10 Things Your Teen Does (and Doesn’t!) Want from You
- Betsy St. Amant
- 2023 5 Apr
Proverbs 22:6 (NKJ) says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Engaging with your teenager can often feel like one might approach a bear—very carefully, or not at all! But raising a teenager with their developing personalities, styles, and quirks can provide a uniquely positive time in the parent-child relationship if you don’t panic—and do your research.
Even though every parent residing on the earth has been a teenager at one point in their life, it’s an ever-changing dynamic. The world your teen is growing up in is not necessarily the world you did. With each new generation comes a new set of challenges, social norms, and peer pressures, which affect how we parent, determining what our kids need from us.
While each teenager is different and there’s no one-sized answer, I have found there are several do’s and don’ts when it comes to raising a teen that can spare everyone a lot of trouble (and bear spray!).
Here are 10 things your teen does (and doesn’t!) want from you…
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Eliott Reyna
1. Does want quality time with you.Slide 1 of 5
You might not believe this, but your teenager wants to have fun with you. Don’t buy the lie that it has to be expensive to count. My teen daughter loves to hop in the car with me and make a run to Target or grab a Sonic drink. She even enjoys tagging along through the car wash! While we’re running around town, we talk. Well—more like she talks, and I listen and nod a lot while she commandeers the Spotify playlist. We also enjoy playing Mario Cart tournaments as a family and sitting around the outdoor fire pit roasting marshmallows. While it seems like your teens prefer hibernating in their room-caves, they really do want to be around you. It might be as simple as offering an invitation.
2. Does not want you crowding their space.
While teens do want quality time with you, they don’t want you crowding their space. If you find yourself hovering over them twenty-four-seven, constantly nudging (okay, nagging) about their food choices or the water bill or the state of their room, consider backing off a little. Trust me, this one is hard for a neat freak like myself! If I were a bear, my cave would be swept daily and my rock pillows and honey jars carefully arranged at all times. My teen, however, cleans her room when the mood strikes (which might be related to the full moon rotation, now that I think about it). Crowding leaves little breathing room, and teenagers need their space. Of course, it’s healthy to set rules and have expectations for your household, but pick your battles…and don’t pick them all.
3. Does want your advice.Slide 2 of 5
Hear me, Mom. Your teen wants your advice (gasp!). I know it’s hard to believe with all the hair tossing, eye-rolling, and sighing you endure, but it’s true. You have been the longest-standing voice of reason in their lives, and while they’re pulling away and developing personal space in this season of life, you’re still Mom. Your words carry weight and meaning. Your opinion matters. After all, you bring your own experienced package of regrets and good times to the table. Whether the topic is about God, careers, or relationships, you have something to offer—and your teenager knows it and wants it.
4. Does not want your lectures.
How we dole out said advice matters greatly. Our teens are much more apt to hear us when we communicate well, emotions intact. It’s one thing to speak openly, honestly, and candidly to your teen, but it’s another to lecture. You mean well and your intentions are in the right place, but your teen will shut down the moment they feel they’re being talked at and not talked with. This can be hard to rein in as a parent because we get passionate about what we’re saying, all in the name of protecting and educating our children. Yet, the subtle difference is found in the way you approach the first few seconds of conversation. For everyone’s sake, please be aware of your tone and the mood of the conversation. Pray before engaging in deep topics with your teen, and let the Holy Spirit guide you.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/digitalskillet
5. Does want independence.Slide 3 of 5
In this new stage of development, your teen is eager for independence. Even if they’re a younger teen and only thirteen or fourteen years old, they’re looking ahead at getting their driver’s license, and going to prom, and decorating a dorm room. In short, they have tunnel vision narrowed on the more "fun" side of adulthood. After all, the thought of freedom and being on their own feels amazing—mortgages, taxes, and insurance aren't processed yet. So don’t worry, Mom. This isn’t a slam on you. Wanting freedom doesn't mean they no longer want you as their mother. Independence is what they’re programmed to go after! You can encourage them by giving them independence now in the things that aren’t dangerous to help them build confidence for the bigger things down the road.
6. Does not want to feel abandoned.
At the same time that your teen is desiring independence, they’re also programmed to thrive within boundaries. Teenagers, despite any potential bravado, still want to feel safe. Security is necessary for proper emotional and mental growth as a young adult develops. They want to get their feet wet, but not get pulled under by a current. As parents, we are their safe place. I tell my daughter frequently that any time she needs a way out of a social situation, I can be the bad guy. There’s plenty of time to teach self-confidence and being assertive—but right now, I want to be her safe place, which might mean being an excuse.
7. Does want your trust and approval.Slide 4 of 5
Just like teens want your advice, they also long for your trust and approval. While they might not seem to care about their bad decisions on the outside, deep down they want to know you’re proud of them. They want to please you. After all, your seal of approval is what helps build their confidence. So when they get it right, when they show wisdom and maturity, make it a big deal! Verbally affirm the positive in their lives so you aren’t only pointing out the negative. This goes a long way.
8. Does not want you to micromanage their lives.
It can be difficult not to micromanage as a parent. I know as a mom, I’m hyper-aware of my child’s life. What she eats, drinks, her friend dynamics, how much sleep she’s getting, whether or not she’s listening in church…My mind is a constant spinning wheel of keeping up. There’s a part of me that is responsible for her—i.e., I’m the one driving, so it’s up to me to get her to school or social events on time, make sure she’s got access to healthy foods, etc.—but there’s another part of me that assumes the responsibility that isn’t mine. You can lead a teenager to the pantry, but you can’t make her eat.
Teenagers are literally turning into adults, so at some point, they’re going to realize men can’t live on spicy Cheetos alone. It’s best to let them come to that realization for themselves, rather than attempt to micromanage every bite that goes in their mouth. In the same way, I’m responsible for getting her to school, not for the quality of the work she’s turning in. Micromanaging seems like you’re keeping the world together, but at the end of the day, you’re only teaching your teen a co-dependence that won’t set him/her up for success. Repeat after me—it’s okay to let your kid fail every now and then!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ryan McVay
9. Does want you to be a role model.Slide 5 of 5
“Do what I say, not what I do” might work better for younger children, but teenagers don’t buy it anymore. They want their parents to practice what they preach. So if you don’t want them smoking or vaping, don’t do it. If you want them to exhibit modesty, you demonstrate it first. If you want them to be honest, don’t lie to them. Lead by example! Teens can see through a façade a mile away. One of the noblest attributes of teens is their desire for truth and authenticity. Keep it real, and watch their respect for you grow.
10. Does not want the expectation to be just like you.
As much as you want your daughter to grow up and wear your wedding dress, odds are, she’s going to want her own. Didn’t you? It’s important as parents to be good role models while not expecting our kids to be exactly like us. Our teenagers can feel that pressure, and will often shy away from it, creating an unnecessary distance between us. Do you both like to bake? Great! Make cookies together. But if you love to paint and she can’t draw a stick figure to save her life, don’t expect her to take after her mother. Or maybe your teen loves music and wants to pursue a career in the arts, while you’re a CPA with a healthy retirement fund. It’s okay to let them be different. The more you celebrate who they are, the more accepted they’ll feel and the closer your relationship will be.