Parenting a Teenager - Stop Doing This Number 1

empowering your teenager Mar 26, 2023

Today is a big day.  I am going to share the number 1 item on our list of the top 10 things you need to stop doing as the parent of a teenager and what you can do instead.


The number 1 item on our list is to stop trying to control your teenager.   


This transition can be a big challenge for many parents.  Let me explain what I mean by transition.  When your child was a baby you controlled everything. You decided what they would eat, where they would sleep and what clothes they would wear.  As your child moved into the school age years you, as the parent, were still in charge…right.   But you may have started to feel some push back by your son or daughter on certain things.  


I remember a certain pair of shoes that one of my daughters had to wear everyday.


Now as your child moves into and through the teenage years there is going to be even more  push back.  I am going to tell you that this is a good thing.  This is supposed to happen.  There should be a transition where the parent turns over more and more control of their life to their child.  This is what prepares them for adulthood. 


But it is scary. As parents we worry about the risk. We worry about them being ready. 


I know.  I have been there… remember I am a parent too. 


Here's the thing though.  If the goal is to have a teenager that thrives in everything they do, a teen that is responsible and makes great decisions, a son or daughter that is ready for adulthood we need to shift more and more responsibility to them. In effect, let them take control of their life.  And I believe that the earlier you start this process the better.


Now I know what some of you are thinking.  But I can’t just turn them loose. I can’t just turn my back on them and say “It’s all on you now.”


This leads us to what you should do instead. 


Instead of trying to control your teenager I recommended shifting your role to one of empowerment.   Your goal is to empower your son or daughter to make the responsible choice, to be the voice of reason, to be thoughtful, to believe in themselves, and to live with integrity.  Basically to be awesome.     


Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference in these two approaches. 


It’s Monday and your son tells you he has a big test in his algebra class this Friday. He has  been struggling in this class so this test is going to be critical for his semester grade.  From the  control based mindset you inform your son that there will be no video games this week. You set up a study schedule for each night and schedule tutoring sessions for Tuesday and Thursday mornings before school. Next you call the teacher and ask for a list of practice problems.  Each  night you check in with him to make sure he has completed all of the scheduled practice problems.  Some may argue that this sounds like an engaged and supportive parent.  I would agree that they are engaged but I would assert that their efforts would be better spent empowering their son to come up with his own plan rather than controlling every aspect of the process.   Here is why.


While he may accomplish the goal of a better grade on this particular test, at some point the son will stop telling the parent that he has an upcoming test or they will refuse to adhere to the parents plans. In effect they will push back. They will accuse the parent of being over controlling and a pain in the you know what. 


More importantly, the reason to make the shift to empowerment is the underlying message you are communicating to your teenager when you try to control what they do. The message is that you don’t believe that they are capable of handling anything on their own.  


Here is how this scenario might play out when the parent adopts an empowerment approach. 


Parent: How could this test impact your grade?


Son: With a worried look on his face… It could make or break my semester grade.


Parent : With compassion… I can tell you are feeling a little worried.  That makes sense. This class is important to you.


Son: Yeah


Parent: What are you planning to do to prepare?


This is an example of turning the problem back over to them.  From the empowerment perspective the goal is to help them think through the options and come up with their own plan of action. 


Here are some other potential questions that could be used to move them along in the process.


  •  What study approach has worked best in the past?
  •  How could your teacher help?
  •  What could get in the way or distract you from your study times?
  •  How could you keep track of your progress?
  •  How could I help you?


This is completely different from the control approach… isn't it.


Empowerment coaching is centered on asking open ended questions that will help your teenager think through and solve their problems. 


The underlying message is that the son, in this case, is capable and equally as important it is his responsibility to come up with and execute a plan.  


So there you have it, the number1 item on our list of things you need to stop doing as the parent of a teenager…


Stop trying to control what they do.


 and what you can do instead…


Shift to an empowerment mindset.    


Your Family Enrichment Coach,


Jim White





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