Ten things every parent raising a teen should know


Emma Hilgart-Griff, Social Media Team/Knights Speak Team

Parents are constantly emphasizing how hard it is to raise teenagers, how there is no efficient way to discipline kids, that we don’t make any sense. To clear things up for you, here are ten things every parent of a teen should know about us.

  1. The more you restrict, the more we trick. If you tell us we can’t hang out with a certain friend the more we want to, and the greater the lengths we will take to make it happen. Teenagers are naturally oppositional, if it sounds like you don’t want us to do it, we will want to do it even more. Instead of making us stay in (which encourages us to sneak out) tell us to leave the house and do something.
  2. We can hack all the tracking apps, so don’t even try! I know eight people who can jailbreak an iPhone just in my first hour, so all those “Life360” “CoCospy” things are absolutely useless. I can make it look like I’m in Taiwan if I really wanted. This also undermines trust. We don’t want to hide things from you, but these apps make us feel like we need to.
  3. We won’t lie if we feel you won’t judge us for the truth.  Why do we feel the need to lie? Because we are worried about your judgment and anger. If you become a parent that your kid can be honest without them worrying you will judge them, you will have an infinitely healthier relationship with your child.
  4. Don’t get so angry at us for making mistakes. We don’t intentionally break plates, get angry or mess up, so don’t make us feel bad about it: we already do! However hard you are on us, I promise we are eight times harder on ourselves, and your anger will not make us better kids, it will just make us hide our mistakes from you. Shame is an awful feeling, so is guilt,  especially from someone who is supposed to help pick you up when you fall.
  5.  Treat us like a criminal and we will act like a criminal. Believe it or not, kids are going to drink and maybe even do drugs, but acting like you never did the same just widens the divide between you and us. Pretending that you were a perfect angel while a teen is both hard to believe and makes us dislike you as a person. Also you can still be a good kid, who is successful and live a happy life while having a good time every so often. Restricting us from enjoying life in safe situations often causes kids to take risks that wouldn’t normally take so they won’t get caught.
  6. “Because I said so” is not a valid answer. I don’t care if you said so, not one bit! You being our parent or guardian doesn’t make you the queen of the world. So if you want us to do the dishes and we ask why, don’t say “because I said so” say “because you’re a part of this household and family and we expect you to do your part.” If you don’t have an actual reason for asking us to do something, maybe you shouldn’t be asking us to do it. 
  7. Privacy is crucial, we are trying to become real people here.  Reading our texts or journals, taking away our door because you think we are hiding things, will not make us hide things any less, it will just make us bury them deeper. We need to feel like we have the freedom and space to express ourselves in private, to dance around the room, to  cry, or write in our diary. We won’t be able to do these things if we don’t trust they will be kept private for just us.
  8. Don’t comment on what we eat, when we eat, or anything to do with weight and appearance. One of the biggest problems between kids and parents is weight and food issues. Putting your 15 year old on a diet isn’t being a good parent encouraging health, you’re a parent encouraging eating disorders. We are already constantly exposed to perfect looking humans on social media, we don’t need any more hate from people who are raising us. This goes for clothes too, if you don’t think it suits us or fits us right, keep it to yourself: we do not want to hear your negative opinions about our bodies and personal choices. 
  9. Your interests are not our interests, and they don’t have to be! Sure maybe you were on the varsity football team in high school, but I want to be a ballerina! Let me! Forcing your own interests on your kid will either cause them to secretly hate you, while deeply fearing your disappointment. Let us make our own path and figure out our own future. Don’t hate on our dreams just because they aren’t your dreams. I am not you and you are not me, so don’t expect me to get excited over what excites you–genetics don’t mean shared interests. 
  10. Accept us. This is the most important thing you can do. Love us in all our messy hormonal glory. Being a teenager and growing up right now is especially hard. Mental illness, gun violence in schools, the planet is dying and college is the most competitive it has ever been. We are all dealing with a lot, but our brains are still growing which makes everything extra hard. Give us as much love and support as you possibly can. We need it even if we don’t act like it.

If your automatic response to this article was “I do those things though!” ask your children if they feel you do them, open the conversation. Your opinion on your own parenting doesn’t actually matter: the opinion of the person you’re parenting matters. Give them the opportunity to be honest with you about how you treat them without getting angry at their truth. 

Treat young adults with respect and kindness, and you will get the same. Let’s make 2020 the year of healthy parent-child relationships.