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The Dangers of “Coasting” when Parenting Teens

Parenting during the teen years can be exhausting and it’s tempting to back off and give them space. But there are serious downsides when parents try to “coast” through these critical developmental years. In this article, I’ll share what teens really need from Mom and Dad and how to stay involved with your teen.


4 Things Teens Are Looking For and What They Need
Your teen is testing out his newfound freedoms and pushing towards independence, but hear me loud and clear—your teenager still needs you! Instead of backing off, learn new ways to stay connected and build your relationship as together you make the transition from correcting to coaching your teen into adulthood. Here are four things your teen still needs from you.

First, your teen needs your acceptance. If you back off you may inadvertently send the message to your teen that he’s not a priority. Teens are wired for relationship, so if they don’t get their value and acceptance at home, they’ll try to find it elsewhere, and perhaps in places you don’t want them to find it!
Second, your teen needs your help. When they make mistakes, your teen needs grace, guidance, and help to build up the courage to try again. If they don’t get this training from you, they will continue to make bigger and bigger mistakes. So don’t be afraid to step into your teen’s mess and coach them about how to clean it up.

Third, your teen needs boundaries. It’s normal and healthy for teen’s to expand their independence. Parents should expect, offer, and encourage their teens to become more mature. If you’re still controlling your teen in the same way you did when your child was young, your teen might push back, even in inappropriate ways or be stunted in their development. But stay connected because your teen is not ready to go “free range” yet. Teens need their parents to show them the limits and how to handle the new responsibilities that come with the teen years.

Fourth, teens needs change. This is a time of dramatic mental, emotional, spiritual, and social growth for your teen. Teens crave change. But if parents prevent teens from trying new things, meeting new people, and experiencing new challenges, they will miss out on the new and special person blossoming before them. Parents who do not track with their teen’s growth will end up with a strained or non-existent relationship.


5 Ways to Stay Involved with Your Teen
First, be willing to give your time. Growing a good relationship requires time. Without an investment of your time, your relationship won’t grow deep or strong. Be generous with your time with your teen. Set up one-on-one time when you can talk and be sure to focus on your teen––not your phone, tv, or other distractions!

Second, be honest about your shortcomings. Over my years working with teens, I have found that sharing my struggles and how I overcame difficult times helps to deepen a connection. You might be surprised that the same teen, who doesn’t seem to care what you say, will lean in to listen when you talk about your shortcomings.

Third, let your teen make mistakes. Tell your teen loud and clear that there is nothing they can do to make you love them more and nothing they can do to make you love them less. And show them that you mean it by being available to offer grace when they mess up.

Fourth, allow your teen to have his own opinions. Stop selling your teen on the family program all the time. Instead, leave room in your relationship to communicate that you value your teen’s thoughts and input. Listen to your teen and let him share his thoughts, even if you don’t agree. Remember that some teens are just trying on new opinions. So instead of correcting or shutting down the conversation, open up a discussion.

Fifth, become a student of your teen. As your teen grows up, be sure to study how he has matured and changed. Pay attention to what she is interested in and what she cares about, and be there to encourage your teen as often as you can.


Hey moms and dads … the role you play during your child’s teen years may just be the most important and influential one of their lives. Most parents never fully realize the significance of the example that is displayed before their teen, and thus they never embrace the need to spend time, not only talking the talk, but walking the walk. If you’re one of those parents who believes that the authority and power of parenting lies in the words you share with your teen, then you’ll never have as much influence as those who not only share the Gospel but also share their lives as they engage with their teens. Your teen needs a living example of the biblical truths that you’ve taught. They need to see the Word of God fleshed out in their life. And they desire to see a life that is blameless, full of truth, full of grace, and one that doesn’t walk away when they make mistakes.

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.