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Giving Your Teen the Power to Make Decisions 

by Mark Gregston

Learning how to make decisions is an extremely important part of your child’s development.  Teens need to learn how to make decisions in order to become healthy and mature adults.  But sometimes we think that the only way we can teach them, or the only way we can be “good parents” is by making sure they don’t make any mistakes.  As good as this sounds, it actually runs counter to what needs to happen as children grow and mature. 

Giving your teen the power to make wise and healthy decisions involves giving away control gradually starting at about age twelve.  By the time your teen turns eighteen, they should be well on their way to being able to make the best possible decision they can because someone, somewhere along the way decided it was a good idea to give a five-thousand-pound hunk of metal to sixteen-year-olds for transportation and to keep themselves entertained. 

We may shudder sometimes at the thought of our teens getting behind the wheel and venturing out on their own, but teens all across the world—yourself included, have proven over and over that they can rise to the occasion if we allow them the opportunity.  So, if you are parenting a new teen, or, you’re a little late in the game and you need a refresher on how to relinquish control over every decision, keep reading to learn more about giving your teen the power to make decisions. 

Help Them Make Good Decisions 

Children tend to lack the experience and perspective that we, as adults, have and a lot of time it’s our fears that keep us from allowing our children to grow, mature, and make the decisions.  But even though it’s hard to give up control, if we never let our kids drive, they’re never going to learn what they need to in order to survive the mean streets.  Luke 16:10 put it this way … “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” 

Every parent on the planet wants to raise successful and well-adjusted kids, so we need to remember that it’s important for us to train them up in the way they should go.  While most parents don’t want their kids to make mistakes—ever, I welcome them.  Better to have your teen make mistakes while there’s a safety net instead of making mistakes when the stakes and the consequences are too high and out of your control. 

Transferring Control 

Parents, you have to start the transfer of control when they are young.  This means around the age of twelve, start loosening the reigns.  By the time they’re sixteen, they hopefully have been trained to know how to make decisions well, and they’ll start needing your input less and less. 

Learn to become a trainer because for the most part, your days of being a teacher are over.  Train your teen to think critically and ask themselves some key questions about the motivating factors behind their decisions.  When you know where they’re coming from, it’s easier to coach them regarding the right decisions and redirect their thinking. 

The areas you can begin transferring control over earlier include: music, modesty, and money.  Music is more of a form of expression than an influence and so when your teens are younger, it’s okay to monitor what they are listening to, but as they grow and mature, it’s important to let them express themselves.  The same can be said for clothing.  Modesty is a buzz word in our culture and in Christian circles, but typically younger girls don’t dress provocatively because they are trying to be sexual.  They dress that way so they can fit in with the culture and the style around them.  So, when they’re young, it’s important to influence them and their decisions, so that when they become sixteen and seventeen, they’ll make smarter choices. 

A Few Things to Consider 

No one likes to be ridiculed or shamed for their mistakes.  Saying things like “I told you so,” or “You should have listened to me,” has an amazing way of pushing your teen away from you and inward where they don’t want to connect with you.  Those phrases are relationship killers, so don’t let your need to be “right,” or the need to have the last word cause a rift between you and your teen that doesn’t heal and only gets worse with each passing day. 


Mom, Dad … as your teens get older and older, let them flex their decision-making muscles.  That’s the only way those muscles are going to get any stronger.  It’s much more important for your teen to develop discernment and learn to make wise choices than it is for you to be overly controlling to protect them and never let them take the risk to make good choices.  Give them the opportunity to make good decisions, even if you think they won’t make the right choice.  And give them the opportunity to do so without fear of ridicule and shame.  Your presence in their life, while they’re making decisions, will give you influence and input, while they’re still under your roof.  

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.