does not represent the chance that your condom won’t work.

    What the statistics say is that, over a large sampling of people who used condoms as a main birth control method over the course of a year, approximately 15% of them got pregnant. Of the people who used them every time (“perfect use”) only 2-3% got pregnant.

    The higher rate does not say anything about the risk of individal condom failure, it says more about how often people slip up and don’t use them properly for forget a few times. If you want to quote the effectiveness of a condom itself, then 2-3% risk of failure in a year is correct. If you want to count in all the people who are too impatient or ill educated to use them every time, only then is 15% realistic.

    Which rate applies to which teen depends on how well they’ve been educated and their willingness to be responsible. You can’t correctly slap the 15% on all condoms as a general rate of failure.

    Hi, can you tell I’m a sex-ed advocate? lol.

  81. Everything I have read seems to indicate that the best thing to do is give increasing amounts of freedom as they grow older, not the other way around. Doesn’t mean you let them run amok, but if you trained them in responsibility as a young child, you need to give them a chance to prove themselves. If you are worried about what they will get into, then educate them! Talk to them about drugs, safe sex, safety, etc. But sooner or later, they need to learn that actions have consequences. I never had a curfew – sometimes I stayed out until 4am on weekends. But I had a straight A average and a weekend job. My parents had 2 iron clad rules:
    -Call us and tell us where you are and who you are with. If you change your plans, call again. (and I did this, even without a cell phone, as they weren’t around back then)
    -Call us anytime, day or night, if you feel unsafe and want us to get you – no questions asked.

    With those two rules, they felt they knew where I was, and that I had an out if someone I was with was doing something stupid. They also made it clear that if I got busted by the police (my dad was a cop) that my rear end would stay in jail overnight. Somehow, I managed to stay out of trouble. Wasn’t too hard really – just needed some guidelines and a little bit of trust.

  82. @BMS
    “-Call us anytime, day or night, if you feel unsafe and want us to get you – no questions asked. ”

    Great advice.

  83. Love the look of your blog, how did you manage this? Great writing!


  84. Well young man let me start by saying this I have 6 children. I understand your parentssidean I understand your side. We as parents by nature want to protect our children at all cost , the goodones anyway, and we don’t realize how we are hurting them by doing this. My 14yr oldson has no choices he does as I say and thats that. Why u think well, one I’ve been where hes goingand i know there are things out there and the old saying wrong place at the wrong time can happen, it has happened to me. But I have also learned that jail is what we put our children in when we hold them from amking mistakes in life. You can’t learn how to fall if you never fall. You can’t learn not to do if don’t know what not to do, you can’t live if you never experienced life’s little mistakes to learn from. So with all of this said parents try to turst your kidsand let them live to learn and children try to understand this is a diferent world we live in. Itd very easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.We don’t make the rules but half to pay attention to them and take very good care about how we follow. Parents trust and protect but do not do not jail your children because they might want to break out of jail and thats a road no parent want to go down just be there to pick them up and guide them through this world with care.I think what what saying is I learned from you that i gave my son a since of distruste. I dont truste him so he doesn’t trust me.Remember children your parents have been down the raod you are about to go.We weren’t always parents you know. Give the lil guy a chance like i have and it was ok for me cause i taught him well like i’m sure you did mom.

  85. p.s. the kid sounds like he has his head on his shoulders. Just ask him to not get into a car with kids or anybody that has been drinking. I almost lost my lil cuzz that way. She wasn’t drinking bu the driver was she was in comma for 3 weeks. other than that let him go like i said be there to pick him up dust him off talk about send him back on out there

  86. Thank you Zie. Now I am more relaxed as I see there are people out there that can read statistics and put it in the correct context. I think there should be rule: never report a number unless you know how it is derived or calculated and what it represents.

    It is ironic that so many people here understand the “abduction statistics”, however, fail to think reasonable when it comes to sex and sex education.

    Would I ever tell anyone a condom is the safest choice? No. However, I would make sure they get the facts.

  87. I would encourage the writer to invite his friends to his home often so that his parents can truly see that they’re as mature as their son. Maybe then they wouldn’t so hesitant to let their son go over alone. As the mother of teenage sons, I always encourage my kids to have friends over so I can get to know them. It takes time but it has allowed me to see which ones are mature and have a good head on their shoulders and which ones don’t!

  88. What I didn’t see mentioned in the letter is some explanation from the parents: have they explained their concerns and justifications to their son, or is he forced to guess? He might not accept those justifications, he might think his parents have him all wrong, but at least he’ll know what’s up: maybe he can figure out a compromise that will suit them both, but in any case the rule will seem less capricious and therefore more likely to be obeyed.

    (One hopes; I’m 34 and I still roll my eyes at my Mom’s “rules” (now suggestions of course).)

