Parenting Teens - Trust vs. Control

During my phone sessions with parents, one issue comes up over and over again. Parents are frustrated because their teenager does not listen to them anymore. Some are focusing on finding answers how to regain control of their teenager while others are wondering how to build a good relationship.


It is possible to regain control by restricting your teenager and forcing him to do as you say. Parents can monitor their every move and bombard them with questions. Your teen, however, will most likely respond by avoiding you and family time, lying, dropping grades or even running away from home. He also will be very frustrated, feel confined, and count the days until he is 18 and out of the house and away from you. After that he will most likely try to avoid you as much as possible.


Most parents I talk to are looking to build a lasting relationship with their teenager. They want their son or daughter to come to them for advice and input on difficult situations they are facing - not just during their teen years but also later on in life.


Some parents who try to "let go" or to give their teenager more space are having difficulties adjusting their parenting style or are not sure where to begin. Up until now, they were at their child's side to protect him from injury and prevent actions that could have an unfavorable outcome. Now they're asked to let their teen be independent and to give them some room, but are wondering what is enough and where to draw the line.


Your teen wants to have some input about his life and to be allowed to make some decisions. Your teen needs to gain confidence in himself and his decisions. Parents also need to gain confidence that their son or daughter can make right choices and decisions.


Keep in mind that your teenager is not asking to make major life decisions such as whether going to school or drop out. All your teen wants is decision-making power regarding what clothes to buy or who his friends are and when to do her homework.


Give your teen the opportunity to make small decisions. You can still monitor, but do it from a distance. You might find out that your teen is capable of making right choices and good decisions based on the principles you instilled in him so far. With every right choice your trust in your teen's ability will grow and it will be easier for you to give your teen a little more rope. For your teen every inch is a boost to her self confidence, making her more and more secure and capable.


On the other hand, you might find out that your teen lacks the knowledge to make informed decisions. As long as he is still living with you, you have the opportunity to help and support him. Instead of scolding or punishing him, point out what and where he went wrong and how to better handle this particular situation or task the next time. By discussing what went wrong and analyzing the facts, your teen will gain confidence in you and your advice. He will be more likely to ask for your help or advice the next time.


Christina Botto has been involved with helping parents and teenagers resolve complicated issues for more than 14 years, observing and developing parenting strategies. Her dedication to helping parents inspired her to write her book, ‘Help Me With My Teenager! A Step-by-step Guide for Parents that Works.’


Christina continues to help parents and their teens through her website, where parents can find her book, news for Education K-12 and College, LIVE Counseling, and a variety of other tools and resources for both communicating with their teen and helping parents deal with issues they are struggling with.


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