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Quit Correcting Your Teen and Start Connecting

Nobody can get everything right all the time. But if you are constantly correcting your teen, there won’t be any time left for building your relationship! While some correction is necessary and may change surface behavior, connection aims at changing your teen’s heart. In this article, I’ll clarify the difference between correcting and connecting—and explain why connecting is a much better option.

Focus on the Heart

Behavior is the visible expression of the invisible matters of the heart. Bad behavior is easy to see. But it’s much harder to discover the root cause. For that, you need to reach your teen’s heart. No doubt, your teen will make mistakes. But you don’t have to let bad behavior get in the way of your special relationship. I’m not saying you can’t correct your child, but you should focus on the underlying motives and the feelings behind their actions. In fact, you need to cultivate a closer relationship during the teen years, in order to understand and effectively address what’s really going on. The bottom line is this: Don’t let bad behavior distract you or get in the way of connecting with your teen’s heart.

Think About Your Home’s Atmosphere

What would your teen say if you asked this question: Do I spend more time correcting you or connecting with you? You may not think you are overbearing or critical of your teen, but it really doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is how your teen feels. If your teen feels tension and stress at home, he will go in search of a place where he feels accepted. He will do things to make himself feel better, even if they violate your family’s rules and values.

Instead make your home a place of rest, where your teen feels heard. If you’ve done a good job creating a haven from the world, your teen will feel comfortable sharing what’s really going on and you will have the opportunity to share your wisdom.

Show Love Consistently

No matter what your teens are doing, love them through it. You may be angry or disapprove of your child’s behavior, but avoid the temptation to shame your teen, withdraw from the relationship, or take away your love and affection. It will only hurt your relationship and cause you to lose the influence. And that’s what you want––a real relationship that affords you the opportunity to speak into your child’s life!

It is possible to love someone who has hurt and disappointed you deeply. Believe me, it’s true. God does it all the time! Make sure your teens know there’s nothing they can do to make you love them more, and there’s nothing they can do to make you love them less.

What Do We Do if Connection Just Isn’t Happening?

Connecting with your teen isn’t always easy and it isn’t a quick fix. Connecting is a long-term strategy to build a relationship that lasts. If you’re struggling, ask your teen: What am I doing that’s keeping us from connecting? You might be surprised by the response. You might hear something that rubs you the wrong way. But lean in and listen! Before you react, pause, and consider what your teen is trying to say. Give them room to answer how they want, and then try to get past whatever is holding back your relationship.

If your teen isn’t opening up right away, try asking the question a little differently. For example: What do you think I’m not seeing that you are seeing? Can you help me understand what you mean? Can you explain that to me? Asking questions is a great way to connect.


Hey moms and dads … if I spent all the time with the teens that live with us, correcting them day in and day out, I would never have the time to develop a relationship with them. As your teen gets older, you’ll find that the only way that they’ll listen to you is if you have a connection with them—giving you the podium of influence that you long to have in their life. With that connection, you’ll find that they’ll be coming to you to ask for your help, your wisdom, and your insight. But without it, you’ll be just another dripping faucet that irritates your teen and causes him to look for a connection in anyone but you! So, quit correcting and start connecting. You’ll be surprised at your teen’s response.

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.