  89. Wow! Where to start? To the parents: The most important thing we can do for our children besides protecting and nurturing them is to give them the skills to protect and nurture themselves!

    When a parent is fearful, as we all are, even if we don’t show it, we have to be careful not to project the message: “I don’t think you are capable of taking care of yourself.” Fear is never a good motivator.

    I would suggest to YOU, the incredibly mature teenager that wrote this letter, to propose that your parents give you some more freedom bit by bit with a measure of ACCOUNTABILITY so they can build up their trust and learn to trust that THEY have done a good job in raising you! Since they ARE afraid, they will need baby steps.

    Driving responsibility tied to GPA, and a job to pay for insurance, gas, etc. is a great way to establish accountability and the responsibility needed for adulthood and making good choices. When teenagers need to pay for car insurance and maintenence, they learn to drive safely and care for a vehicle. This built in accountability is a powerful motivator! One of the scariest, yet most necessary things I ever did was to get in the passenger seat while my daughters were learning to drive! Yikes!!!

    We have to be careful as parents (I have three grown daughters and my oldest grandchild is 16 this year) not to give too much freedom without accountability and too little with none. It is like the tango and no one ever gets it quite right without a lot of practice and risk-taking.

    It seems your parents are very caring and have done a wonderful job, now they have to prove it to THEMSELVES and let you fly a little!

    This is THEIR right of passage as much as it is YOURS!

    I can’t wait to hear about your accomplishments in the future, because from my perspective, you are an awesome communicator!

    Good Luck!
    Granny Pants

  90. Well Young Sir, it seems most people aren’t responding to you directly and maybe that’s just as well as we have no way of knowing whether you’re reading our comments or not. But i’m going to take a chance that you might be, and tell you that it seems that you have the classic problem of being smarter than your parents.

    In fact i would bet that you are smarter than most of the parents who have commented here. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this. And it can get worse with age, as most likely, your parents will always think they are smarter than you.

    However, you do have the Mid-50’s Wisdom Flip to look forward to – when all the braincells your parents lost when their hormones took over their brains when you were born and did a sort of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ thing that made them stupider than when they were in their twenties and vowed never to be like their parents, return with a woosh! and suddenly you find you can have amazing conversations with them as they begin to question the meanings of their lives and the Universe, etc., and start to get back all those little pieces of themselves that they lost over the years. Those little pieces that made them who they were before they met each other, before you were born – and they also discover new things about themselves. It’s a sort of mid-life re-self discovery that can only happen once their kids are grown, so they feel less needed as parents. This transition will make them more interesting and enjoyable to talk to.

    I know that may be a long wait and i wish i had something more to offer you as i think you have been greatly underestimated and will continue to be so until you begin to physically look as old as you really are. But keep in mind that despite your maturity, intelligence and wisdom beyond your years, there are parts of your brain that have not yet developed and won’t be done developing until you are in your mid-late twenties. Turning 18 does not magically turn you into an adult. In fact it doesn’t do much of anything except allow you to join the army, buy stuff you weren’t allowed to buy before, and your parents to kick you out or start charging rent if they so desire – which hopefully they won’t.

    Just try to hold out. I don’t know what kind of people your parents are. I don’t know if they are stubborn and self-righteous or if they are capable of listening to reason. You probably know them better than anyone in these ways. If you think they genuinely respect you, then you may be able to get through to them by being honest about yourself and presenting them with some hard facts about intelligent, mature teens and how trustworthy and capable of making good decisions they can be. Just do some Googling and print out what you find. There is so much out there that you can find intelligent sounding info to support just about any belief. If your parents are still invaded by the child-rearing-hormones and incapable of listening to a teenager’s reasoning no matter how sound it may be, then you may just have to grin and bear it until you feel ready to move out on your own.

    I would advise only being truthful with your parents if they are emotionally evolved enough to handle it. If being honest with them is going to hurt you, then i wouldn’t do it. Instead i’d try talking to a teacher or a friend’s parent who is more open-minded and understanding for any emotional support i might need and be honest with them. Most parents are going to disagree with just about everything i said. But most parents are stupid and inadequate. Think about it. Parents run the world and look at what a fine job they’re doing!

    Trust yourself, stay true to yourself and always listen to your intuition. I think that’s really the best advice anyone can give anyone. Hopefully your parents will come around. If not, then best of luck waiting it out and doing what you need to do to stay strong and be happy as you can be.

  91. The earlier comments on this post really surprise me because several respondents have written about having children and “getting them through” their 18th birthdays and such. I speak as an 18-year-old myself, but isn’t growing up supposed to be more of a work in progress between parents and children, not a game of one party controlling the other?
    As for advice, I think that complete honesty and good listening on both ends are the best ways to maintain peaceful relationships.

