Five Tips for Living in Peace with Your Teens

teenage expression

How to be a calm, sane parent and
help your teenagers grow resilient

teenage expression

teenage expression


  1. Listen - very carefully. Difficult and scary as it may be, try to give your teens a place where they can express their thoughts and needs. Their world is different; be eager to understand and be curious about it and don’t condemn, judge or assume. If you want to make a comment, use their own words back to them – e.g. ‘So let me check I’m understanding you, what you’re saying is….’ (that’s why it’s listen very carefully…) They won’t argue with their own stuff…well, not too often anyway.
  2. Set firm but realistic boundaries – it’s better for everyone. It shows you care. Rules can be good news – it gives your teens a very valuable let-out when peer pressure is being applied. If they can assert with total confidence that something’s not allowed, it bolsters their strength to resist temptations to reckless behaviour.
  3. Give them space, respect, responsibility, and the benefit of the doubt. Then shut up. Really. Knowing when to bite your tongue is a key part of this. Once you’ve negotiated what’s acceptable, don’t be peering over their shoulders or prying. Trust their judgement. It’s like paying out a rope or casting a fishing line – do it bit by bit, and you can always renegotiate and reel in a little if your teen seems to demonstrate there’s too much slack.
  4. Accept there may be mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. If your mum (or dad) had known all you got up to as a teenager…would she/he have approved? Hmmm, thought not….So don’t blame, don’t make comparisons with friends or siblings, be supportive, let your teen know their unique value and that you do and always will love them. Even if it’s tough love – and especially if their behaviour is currently causing you concern or creating waves in the family. Make it a learning experience for both of you – try to see the gift in whatever’s happened, painful as it may seem in the moment.
  5. Know your place. Teens can tend to think they’ve discovered everything for the first time ever – and that as an adult and their parent you really know – nothing. Get over it. Give it a few years. Keep a wry smile handy in your repertoire. Remember the old quote from one of the ancient Greek Philosophers -

“When I was 18 my father was completely ignorant, but by the time I was 25,
it was amazing how much he’d learnt.”
Too True!


BONUS TIP 6:

Laugh. Find some common ground in humour, satire, irony – maybe through a TV programme or film. It may make you throw your hands up in horror, but ‘The Simpsons’ has some prize moments of sheer comic dis-functionality in which most of us can see a little something of ourselves, if we’re really honest. After all it’s been around for 20 years and now has its own stamp collection…..

happy, confident teens

happy, confident teens

But dads (and mums) be warned – telling bad ‘dad jokes‘ (and it seems that all dad jokes are bad jokes, even if they’re good…..) creates embarrassed looks, groans of ‘Ohhh Daaad’, rolling eyes and shrugged shoulders – you have to decide if you want to experience that. On the other hand, if you don’t do generic ‘dad jokes’, maybe your teen will miss out on being able to share horror stories with their mates…..And sharing the experience is part of growing up.

As parents, that’s what we’re there for – silent witness, loud supporter, soft shoulder or sharp wit – you’ll need all of that and more along the way. Is it worth it?  Completely - it’s one of life’s richest treasures.

For more resources and articles on personal growth and development, leadership,  education, creativity and change visit www.resourcemagazine.co.uk

Teens, Troubles & Treasures

Little Treasures?

A friend, Wealth Coach Nicola Cairncross, posted on Twitter yesterday that she wanted to talk to someone about the experience of living with and bringing up young teens, which prompted me to revisit this short article I wrote almost five years ago.  It seems to be a time when this aspect of my work with children and young people  is in the spotlight, I was interviewed as an expert for a book on coaching the other week – is somebody trying to tell me something?

Resourceful Little Treasures

Little Treasures?

Little Treasures?

In my role as a coach, mentor and counsellor I work mainly with young people, many of whom come to me labelled with behavioural, learning and/or emotional difficulties. That means I’m quite accustomed to witnessing sulky, aggressive and unhappy children, and it can take a fair amount of time, compassion and humour to unwind and relax and begin to make progress together.

So when my own 16 year old son informed me with some passion the other week that I “have no idea how hard it is to be a child growing up these days” it took me by surprise and prompted me to reflect carefully on my family, my work and my self.

Looking Inside

Looking Inside

He’s usually thought of as the wise one in his group, he appears to cope with whatever life presents to him, and he does fine at school. Yet even he is saying that coping is hard.

And it’s in such moments that we can, as parents, gain great insights into just what the challenges of adolescence are these days that might make it harder than it was for us. However, it’s tricky, because any questioning or request for explanation can lead to stonewalling silence – and so how can we mine for those precious nuggets that help us respond appropriately to our little treasures and not dam up the flow before it’s even started? (Apologies for the mixed metaphor…)

Because if it’s hard work being a child these days, it’s probably even harder being a parent who cares, who wants to be supportive yet finds that they are sidelined and that attempts at dialogue are blocked.


You’d think with my experience and skills with other people’s little treasures, it would be a breeze, but dealing with your own kids isn’t the same as being the outside help. After all, you can’t send them home after an hour or so – they are at home. You don’t have the benefit of an outside perspective. Well, that was what I thought until I began to reflect on the limitations I was imposing by holding those beliefs.

I wondered: if I could change my beliefs about it being hard to work with my son, could he shift his beliefs that it’s hard to be an adolescent growing up today?

And this is what happened.

I worked out a way of inviting my son to use a simple strategy of stepping back and stepping out.

I explained to him that I had been experiencing a paradox of finding it hard to be a parent. Feeling uncomfortable offering to help him because he’s my son, and even more uncomfortable not helping him – also because he’s my son, and especially as I have such a wide range of skills that could benefit him. So I went back in time to occasions when it would have seemed impossible and neglectful not to pass on skills and knowledge to him.

Like, what if I’d never talked to him so he could learn from me?
Or taught him to feed and dress himself?
Or helped him to read?
Or helped him to learn to ride his bike?

How weird would that have been?

And in the future, when he learns to drive (Oh, Yes! This Year! as he gleefully reminded me) he’ll accept that know-how from his dad and me.

We ended up laughing at the craziest imaginary scenarios of me being reluctant to be a parent to him, because I knew more than he did.

This opened up a really useful dialogue for us about eking out degrees of responsibility as children approach adulthood, but still being there. And on we went to his scenarios…

He stepped back and found times when it had been enormous fun to be growing up and developing, learning and exploring his expanding world, and rediscovered a sense of joy. He noticed that there was usually someone else involved with passing on skills and knowledge, but that when he was competent he went off and did his own thing. He discovered that he had lots of resources from the past which he could bring forward into the present, and would transfer to the future.

And he recognised that accepting help and support were a way of getting stronger and growing more resourceful – real, lasting treasures to carry forward to a life where it may just be a little easier to be growing up, in that limbo where you’re neither child nor adult. And as for me, I’ve found a more comfortable and fulfilling place in his world where I can support him by balancing the roles of adult and parent – still keeping mum, but now able to speak up as well!!

© Christine Miller 2004

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