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Common Mistakes that Parents of Teens Make

Do you keep your teen on a tight leash? Do you tend to talk more than you listen? These mistakes may be easy to make, but their consequences are hard to undo. Everyone makes mistakes––even parents. But the biggest mistake you can make is not recognizing your capacity to mess up! In this article, I’ll identify three of the most common parenting mistakes and how to correct them to build a brighter future with your teen.


Mistake #1: Parents Get Stricter As Teens Get Older

Your teen will naturally want more independence and freedom as they get older. In order to control a teen who is pushing for freedom, many parents react by “clamping down” with tighter rules, but this strategy will backfire. Though it might feel like the only hope for protecting a teen from the dangers of the world and his own mistakes, over-controlling your teen will create resentment and cause your teen to pull away from you. Your job is not to prevent them from taking any risks, instead you need to train your teens to handle their own lives and strengthen their internal controls. Be stricter early on and then release them, increasing their freedom as they age. Don’t wait for your teen to ask you—or worse—to sneak around to try new things. Instead, offer some freedoms before your teen demands them. Then make yourself available to your teen to talk things over and help them think through what worked and what didn’t. As you loosen your grip and draw closer to your teen, you have the opportunity to grow deeper in your relationship, not in your control.


Mistake #2: Parents’ Desire to “Share” is Greater Than Their Willingness to “Listen”

As kids grow, they move from concrete to abstract thinking and begin to respond less to “telling them how it is” and more to thinking deeply about things themselves. As they process and think about their expanding world, give your teen space to think. Give them silence and space to work things out. A parent who only teaches, lectures, and only want to share their own ideas will frustrate their teen and miss out on what’s going on inside the heart and mind of their teen. Instead of talking all the time, be available to listen to your teen talk without interrupting and correcting them when they say something weird. Teens often like to process their thoughts out loud, saying whatever comes to mind. You do not need to correct or criticize every word. Instead intentionally take time to ask your teen open-ended questions and then listen to your teen’s answer. Don’t interrupt or put him down for a “wrong” answer. Let your teen figure things out. When you foster discussions, rather than give lectures, you will have the opportunity to share your wisdom.


Mistake #3: Not Changing Their Parenting Style

What your child needs changes as they grow up. Teaching, lecturing, giving information, punishing, having a tight grip on behavior––that used to work at a younger age. But as your teen grows, if you don’t change your parenting style, these same parenting tools will put a wedge between you and your teen. You need to be willing to change your parenting style as your teen ages. Let your kids know that they will have more privileges and responsibilities as they move through the teen years and towards adulthood. Set out a plan to move from teaching to training. A teacher lectures, but a trainer coaches and stays nearby to be available to help. Don’t just give your teen what they need, instead prepare your teen to take care of himself! Move from lectures to discussions. Move from dependence to independence. Move from punishment to discipline. Move from information to wisdom. Younger siblings may think it’s unfair when they see their older brother or sister get more freedom, but let them know that their time will come. Change is hard, but it is necessary, and when you relax and figure out how to engage with your teen differently, you’re going to love your relationship.



Hey moms and dads and all you grandparents … we all make mistakes. That’s easy to say, but sometimes it’s really hard to acknowledge. It’s hard to let your teens know that you’ve made a mistake when you’re trying to be an example and appear blameless among them. But hey, you’re human. When you admit your “humanness” before your teens, you’re letting them see that it’s okay to share your imperfections. Admitting your mistakes and wrongdoings is a path to wisdom and an opportunity to create an atmosphere that accepts one who makes mistakes, as you give them more opportunities to make decisions. If you shift your parenting style to give them more control of their life and encourage them to make more decisions, you must also let them know that your relationship isn’t governed by their mistakes—and what better way to do that than to admit your own.

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.