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Code of Conduct for Teenagers

by Molly Thompson, studioD

As parents, you have likely set rules and behavior standards for your children. When they're young, rules such as "no hitting," "share your toys" and "say 'please' and 'thank you'" are the norm, but you need additional behavior guidelines as your youngsters become teenagers. Consider the rules and codes of contact of teen-centric organizations when establishing the rules for your teens at home. Discuss with your teen the code of conduct you've established, consider her input and keep it clear and concise. Focus on the behaviors, rules and expectations that are most important to you, rather than overwhelming your teen with a long, tedious list of nitpicky rules.

Common Courtesies

Teens are famous -- or infamous -- for the informal way they communicate with one another, but when this same language is used with adults, it often borders on disrespectful. Your code of conduct for your teens should include a requirement that they observe common courtesies, no matter who they're interacting with. "Please" and "thank you," holding open a door for someone, not interrupting others and using basic table manners may not seem important to teens, but such courtesies go a long way toward leaving a good impression with others.


Today's teens might not be familiar with Aretha Franklin's hit song "Respect," but the concept belongs at the core of any teen code of conduct. Encourage your teens to respect others, regardless of their age, gender or appearance. Insist that your teens respect their parents and siblings. Respecting teachers and job supervisors is critical for teens hoping to be successful and well-regarded. Another concept that might seem strange to some teens is respecting themselves. Explain to your teen that this doesn't mean being self-absorbed or egocentric. Rather, it means your teen needs to make the kinds of choices that promote his health, protect his reputation and best position him for success in his academic, extracurricular and work-related pursuits.

House Rules

Rules for teenagers may differ from house to house, but you must make clear to your teen what your particular house rules are. Spell out your expectations in a family code of conduct. Specify exactly what is and isn't allowed in your home: Your code of conduct might include no drinking, drugs or smoking; consistently meeting established curfews; obtaining parental permission to go out with friends or use the family car and contributing -- without drama -- to household chores and pet responsibilities. An important corollary is to ensure your teen understands that your house rules also apply to her friends when they're under your roof.

Outside the Home

Teens frequently try to push the envelope, especially when they are outside the family home. Your code of conduct might specify that "family rules apply no matter where you are or who you're with" to remind your teen that just because he's not under your roof, the same rules still apply in terms of how he conducts himself. He also needs to adhere to codes of conduct established by his school, his church or the local recreation center when he's in those facilities. Such rules might include respecting others' property, avoiding behavior that reflects poorly on the institution, not using profanity and picking up after himself in shared spaces.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

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