  92. As a parent, i can only say that the immense amount of love and anxiety that I feel for my children, together with the overwhelming desire to make sure “nothing bad” happens to them more than justifies anything (within reason) I do regarding the their welfare. Children- they are a piece of your heart walking around, is it surprising that we parents go to any lengths to keep them safe? I don’t find the mixed messages that this young man is receiving from his parents to be surprising at all- what surprises me is that for a person of his obvious intelligence and maturity, he displays such little appreciation of his parents’ need to safeguard him.
    As for advice, I don’t have any. Be safe.

  93. Oh- and I totally agree with other parents that the main issue here is not you, but other kids and their parents…


  94. When my son was in Junior High he was allowed to have friends over occasionally when we went out. We always called the parents of the kids invited to apprise them of the situation. I can’t think of one parent who said no. And it was really weird to call people we quite frankly didn’t know and explain that their children were invited over and we were NOT going to be there. They knew our address and phone numbers. We were all nervous, but knew we had good kids. It was just another trial run at becoming an adult-like playing house when you’re 5 or so. Yes, our children are pieces of our hearts walking around, but they have to be allowed to grow up. I’d much rather it be with all the parents knowing they were unsupervised than assuming that they were… all are alive and well and thriving 7 years later!

  95. Hayley,
    If you don’t want to be 30, still living with your parents, and unable to function without them, GET OUT now. Go to Colorado! You need to learn to function on your own, and they need to learn that it is good for you to.
    That’s not the only route. You went for it. I grew up the same way and just learned not to respect the opinions of my parents, since their messages were all inconsistent, and they refused to respect me. I learned that it was just something to endure until I could get out. And I learned not to tell them anything I could avoid. I’m not saying this is the right way – I think both methods suck, but either way, you get through it.
    And you have GOT to get out of that situation and change your method if you want things to ever be different.

  96. salam kenal

  97. parents will trust a teen when they realize that they’re actually an adult. Be upfront, don’t take crap, and fight for what you really believe in. I was raised as on a free range farm as well, but unlike you, I broke a lot of the rules that were set for me. Although my parents never deemed me responsible and we often fought, I had some of the most amazing experiences when I was your age (which was only 3 years ago so I can remember!). And honestly, I truely believe I wouldn’t be the same person without them. It’s time to grow up and show them you’re a man. Even if you’re not quite there, believing yourself to be one is an important step in getting there. You have pleanty of time to be responsible and do the right thing — you shouldn’t miss out on the craziness of the teen years. You won’t get them back.

  98. Children are people, even when they’re small. I survived raising four of them by trusting them. We trusted each other.
    AND I spent a lot of time reading Kalil Gibran’s take On Children from “The Prophet.” “Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you.” Page 18.

  99. Wow, I would say that is a mature teen. Some good advice in the comments.

  100. I’m very glad you didn’t take the drugs. But your parents have a reason to be worried. I think it’s parents goal to be worried.

  101. One should respect decisions of a young adult and teach him/her responsibility as s/he is an Individual! Practicing over caring by parents and lacking trust will develop complexes in an individual and will make his/her life harder as later s/he won’t be able to make own decisions or act in a way which would be against parents’ norms and values (sometimes antisocially) in order to escape their influence and regain personal freedom. Therefore, it’s very important for a parent to talk with a child, understanding his/her needs and views, to explain what a child doesn’t get fully (but only in the form of discussion and logical reasoning). I don’t know if parents shared the real reason with a child of their fear to leave him alone with his friends without peers’ surveillance …
    Anyway, if a person wants to do something s/he will manage to do it with or without any restriction … if a child didn’t do it it’s not because parents prohibit it but because of a child’s personal decision. Why do we still treat children as something which belongs to us … in fact, they just seek our support but not control …

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  103. I think the rules my parents had for me were overall pretty sensible. They always knew where I was, and people just didn’t go over to the homes of others if there was no adult there. This was in the 80’s. And no going into the bedrooms of the opposite sex,either; at least not beyond a short visit to see something difficult to remove from the room, like an aquarium.

    They did want me to check in if I was going to be late. I didn’t feel overly restricted.

  104. to everyone asking if this kid is planning on getting married soon or if he thinks he’s met his soulmate. That isn’t the point of a teenager dating someone! You’re right he probably won’t marry the person he dates at 16 yrs old. But dating is how you build relationship skills! That’s why you fight and make- up and breakup! You learn how to be a good boyfriend/girlfriend with practice. Which ultimately leads to being a good husband/wife. You learn how to give and take. Just because he’s most likely not going to marry said person doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get to date them because he’s got “plenty of time”. If I hadn’t dated my boyfriend when I was 15-16 I wouldn’t have learned some valuable relationship lessons.

    BTW, I was allowed to be at home alone with my boyfriend at that time and we never did anything inapropriate.

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