Q. "Are my husband and I reasonable, or are we hopelessly out of date?
"We do not allow our children (13 and 14) to attend unsupervised parties -- parties held in homes where no adult is present. Neither do we allow our children to visit friends in their homes when parents are away.
"We do not allow our children to hang around a shopping center after stores have closed for the day (when they go shopping, we actually expect them to shop). And we don't give them rides to R-rated movies where they would need to lie about their ages or ask someone older to buy tickets.
"We forbid our children to ride the mopeds that their friends' parents have bought their children. And we expect our son and daughter home at dusk unless they have specific plans for a parent-approved activity.
"As parents, my husband and I think we are exercising common sense. Yet, we must admit that other parents in our neighborhood -- it seems the majority -- are allowing these activities by their children.
"Our children, of course, think we are unfair. What about you?"
A. These are sensible rules, particularly at 13 and 14.
If you let your children go to R-rated movies, you would be telling them that it's all right to lie -- and to do a few other things -- and so you shouldn't.
And if you would worry about a moped, your children shouldn't ride one, any more than you would play around with something that scared them. In a family, fears must be respected as well as dreams.
There also isn't any reason for them to hang around a shopping mall, especially after hours, or to stay out after dark without reason, or to party on a school night, since most working people don't play during the work week -- and school is work. In fact, if a child is reaching his potential in school, there should be little or no time left for television on school nights.
Any party presents a problem to a teen-ager. It's hard to know how to talk with someone; whether to dance or not; when to go to the bathroom so no one will notice, and how to go home late enough to look sophisticated, and early enough to keep out of trouble. These are all the normal, exhilarating reasons that make a party so wonderfully awful at 13 and 14.
An unsupervised party can present much bigger problems: to smoke or not to smoke; to smoke pot or not; to drink or not; to have sex or not. Even the best reared child finds it hard to say no when surrounded by friends used to saying yes.
These have become common questions, since most teen-age parties are unsupervised. Parents don't even know they're giving a party when they plan their nice weekend away, with Billy staying home to feed the dog. Unless there's been a disaster, they don't know they've had a party when they get back either. If you think teen-agers don't know how to clean house, you should see them scurry before the folks come home.
The wit who drops a little acid in the punch is not likely to do it when a parent is around and the one who's apt to get into the family's liquor -- or medicine -- cabinet won't since he hasn't had any beer to warp his judgment. And if someone should drink before he arrives, or duck out to the bottle he left in the bushes, he still won't get into any bourbon or tranquilizers. Not only have the parents stayed on the premises, they've also put away anything dangerous.
Even though you've taught your children to be moral people and to think for themselves, they're still too young to make the right decision every blessed time. That's why they need your rules, but this doesn't mean they're going to like them.
Young teen-agers feel so different, so alone, that they try hard to dress and act like everyone else -- and then they get rules that set them apart from the others.
When you impose limits on your children, you limit their friends too. Some of the neighborhood gang will accept your children anyway, in spite of their eccentric parents, and other friends will be drawn from the more conservative families.
Your children are bound to resent this, at least until they decide just who they want to be. In the next few years they -- and other teen-agers in their neighborhood -- will agree with you more often, not because they are more intelligent, but because they have seen and heard (and done) enough to make better judgments.
Not only will other parents get stricter, but children will change on their own. Some, reared too autocratically, will rebel. Others, reared permissively, will be shocked by the car accidents -- and sex accidents -- of their friends and tighten their own rules.
It's how you explain your rules that will decide how well your children accept them.
It's asking for trouble if you belittle the neighborhood children who have broader boundaries, since it's one-for-all and all-for-one now.
It's also tempting to say, "You'll thank me one day," but that would be like telling them they don't have enough brains to understand you yet -- and they do. Your children may not agree with you but they can accept it if you tell them the truth: You couldn't bear it if anything bad should happen to them.
When you do all this talking, you have to do some serious listening, too, hearing their complaints and making some adjustments for special occasions as they get older. If you respect their feelings, they'll try to respect yours.
The parents who have tighter rules also should give more liberties. Let your children be the ones who can have the spur-of-the-moment parties when there's nothing to do on Saturday night.
And when you're feeling dreary about playing policeman, pick up a dandy new book: Your Adolescent: An Owner's Manual, by Carol Eisen Rinzler (Atheneum, $8.95). It will remind you how wonderful -- and wacky -- a teen-ager can be.