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Turning Over Control to Your Teen

by Mark Gregston

We’ve all heard the old adage that kids will be kids, but the same can be said for parents, as well.  Parents will be parents.  Protecting our kids is ingrained in us from the moment we become parents.  Every part of us wants to shelter them, but as they grow and mature, it’s important that we begin to turn over the reins of control in order to help them exercise their decision-making muscles which will propel them towards adulthood. 

If you’re curious to learn how and when to hand over control, keep reading.  This article is going to give you some helpful tips to navigate those turbulent teens years with success. 

How and When to Hand Over Control 

The process of turning over control should happen during the seven-year period between the ages of 12-18.  This the is time of life when kids begin to understand that their actions have consequences.  And it’s also the time of life when they are able to begin processing the world around with sound reasoning. 

Kids typically go through three phases of learning.  The first is the grammar stage where they absorb everything they’re being taught and parrot it back to parents, grandparents, and teachers.  That’s phase is followed by the logic stage where your teen begins learning how to think critically.  Most parents refer to this phase as the arguing stage, and it contributes to why those two or three years of middle school are brutal. 

It’s the wise parent who realizes at this stage that they need to train their children for what lies ahead instead of merely teaching them how to behave.  In doing this, they’ll be giving their kids a leg up for the final stage, which is known as the rhetoric stage.  In those final years from 9th grade to 12th grade, your teen will begin to take all the information that they’ve learned from you, from their teachers, from their friends, and from life around them, and they’ll start putting that knowledge into practice. 

The more control you turn over to your teen, the more you may find out that they disagree with your views or your input.  They might even tell you that they want to spread their wings and fly in a different direction.  That’s all part of the process, too. 

It’s better to allow them the freedom and flexibility to have a say in whether they want to wear a certain clothing style, or hair style, or even if they want to go to church.  If you’ve done your job as a teacher and a trainer during the grammar and logic stages, they’ll come back around.  You may have to swallow your pride for a while and allow those decisions.  But it’s better for you to give them the power to decide now than when they’re 18 and they decide not to do whatever it is, just to prove a point that they now have the power and control. 

Some mistakes will be made.  As scary as it seems, this is part of the process in allowing them to exercise their decision-making muscles.  Mistakes often go hand-in-hand with learning, and it’s better for your teen to learn in your home than out on their own. 

A Few Things to Remember 

Giving up control doesn’t mean there are no longer house rules or consequences.  So, give your teen freedom, but make sure you’re communicating what will happen when they step outside the bounds. 

When your teen makes a poor choice—not simply a mistake that most teens make because they’re teens, then make sure they “feel” the consequence. 

Don’t rescue your teen from their consequences!  Proverbs 19:19 tells us that if you rescue an angry man once, you’ll just have to rescue him again. 

When your teen makes a mistake, don’t ridicule them.  Be calm and allow the consequence system you’ve put into place work as it’s been designed.  Move towards repairing the breach while speaking wisdom into their lives. 

Be continually training your teen to move toward their goals.  If you do that, you’ll get to see them mature into wise adults who make good choices. 


Mom, Dad … I’ve never met a set of parents that want to be in control of their adult child.  But I know quite a few who have kids in their twenties who have no control over their lives.  A parents’ intent to provide for their kids can quickly move into enabling.  So, quit enabling, and start equipping.  I want you to hear this: a bumpy transition into adulthood is usually the fault of the parents who won’t relinquish control of their child’s life.  It’s time to start plotting a plan for how you can give a little bit more control to your teen through their adolescent years.  They want it, so give it to them!  And be present in their lives and help them learn how to take control. 

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.