Some books catch me from the title alone – this one is a perfect example. “13 is the New 18” …And other things my children taught me while I was having a nervous breakdown being their mother is new to our Mom-Tastic Bookshelf. I asked the author, Beth Harpaz, a Mom since 1992 (MS’92) to share some inside tips for raising teens here at The Lounge. As I read her tips, I think many could apply to raising younger kids too – Enjoy!

By Beth J. Harpaz

—> If your teenager is never home, make your home more inviting.  Offer to let your teenager host a Super Bowl party or an Oscar party – costumes optional. You don’t need a fancy caterer; just order a couple of pizzas. Or ask your teenager what might make his or her room more appealing. My son was never home in the summer – until I bought a small air conditioner for his hot, stuff room. Now he can literally chill out without going out.

—> Make your standards for school clear before issues arise, and stick to them. To me, Cs and Ds as grades are unacceptable; if my kids are doing that poorly, they need to meet with the teacher, get remedial help (which could come from a friend, the teacher or a private tutor) and invest more time in that subject.

—> Fighting about money? Your teenager needs a job so he or she can pay for her own clothes, cell phone or whatever the source of conflict is. Yes, it’s a hard economy to find work in. But resourceful kids can find ways to make money, whether it’s a real job in a store or after school center, or odd jobs around the neighborhood, like dog-walking, pet-sitting, snow-shoveling, babysitting or tutoring younger children. I don’t fight about expensive sneakers or cell phone bills that went over the limit. I decide in advance what if anything I’m willing to contribute, and make my son pay the rest.

—> Plan ahead together. Don’t tell your teenager on Friday night that the weekend will be spent at grandma’s house. Make a calendar; let kids know ahead of time about family obligations. Encourage your kids to tell you when they have something important coming up, whether it’s a party or a science fair, and help them plan accordingly.

—> As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Trust, then verify.” Letting my teenager go to a concert with a friend was scary. I made it clear that I expected him to stay away from drugs and alcohol – and the parent of the boy he was going with was good enough to pick them up afterwards. Nothing like knowing someone’s going to be meeting you at 1 a.m. to keep you from getting into trouble.

—> Make vacations teen-friendly. I learned these tips from Eileen Ogintz, who runs a terrific Web site called, and they have made a huge difference in our family vacation happiness. Create a schedule where teens can sleep late sometimes; fit in time for a stop at the mall; set a budget in advance for gift shops, arcades and the like; let the kids pick some of the attractions or restaurants you visit; and if you can swing it, let them bring a friend.

—> Don’t demean them. This advice was given to me by a woman who has taught the eighth grade for 20 years. I don’t know how she’s survived, but she was so right when she told me that if you speak disrespectfully to a teenager, he or she will turn it right back at you.

—> Reward appropriately. If your teenager needs an incentive to do better in school or change bad habits at home, come up with something you are willing to do if the goals you set are met. Repainting the bedroom, a visit to an amusement park or even a cash incentive can work wonders to motivate a kid.

—> Share your own experiences on a need-to-know basis. Unless you are specifically asked, there’s no need to provide all the details from your own teenage years. Many of us grew up in an era when misbehavior by teenagers was treated much more lightly than it is now, so stories about what you tried, did or got away with is not going to help your kid.

—> Have the Big Talk early and often. The first time I sat down to talk to my kids about sex, drugs, booze and smoking, I thought I was going to throw up. The next time, I was merely slightly nauseous. After that, I was just a little nervous. Now, I can say what I have to say without getting too worked up. If you communicate your values openly and often, I think it really does make a difference.

I LOVE Beth’s tips, and adore her sense of humor in parenting – a magic ingredient for all of us to tap into — hope you do, to! Feel free to add a comment if you have any other creative ideas for taming teens!

And finally, this YouTube video is HYSTERICAL — Beth sings a song that includes, in her words, “everything moms want teens to know about drugs, sex, cigarettes, alcohol and school in under 2 minutes.” It’s very cute:

Photo by Tina Fineberg