parenting a teen

Parenting a Teenager 

Just when you thought you were going to get a handbook with how to parent your teenager, I’m going to break it to you: there is no handbook, guideline, cliff notes, or anything that will be a step-by-step guide. I know this is a letdown, but there is hope. It’s important to understand that what tip or trick you read regarding parenting or any other skill you need to take that with a grain of salt. No teenager, person, or family is textbook or the typical all the time. You must take each general skill and personalize it to you and make it your own.

Parenting a Teenager – The Do’s and Don’ts

Even though now is a time that a teenager is wanting the most independence, it’s important to make sure to set aside time regularly with your teenager to do something fun together. This needs to be shared as fun. Not just something that your teenager “used to like to do” but something that you can agree on. This will give you time to connect with them by doing an activity. This can help foster and promote conversations that would not happen if just the regular “how was your day” interactions.
Never disagree with other parents or caregivers in front of children. It’s okay to disagree but do it behind closed doors. When your child is entering adulthood, they will test boundaries. If you present as a united front, there will be less opportunities for them to try to pull a fast one on you and test boundaries. Be supportive of one another while parenting or co-parenting. This will be one of your best skills.
Be consistent. Let me say this again. Be consistent. It is important to create structure and consistency in your teenager’s life and this includes them knowing what to expect when they have a great accomplishment, do their chores, get good grades, or make a mistake. Reward or consequence the same behavior in the same manner. This goes the same for other caregivers as well. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
Agree on what behavior is desirable and what behavior is not. This also goes to the last point on their consistency. Without consistency and without clear boundaries and expectations your teenager will be able to test boundaries and be challenging.
Make it very clear what the undesirable behavior is. It’s not enough to say “your room is messy”. What makes the room messy? Use specific terms. “You’ve left dirty clothes on the floor, didn’t make your bed, and there are empty water bottles on your desk” is specific and clear about what makes the room messy. It sets up your child to be successful if they know what “messy” means and how to remedy the situation.
If you have stated your position on an issue and your teenager attacks this position, do not defend yourself. Restate your position on the situation and then stop responding. An example of this is if your child asks to stay at a friend’s house overnight on a school night. If the boundary is that this is not allowed state this. When the child asks why not or gives a rational why it should be allowed, state the boundary again and end the conversation. This is now setting a clear boundary for the child.
Look for gradual changes in behaviors. “Progress not perfection” should be a motto that you use. Don’t expect that mountains are moved immediately. Praise behaviors that are desirable and coming closer to what the desired goal is.
Remember when parenting a teenager that you are your child’s greatest role model. They see you and everything that you do. Even if you don’t realize or think they are watching, they are. Role model the behaviors that you want them to show. There is nothing worse than a do as I say, not as I do style of parenting.
If one parent is enforcing a negative consequence to the child and the other parent or caregiver enters the situation, the other person should not step into the argument. This can and will create shifts in the dynamics and will not create the consistency that was spoken of earlier. Be consistent and be supportive of the mutual caregiver. It doesn’t feel good to be the “bad guy” as a parent, but this will be important to creating consistency as well as mutual respect.
Reward desirable behaviors as much as possible. Use verbal praise, positive and healthy touch (i.e. hugs, etc.), or something tangible like a toy, money, or favorite thing. Make sure that whatever the reward is, it is consistent and typical. Rewards just like consequences need to be consistent and expected when the behavior happens.
All parents or caregivers need to be equally responsible for the responsibility of rewards and consequences. One parent should not be the only one that enforces negative consequences and the other only responsible for positive rewards. Parenting is a team sport and you both must share in all the responsibilities. The successes and the defeats.


Finally consider the 3 “F’s” of parenting. Be Firm, be Fair, and be Friendly. Consequences need to be clearly stated and adhered to. The punishment should fit the crime and creating bigger and badder consequences do not make your teenager magically follow the rules. In the cases of reoccurring behaviors, consequences should be stated in advance so that all are on the same page and that children know what is expected. Also consider every situation as a new situation. Don’t hold onto your feelings of anger or disappointment for earlier behaviors. You’re setting your teenager up to fail if you hold one behavior again them all day. And use friendly but firm ways to communicate. Reiterate boundaries that are in place and encourage your teenager to remember what they can do to avoid future negative consequences.


Lastly, catch your teenager being good. It is so easy to point out all the things they are struggling with. Look for the good things they are doing. They are there. Catch them being good and point it out. Praise them. Reward them.

Parenting a Teenager and Seeking Outside Help

This obviously is not the end all be all but some things to think about and consider. If you want to learn more or need help guiding conversations with boundaries with your teenager or with your parent or co-parenting adult contact us at High Expectation Counseling. Meet the team and choose which therapist you feel will be the right fit. We can help you address these issues and more to guide you during this time and working with you and your teenager. Contact us at 407-967-1327 and up an appointment.