5 Mistakes Parents Make With Teens

Parenting a teenager is easy, said no one, ever. But it can be easier if you know what to avoid.
By Gena Ellis
December 15, 2020

When you became a parent, you were probably bombarded with “sage” advice for all the stages of parenting. Much of it you immediately threw away. There may have been a few statements that stuck in your psyche like:

Just wait until they start walking. They will get into everything.

Oh, just wait until they reach the terrible twos! “No” becomes their favorite word.

You think the terrible twos are bad, just wait until they become TEENAGERS.

Once you hear that last statement, you may unconsciously begin to anticipate the worst. (Or you may do what I did: Immediately call your parents to apologize for your teen behavior.) No matter what, the teen years are coming. The key is to prepare yourself for when the time comes so you can avoid the mistakes many parents make with their teens.

Whether you’re just beginning the teen journey or entirely in the middle of teenage life, it’s vital you are aware of five mistakes parents of teens often make.

1. Failing to Prepare Your Teen for Adulthood by Problem-Solving for Them.

Your child needs to learn how to think for themselves and solve problems. Being your child’s constant problem-solver doesn’t prepare them for adulthood. You may continue to see your child as the baby that changed your life. However, they are growing up and need to be prepared for college, military service, and/or the workforce. Allowing your child to try, fail, and try again, is invaluable in building their sense of self-confidence. They need your support, but remember to prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child.

2. Choosing the Wrong Battle.

Being the parent of a teenager can be difficult. However, making everything they do a big deal makes it worse. Your teen will probably have different tastes in music, fashion, and entertainment than you. It’s okay and perfectly normal. You may dislike your child’s purple hair and loud music. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Is that the battle you really want to fight?  When you attempt to say “yes” to as many things as possible, it makes saying “No” stand out more.

3. Trying to be Perfect.

Yes, your teen will be watching you. Watching how you react to a variety of situations. They need to know it’s okay to make mistakes. When you model how to learn from mistakes and regroup, it shows them that messing up isn’t fatal. Thomas Edison said it best: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

4. Because You Think They Aren’t Listening, You Stop Talking. 

Culture and media tell parents they have little influence on their teens. This is not true. As a parent, you continue to have a MAJOR impact on how your child handles “big ticket” items like drugs, alcohol use, and sex. Yes, they may roll their eyes and tell you that you don’t understand. Nevertheless, keep talking. Keep asking questions about what’s going on in their world. Keep listening.

5. You Are All Business and No Play or All Play and No Business.

You may remember the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The opposite is true, as well. All play and no work makes Jack a freeloader. The focus is to provide balance for your teen. They need to know the boundaries and expectations you have for them while having the freedom to act within what you have set. Yes, they have to prepare for college and adulthood. But that shouldn’t prevent you from spending some quality downtime together. 

Parenting teens has been compared to so many different things, from roller coasters to waves to keeping a car in the middle of the road. Continuing to be present and a presence in their life no matter how difficult they make it or say they don’t want or need you is vital. Your teen will make missteps on their journey to adulthood. As a parent, you may make a few mistakes guiding your teen on this path as well. In the words of Samuel Beckett, “Try, Fail, Try Again, Fail Better.”

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