Parent & Teen Relationships: Communicating Expectations and Values to your Teenager

A perspective from Attorney David Gonzalez of the Gonzalez Law Firm located in Orange County, California and who regularly practices in the fields of juvenile crimes/delinquency hearings, adult criminal cases, and family law matters like child custody and divorce.

In 2013, headlines in the news and social media told of stories involving children and teenagers engaged in disruptive behaviors and crimes. Take for instance teenager, Charles Williams, who was arrested and now faces trial for a shooting spree that occurred at Santana High School in California. Another example is the notorious Oklahoma case involving three teenagers of which two are accused of killing a baseball player and the third stands accused of being an accessory to murder for helping his two teenage friends.

Many parents have sent their children to school this year with hope that their children will achieve academic success. Some may achieve it, and some may not. Some teens will form positive relationships with their peers. Some will also make positive choices that embolden their future. However, there will be teens making choices that may have negative consequences affecting them and their future. Parents who have a teenager leaning towards engaging in socially disruptive behaviors or crimes may not know what to do in order to help their teenager avoid making a negative choice. The following suggestions may assist such parents.


Parents need to know their teenager’s circle of friends, social media connections, passwords for all websites and electronic gadgets, and viewing history on computers. The adage of who your teenager hangs out with is what he or she may become still rings true today as it did in the past. Is your teen hanging out with teens that are part of or have ties with a tagging crew? Is your teen involved in sports with other teens of like mind and discipline? Is your teen posting on social media sites geared more toward adults? Is your teen chatting with others who live outside his or her hometown, city or state? Parents may not realistically be able to know all social media connections or websites or all friends that their teenager is involved with; however, the more that parents know the better they will be able to structure the extent of their teen’s social involvement with others and other peers. Knowledge is power, and parents with such power can communicate their expectations to their teen as it relates to their friendships and social relationships.


Parents need to communicate to and with their teen as to their expectations when it comes to chores, school and work, and life in general. Parents need to communicate boundaries and set reasonable rules or guidelines with their teens. If, for example, a curfew is set for a teenager, that teen must be told when he or she is expected to return home after being with friends. Experience has shown when a teenager is questioned as to why he or she is or has engaged in certain behaviors more often than not the teenager will reply that he or she was never told specifically that such a behavior was not acceptable.


Along with communicating boundaries with teenagers, parents need to provide positive encouragement to their teens. Parents need to build a relationship with them. Teenagers still need affection, love, encouragement and comfort from their parents. If parents seem to struggle with providing such emotions to their teens, it is imperative that such parents seek counseling immediately in order to learn ways in which to provide such encouragement to their teens. Teenagers still need to know that they have value in the minds and hearts of their parents. If teenagers sense that their parents do not place high value on them, they will seek value or affection elsewhere from such things as inappropriate relationships, gangs, crews, or from the use of alcohol or drugs in which to deal with the lack of value or affection they are missing from their parents. Teenagers want and need affection from their parents. They need to know they are esteemed and wanted. They need to have a sense of belonging.

Parenting Is Not Easy But Is Rewarding

Parenting is never an easy job, but it can be very rewarding. Parents can help themselves by seeking the advice and support of mentors, friends, neighbors, pastors, community organizations, or counseling when the task of rearing their teens becomes overwhelming. When parents make their teens their priority, it may then be possible to stem the tide of juvenile delinquency.

David Gonzalez

Family Law Attorney in Fullerton