Three Rules for Parenting the Adult Teen


Respect and temperance are key in maintaining a good relationship with your adult teenaged child

Throughout my working life, I have coached and taught teens. I have coached soccer, at the high school and elite club level since 1990. I have taught high school since 1999. I found that the marginalized high school kids and I so bonded and resonated with each other that my colleagues used to say that I ran “Stanley’s Lost Boys Club.” In working with the jocks and the misfits, I have developed three rules.

  • Teen Rule #1 – Do Not Engage. Teens know how to push buttons. Even if they don’t know they know it, they know it. Do not join in. The louder and more agitated they get, the calmer and quieter you must get it. The more egotistical the teen’s conversation gets, the less focused on your “power base” you must become. Leave Your Ego in the Other Room.
  • Teen Rule #2 – Stay Focused. Teens are exceptionally good at ‘divide & conquer.” If you are the sort of guy who has a laser-sharp, task-oriented focus, your teen is the attentional equivalent of the laser light show at a Rush concert.
  • Teen Rule #3 – Know When to Desist. Being a teen sucks. Being an adult teen seems to suck even more. Remember that. Know when to walk away and leave the kid some dignity. As you walk away, you know the odds are good the kid is either flipping you off or cursing you under his breath. Who cares? Are you creating self-efficacy or instilling fear?

Managing adults, I found nearly every situation could be handled with one rule.

  • Adult Rule #1: How Can I Help You be Successful?  Everything about business management comes down to you, the manager, asking this question of your staff.

When you spend the majority of your interactions with your adult teenager in the Adult Rule #1 sector, the two of you have done some good work. You didn’t get there by accident. Like a marriage, working with the Adult Teen requires work and self-awareness. You, Dad, must have the willingness to relax your grip. Trust that you did a good job of instilling solid values, a good work ethic, a sense of morality in your teenager. Your adult teen must have the willingness and courage to relax the grip on adolescence and move into an adult role. He must also trust you – trust that your skills as a parent are solid enough so that when it’s time to launch, orbital velocity will be reached.

You get there together. Pat yourselves on the back. Hug it out.

—photo by pupismyname/Flickr

About David Stanley

David Stanley is a voice-over artist and writer. Musician, teacher & science geek. Coach, skier and bike racer. "I call it curiosity, my wife calls it ADD, but I find nearly everything interesting. My son is 20 and still needs his Dad. I am 54 and so do I. On Twitter, I’m @DStan58. I blog on the oddities of life, sports, kids and education at"


  1. This seems like good advice, too often easily forgotten.

    Have you ever had to deal with one of your kids being completely disrespectful, unappreciative and just downright rotten? I have, it’s sucks.

    • Patrick, Indeed I have. My son and I have had the same moments that every parent/child have had. My tactic was usually the same (except for the time I really lost it and so scared the crap out of the kid that he shocked into a semblance of good behavior) – I would separate us. I would tell him that I don’t tolerate that behavior from anyone, and he needed to leave the room. I once started to pitch the tent in the backyard. Kid asked why- I told him that next time he pitched a fit, he was welcome to move out. That worked for a few weeks. I would recommend you check out Ross Greene. His work with explosive and antisocial kids is exceptional. -“Center for collaborative problem solving” and “Lives in the” His stuff was a great help to me when my son was going one of his volatile periods. Trust me, these pieces I write – I draw heavily on my family experience.

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