A common trap in parenting teenagers is defaulting to a pattern of decision making where decisions rendered are based primarily on information from the past. This after-the-fact mode of operation is reactive and highly frustrating. After-the-fact data points are monopolized by quiz scores, test scores, essay results and report cards. Make no mistake, these are important, but if these are the markers used in determining standard teenage freedoms and privileges, you’re playing from behind.

And, as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Part of reimagining your approach is done by shifting energy and placing greater emphasis on proactive data points. Proactive data points are monopolized by analyzing organization, planning, calendaring, communicating, study time and study location. These data points should be tracked to determine your teenager’s desired (within reason) freedoms and privileges. Think phone, car, friends, Xbox, money.

To solidify this concept, let’s use the familiar example of money. In a reactive parenting model, parents give teenagers money upfront and seek to recoup that money upon discovering negative after-the-fact data points, like a low test score. In a proactive parenting model, parents track the process of their teenager’s week by using clearly defined markers, and payout (or not) at the week’s end, similar to an employer paying an employee.

To implement your shift from reactive to proactive parenting, sit down with your teenager and establish trackable weekly markers. A reactive maker like earning all A's should be replaced with the specific amount of time your teenager will study each subject (setting a minimum), where they will study (other than in their room), and include evidence (notes, flashcards, annotations). In short, establish actions, and how they will be demonstrated. After establishing markers for the week, it’s then appropriate to discuss what your teenager can earn in the form of freedom or privilege. Demonstrated teenage efforts can be cashed in. Please note, this is not extra freedom or privilege--it’s the same standard ones, simply paid out at week’s end. Conversely, clearly establish the opposite response too, by outlining what your teenager will pay out (in the form of loss of freedom or privilege) if they do not properly complete or demonstrate their markers.