The five secrets to raising great teenagers


Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen

There are some secrets to raising great teenagers that every parent should learn. Have you worked them out yet?

I had such lofty ambitions of myself as a parent before the children came along. Ours would be a calm house, filled with learning and laughter. Traditions worthy of a Hallmark card and the daily gathering around the dining table.

Admittedly, this image didn’t involve teenagers. Does anyone think about raising teenagers before their child is born? But now that we’re at this stage of life, I’ve realised that parenting is more defence than offence. It’s about working things out on the hop and holding on through the tough times.

“Teenagers are free verse walking around on two legs.”


Parents can feel that what used to work is no longer helpful when their kids reach the teen years. The whole house can fall hostage to the rise and fall of teen moods too.

But before you give up, there are some things you can do to improve the odds of raising great teenagers. In this article I’ll share with you five secrets that have worked for me. I might not have the Hallmark card, but I have a home I’m happy to live in.

What’s special about teenagers

Teenagers are emotional wonders. Where adults have learned to flatten out their feelings, teenagers blow hot and cold. When they’re happy, they can get silly and excited. When they’re sad, the world can be ending.

Not only do they not regulate feelings well, but those feelings get amplified by the hormones racing around their body. They don’t just feel happy or sad. They feel ecstatic or miserable.

That’s why living with teenagers can feel like a ride on the world’s scariest roller coaster. Rather than a sedate country drive over the hills.

“Teenagers are philosophers. They are thinking about big things like existence and identity at a time when their identities are changing so fast.” – Matt Haig

The secrets to growing great teenagers

But it’s not all bad news. Those emotions do level out over time, if parents play their cards right. And just as their bodies grow and settle into their adult shape, so too do their feelings and thoughts. It might not be pretty, but over the months you’ll see your teen maturing and making better choices.

If you want to raise teenagers that you like hanging out with, and other people do too, here are five secrets to nail:

  1. Be consistent. As I’ve written before, you don’t need to be a perfect parent. Don’t drop your expectations too often and talk about the reasons why when you do. Teenagers love and hate rules. They like to know the boundaries, but also feel honour bound to keep testing them out. If you’re going to have expectations of your kids, then be consistent with them.
  1. Follow your own rules. Nothing grates on a teenager more than things being unfair. As they look more like an adult, they expect you to treat them like one too. If you have expectations and rules for your kids, following them yourself.
  1. Model life. Teenagers are in the business of creating their own adult selves. They’re observing lots of people around them; working out which adult styles they like. They’ll even try some on, like the swagger of a rock star or the dress sense of a movie idol. But they have the most time observing us. They might dismiss everything about you as out of date and out of style now, but that’s won’t last.
  1. Get good at listening. Despite the stereotypes, teenagers talk. But they like to choose when and where those conversations happen and be in control. Learn to grasp those little windows. Let them teach you what they know and enjoy the glimpse they give you into their world.
  1. Respect their growing independence. Part of becoming an adult, is learning to be independent. It’s about making their own decisions and accepting consequences.

Respecting teens goes a long way to encouraging them to make good choices. It shows that we believe they’re capable. That we see them as how they are going to be, rather than how they might be right now. It gives them a chance to master the little things before facing the bigger challenges of grown-up life. This is an area that causes plenty of arguments, so it’s important to keep revisiting.

It might be a mindset shift, but if you’re feeling like you’re in survival mode as a parent, focus on the end result. Because the real secret to winning this battle is staying strong. If you’re consistent, fair, set a good example, listen and show respect, you’re going to end up on top in the long run.

What do you think? Have you found some other secrets? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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