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Reducing Risk Taking Behaviors in Teenagers

Parenting is an honorable and sometimes difficult duty. As parents, we have the awesome responsibility of raising our children to become loving and successful individuals. This includes guiding our teenagers away from risky behaviors.

When it comes to risky behaviors during adolescence, there are three common risk behaviors that parents worry most about. These include sexual activity, law breaking, and substance use. Engaging in these behaviors can lead to a number of poor outcomes in the later years.

According to research, the best way for parents to help decrease risky behaviors is to adopt an authoritative or actively involved parenting style. Authoritative parents work to incorporate the “Three L’s”: love, limits, and latitude.

  • Love your teenager. Show your teenager son that you love him. Be affectionate. Hug your daughter, provide a shoulder to cry on, comfort her when she has had a tough day. When you need to correct your teen, do so in a loving manner. Connect with your teen through acceptance. Enjoy shared activities like going to see a movie or playing a game of basketball. Let your teenager know that you care for him and desire to be there anytime he needs you. When all is said and done, love is the foundation of authoritative parenting; allow it to guide your interactions with your teenager.
  • Set limits. All teenagers need appropriate boundaries. Work together to identify and agree upon rules and let them clearly know what your expectations are. Remember that the less rules the better. When these rules are broken, be firm.  If your teen comes home 30 minutes after his curfew, lovingly remind him of the rule and the punishment previously agreed on. Then, take the keys for a week. Limits provide boundaries and guidelines for your teenager when they are clear and consistent. Your teenager will learn to regulate herself with your help.
  • Provide latitude. Try to remember that your teenager is growing up fast. They are seeking independence and autonomy. You can foster this growth by providing choices for your teen. Research consistently shows that teenagers do best when they are given the chance to make decisions. These choices prepare your teen to become a fully functional and successful adult. Choices also encourage your teenager to reason through the decisions that they make on a regular basis, like whether to smoke marijuana or not. Above all else, love your teenager when they do make decisions that you do not agree with.