How to parent teenagers

I don't think there is or ever will be a completely definitive guide with all the answers on how to parent teenagers. There is just too much variance between each and every child and the circumstances within which they are being raised. There is no recipe book and nor should there be.

That said - there's a lot of great wisdom out there, mostly from people who have been through this experience or are still in the process. There are also interesting and revealing studies which have put useful light on the topic.

​This website will attempt to gather the most useful and relevant information on raising children and pass it on to you in small digestible chunks. In this way single ideas and concepts can be evaluated and absorbed if they appeal or seem sensible. You will be able to subscribe to get email updates on new posts if you wish to. Please share and comment if you find content that you like.

About me

I am around two thirds through my own teenage parenting experience and it hasn't been an unqualified success. Nor do I claim to have all the answers - or indeed any answers at all. What I have found out is that there are no rules. Because let's face it we are dealing with living breathing human beings (mostly)... and there are no 2 identical human beings on the face of this beautiful planet.

So... as they say in the disclaimer "results will vary". My children are living breathing proof of that. 

I have a son who spends 8 hours a day playing the drums... and the rest of his waking hours listening to music.  He's never made his bed in his life and his rooms a pigsty. He communicates in guttural grunts but is wonderfully kind and considerate .

I have a daughter who, I'm fairly sure, has never spent a moment outside of school hours doing anything even slightly academic. She does get through her exams somehow but sees no logic in our observation that she could do so much better if she did a little work.

She's also quick, charming and energetic. She lights up a room when she comes into it and takes her rightful place as the center of attention. I've no doubt she will get what she wants from her life because she certainly has done that up to this point.

And then there's our eldest who's at an ivy league college. She made that her mission from about the age of 6... and never wandered off that path. She chose her college carefully and devoted her whole life to that one objective. 

She applied to her college  from South Africa where we live, and was accepted. The college operates on a needs basis when assessing fees - so we are able to afford to send her there.

We take no credit for what she's achieved, either genetically or from ​our parenting skills - other than providing a stable loving environment in the home.

As I said, results will vary.​

And that's kind of my point here. I think there's a tendency to demand things from our teenage children​ and this becomes a one way conversation about conformity.

And that's never going to be very productive or conducive to harmony. Parenting is about needs and it has to be a 2 way conversation. In other words your needs as a parent and their needs as a teenager should carry equal weight.

Rachel Wolf wrote a wonderful article published in about peaceful parenting. Below you will find some of the core 'needs' of teenagers which you can provide as a parent. You will find a link to the full article at the base of the excerpt.

Respect me

How you speak to me today will become my inner voice tomorrow.

And as much as you need me to respect you (something I struggle with a lot these days), I need you to show me that I also deserve respect. Even when I screw up.

Because your respect of me translates into the self respect I will carry with me into adulthood.

Help me see that I am worthy of it.

See me as a person who deserves as much respect as you easily give adults.

And when I disrespect you, remind me of how I can do better. Remind me by showing me - by giving me - the respect I so deeply crave.

Empower me.

I need to make a real, meaningful contribution. Because I'm old enough to notice if my efforts don't matter and those feeling are reflected in my self-worth.

So give me work to do. Yes, I will grumble, but I'll stand taller when I see what I am capable of. And I'm capable of so much more than you may think.

Empower me also by handing over decisions to me. Decisions about my life, my future, my choices.

Help me find my power.

Just listen.

You have a lot you want to tell me. A lot you want me to understand.

But mostly I just need you to listen.

Listen without judgement to my fears, my feelings, my stories, and to the things I can't bring myself to say. Your presence tells me that you care and that you're here for me - always.

And when you listen to the everyday stuff I know you're also here to listen to the big, scary, hard-to-talk-about stuff.

Love me unconditionally.

There are times when I will act in a way that makes me seem unworthy of your love.

Love me anyway.

I need that message more than anything.

And if you seem like you want to spend time with me, all the better! Knowing that you love me and you like me would be a huge win right now. (Even if I don't tell you.)

Because right now I'm pushing limits in all directions. Stay clear on the truth that even when I screw up I am still worthy of your love. I need to know this now more than ever before.

Trust me.

Your trust in me is a strong and powerful message. When you show me trust I learn to trust myself. My inner voice. My heart.

That means I'll make good choices. Better choices. And I'll also gain confidence. (Which I very much need right now.)

Acknowledge how I've earned your trust whenever you can. I need to hear those words from you...

by Rachel Wolf  in