5 Things Teens Wish Their Parents Knew

7145386745_a871f59eab_zWorking with teens for 20 years, I asked them a simple question, “What do you wish your parents knew more of to improve your life?” Here are their answers.

#1. They Love you.

Even though teens rarely say it, they love you, and they care what you think of them. Unfortunately, when love doesn’t find its way to your teen, they’re willing to take a kick just for the sake of attention. If your teen is acting out, take a look at yourself and how well you’re paying attention to them.

Don’t take it personally when they put distance between you and them. It is their way of finding their identity. If you’ve built a good relationship before this ‘walkabout’ time, relax, they’ll come back to you as they enter adulthood.

Your relationship is foundational as to what they will learn to value in their relationships.

Give them space to experiment, try and fail, and try on new personalities, hopes and dreams. As long as things are not fatal or illegal, allow them the experiences. Failure at home where you can help redirect them is better than failure in the adult world where consequences are far greater. Sometimes we learn more from failure than we do from success. Practice often saying, “What do you think?” and “You’re very smart, you’ll figure it out,” along with, “Oh my, what are you going to do about that?” Those kinds of comments move the responsibility into their hands and signals that they are maturing. Let them.

#2. Teens hate when their parents fight.

Don’t be fooled. Teens are measuring relationships around them daily. Your relationship is foundational as to what they will learn to value in their relationships. They need strong role models. They need strong examples of how to speak to a spouse, how to fight properly, how to say openly you are wrong, and how to come to a compromise with each other. Conflict, rude comments, leaving in the middle of a fight rather than working at communicating, slamming doors are setting examples of how your teen will respond not only in their relationships but how they communicate with you. Be careful.

#3. Never compare your children to each other or other teens.

Find something positive to say to them about them. Avoid compliments that are superficial like: You’re beautiful, you’re such a great student, you’re an excellent athlete, etc. These compliments aren’t lasting. Anyone can have a bad grade, hurt themselves and not be able to play a sport, or lose their beauty. Don’t build their self-esteem on things that could be taken away, or you’ll build their confidence on shifting sand.

Instead, compliment them on character traits such as: I admire the work you put into that project, I appreciate how loyal you are to your friends, I love your laugh, you have such a great sense of humor. These traits are lasting qualities.

Teens spend every day comparing themselves to everyone else and finding themselves wanting. They don’t need another critique, or coach, in their lives. What they need are more cheerleaders. If you cheer them on, they’ll ask you to critique or coach them.

#4. Teens need time to relax.

There’s a tough balance to being a teen. They can be so busy they never relax. And they can be so relaxed, they never get out of bed or off the couch. The sleeping late things is common to their age and rapid growth rate, but it might be more than that. By everyday standards, there’s a great deal of stress on teens. They’re finding their place in the world, keeping up with studies, dancing to the tune of peer acceptance, and walking the tight-rope of child versus adult. The A-Type teens may be overly committed, between academics and after-school activities, home chores and all the other things that go with being teens. They need to be allowed to enjoy personal time with things they like. When monitored, downtime can be beneficial.

#5. Even Good Kids Act Out Once in a While!

Pay attention, but don’t label them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because they don’t conform 100%.

Adolescents push boundaries. Even teenagers who get straight A’s, come home on time and treat their parents with respect…occasionally push boundaries. Teens have a need to explore their worlds, try on their ideas and test what you’ve told them is what they believe. Within reason, this is a way of becoming an individual. Pay attention, but don’t label them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because they don’t conform 100% of the time to your ideas.

Strive instead to have an open conversation rather than a ‘my way, because I said so’ lecture. If you have an open dialogue, you can interject ways of thinking that allows them their way of getting there. I suggest (unless it’s dangerous) you end each of these conversations with, “You know, I’ve seen you maturing, you’ll make the right choice. If you need help, let me know.”


You know the old saying, “You get what you expect,” I guarantee they’ll hear your voice in their head saying, “You’ll make the right choice” just before they do. If we listen more and talk less, we might earn more opportunities to direct their paths.

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Photo: Flickr/ Carol VanHook

About Pamala J. Vincent

Strong women aren't born strong, they learn how to be front runners through tough circumstances and emulating women who have gone before us. Define Yourself to Success helps women build their own opportunities.
I'm Pamala J Vincent, an author, trainer and speaker. Find me on The Modern Woman's Life Magazine or You can find me at my personal website and social media.


  1. I agree with you DJ. Too many adults forgot what it was like being a kid.

    Mr. Brechlin, I never thought we would agree on something; however, there is always a first time for everything. I also wish parents would admit the things that they did wrong when they were kids and pass those experiences to their own kids. I guess too many parents have this attitude of not doing anything wrong whether they were kids or as adults plus if they told their kids what they did wrong, they would lose respect of their kids and lose any kind of moral superiority or authority over their kids.

  2. I’m not thinking that there are five things that kids wish their parents knew, but five things that we did not forget when we stopped being teens.

    It is why I refuse to grow up and be an adult. I want to maintain touch with them!

    Kidding….sort of.

    Good article.

  3. I wish parents would play fair, admit that they wrong about something and apologizes for it, and stop trying to win every argument. I also wish they allow their kids to argue with them, not tell the kids to shut up and not take arguing as a sign of disrespect.

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      I agree G, I love my dad with all my heart and 41 years later, I still miss him. But there was one thing that always bothered me was that when it was determined that he was wrong about something, he’d seldom admit it. One of our biggest arguments was about something relatively stupid which involved his electric seat in his car. He accused me of being careless when it turned out to be an electrical problem in the door.

      But, I also recognized his not saying the words “I was wrong” that his apologies would indirectly surface in other ways. Nonetheless, I would have liked to hear the words.

      This was something that I made sure I would incorporate in my parenting. When I was wrong, I would admit it to my kids. It showed them that I was human and that it’s okay to admit it and take accountability.

      The adolescent boys that I work with struggle with adults much less staff who are at times the judge and jury in treatment. There was a time where a client and I got into a heated dialogue tat escalated to his making a threat. Threats toward staff is an offence that results in unsuccessful discharge. Another staff had heard his threat and went to management. While the young man was isolated he was in tears worried that we were kicking him out. I went to management and pleaded his case and I admitted that as staff, I should not have taken it that far. They agreed and I went to him and apologized and told him that as staff, I shouldn’t have allowed the situation to get to that level. After a discussion where we talked about how it reached that level and we both identified what went wrong, he hugged me and thanked me. Needless to say, I became his favorite counselor to the point if another client spoke poorly about me, he’d intercede and as he called it, set them straight.

      Admitting we’re wrong is in no way a sign of weakness but in fact is a sign of strength..

      • Looking back seems to have its own education for parenting doesn’t it? My kids will tell you I wasn’t great at admitting I was wrong but I’m growing every year and learning to be more transparent. You did a great job rebuilding the situation Tom! Good on you!

        DJ what are some of those 5 things we should bring into adulthood from our childhood? I know I make it a hardcore rule to play on Fridays with a girlfriend like we’re kids. I need a break from being an adult and that’s the day I picked!

        G, I agree…parents should play far, but speaking from the end of parenting, sometimes we’re just figuring it out ourselves. We need a manual with each child to know what to do best. 🙂

        • Pam

          You think that parents would have learned about playing fair from their own experience when they were dealing with their own parents when they were kids. But the problem is that many parents forgot that they were once kids themselves and end up with the same bad habits that they learn from their own parents.

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