Q. How can I make my 16-year-old respect his curfew? He doesn't ask for much, so it's hard to take away privileges. He doesn't study and seems to have no interest in any kind of work. I need some tips on how to handle him.
A. Your first task is to get to know him better, and it'll help if you drop the assumption that he's a total slacker. It's possible he has interests, like being part of the local music scene or skateboarding community, but hides them from you because he thinks you're judging him.
Then, I'd say to him, "I can't have you staying out so late. Part of getting older is thinking about how your actions affect others. If you don't come home I imagine horrible things happening to you because that's what mothers do. So can you agree to get home on time? But my bigger worry is that I don't see what's happening in your life that you're passionate about. It's important that you find activities that give you satisfaction, pride, and a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself. I don't have to know every detail, but can you tell me what's going on?" Once you've said all that, please just sit back and listen.
Originally published in the April 2010 issue of Family Covers magazine.