A New Job Description for Parents of Teens

by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D.

Mom and dad are angry. Why is that? It’s because their fifteen-year-old son just walked out the door and only grunted when they said, “Have a nice day.” They’re thinking, “So what are we, chopped liver?”

Their teenager’s behavior is unpleasant and inconsiderate. At first glance, there seems to be no reason for this snub. Mom and dad wonder what they did wrong. On the other hand, though unpleasant, their teen’s behavior is normal and it is not a sign that they (mom and dad) did anything wrong.

Regularly snubbing parents, however, doesn’t mean the teens are screwy. Distancing themselves from parents is one way for the kids to manage a horrendously long, drawn out and insulting adolescence that wasn’t their idea in the first place. On top of that, adolescents have a ferocious desire to run their own lives.


So you’re the parent of an adolescent. What are you supposed to do with this kid?

Here is a five-part guideline for the profession known as Parent of Adolescent:

1. Don’t Take It Personally: By and large, teens’ aggravating behavior (rejection and risk) is not directed at you, their parent. This behavior, instead, is the result of adolescence itself. Understand that and your angry reaction will change.

2. Manage and Let Go: Teens may say they want you to totally leave them alone. Too bad. Some reasonable monitoring is still required, but you also need to know when to keep your mouth shut and let the kids handle their own lives.

3. Stay in Touch: Once you’ve gotten the urge to snub the kids back out of your system, how do you relate to someone who won’t answer a simple question like “How was your day?” First, you avoid the Four Cardinal Sins – Arguing, Lecturing, Nagging and Spur-of-the-Moment Problem Discussions. Second, you employ connection-building strategies.

4. Take Care of Yourself: If life isn’t treating you too well, you’re the last person in the world who should be trying to “manage” a worrisome teen. How do you know if your negative emotions come from the kid or from yourself? You don’t, so you’d better deal with yourself first.

5. Relax and Enjoy the Movie: Handle items 1-4 reasonably well and maybe you’ll be able to calm down, let go and enjoy—most of the time, anyway—the unfolding of your adolescent’s life.

Your primary goal is no longer to control your teens. Your goal is to help them become competent adults who leave home, establish new relationships, contribute something to the world and who enjoy life. If you can get past the worry and irritation caused by The Snub and the threat of risk-taking, your hope for your kids might be that they get the most out of their existence and that you can enjoy them in the process.

To do your part you’ll have to let go of your former director role and ease into more of a consultant position. That’s the new job. The teen is going to be doing most of the work, with the assistance, hopefully, of a positive relationship with you.

Adapted from Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage & Let Go Of Your 13-18 Year Olds, 3rd Edition by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., a nationally recognized expert on child discipline and Attention Deficit Disorder. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-442-4453 or visit www.parentmagic.com.


For Additional Information:

For Teens – Information for teens on staying safe, driving, recipes, health, school, fitness and more. Also offered in a Spanish language version.


Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage & Let Go Of Your 13-18 Year Olds, 3rd Edition by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D.

Learn about internet safety; get resources on alcohol and drug prevention; search for colleges; and more.


Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall by Anthony E. Wolf

When Anthony E. Wolf’s witty and compassionate guide to raising adolescents was first published, its amusing title and fresh approach won it widespread admiration. Beleaguered parents breathed sighs of relief and gratitude. Now Dr. Wolf has revised and updated his bestseller to tackle the changes of the past decade.

ISBN-13: 978-0374528539





Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here