Parenting teenagers – not taking it personally

This was originally published in the PWK Newsletter, but I have had a number of people emailing me asking where they could find it again as they had deleted the email, so I am giving it a home here on the blog.


A very common piece of advice I find myself sharing with parents at the moment is to not take what our kids do and say personally. This is predominantly for those with kids in secondary school, but it does equally apply to all ages.

It is good to give this advice as it reminds me that I need to take it myself! As with most types of advice, this particular piece of advice is easier to say to others than it is to always follow. With three teenagers in the house and having being parenting teenagers for over five years now I have become much better at it though, but it can be so hard.

The reality is that teenagers can say very mean things and behave very poorly. While I don’t condone their behaviour, I have learnt that taking it personally doesn’t help. They very often say things they don’t mean, they speak without thinking through what they are saying and their responses are often based off pure emotion! This is where knowledge comes into play. The more we understand what our teenagers are going through, the better we can understand their behaviour.

Over the years I have written a number of posts sharing my lessons from parenting teenagers and the research I have found which has helped me parent our teenagers in a more effective and understanding way. Here are some highlights, that will help those of you who are new to parenting teens:

Parenting Tips For Teenagers – Vol 1 – This was one of my first posts on teenagers back in 2013. The quote above is from Celia Lashlie’s book ‘He’ll be Ok Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men’. Sometimes with the way teenagers behave you wonder if they have taken any notice at all of the values and ethics you have taught them over the years. They have, but often it just gets buried for a while. It takes its time to come out so don’t give up – keep consistent with what is important to you and have heart that it will re-emerge.
In this post, I also share a piece of gold that I learnt from another parent. She had this to say about teenagers:
They want to either have the last word or be the loudest.
Once I accepted this with my teenagers, it took a lot of heat out of our discussions. I realised that I didn’t have to have the last word to make my point. If I had made it already and the teenager wanted to keep going, I could make a choice to end the conversation.
Parenting Tips For Teenagers Vol 7 – The Teenage Brain – In this post I share a 10 point checklist that is really worth checking out. I think these points are key for parents to understand:

6. Yelling or screaming at teens does not work since this activates the “fight or flight” response – either they end up yelling and screaming back at you or completely shut down.

8. Increased testosterone in males causes negative and aggressive thoughts.

9. Increased estrogen in females causes moodiness.

10. What teens choose to do during adolescence plays a major role in how their brains are wired for life.

Parenting Tips For Teenagers Vol 8 – Checklists – In this post I share a Raising Teens Checklist from parenting expert Michael Grose. I still attempt to use his points everyday with the teenagers, particularly this one:

Choose your battles wisely – don’t sweat the small stuff!

I am absolutely positive you would be mortified if you saw the state of the room of the teenage boys of the house, they often sleep in their clothes and will leave lots of stuff to the last minute. But they still eat dinner with the family (no devices allowed), they do weekly household tasks and they make their own lunches. You need to work out what is important to you, stay strong with that and let the small stuff go. If we don’t do this, then all the conversations we have with the teenagers end up with a negative vibe, which isn’t helpful to our relationship with them.


Parenting Teenagers – End Of Year Wrap – in this post I share a paper from the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. {Understanding Year 9 Students: A Theoretical Perspective PAPER NO. 8 Part A APRIL 2006}. I found that year 9 with our first child was one of the biggest years of learning for me as a parent, so highly recommend checking it out if you have a child in year 9. I found this piece of information particularly useful:

However, the discovery of brain developments in recent years suggests that the observed behaviour could be attributed to the immature frontal lobe. In addition to being responsible for cognitive flexibility such as planning behaviour or devising strategies, the frontal lobe has also been found to have a regulation function of the seat of emotion that is situated deep in the brain. Since this area is still being developed during adolescence, the regulation function is immature and it is only with age that this function improves. This finding may provide an explanation for the inclination of adolescents to respond with emotion and for why these types of behaviour tend to level out a year or two post-puberty (PBS, 2002).

As a parent I need to remember that teenagers are going through significant periods of development. Like when a toddler started to learn to walk, they fell over many times before they mastered it. Teenagers will fall (make mistakes) plenty of times as they master planning behaviour and emotional regulation, as the parent I need to help them through this process as much as I can, by giving them plenty of opportunities to learn in a safe environment and to have boundaries in place to keep them safe.

How are you finding parenting life with teenagers?

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash