Biggest Parenting Mistakes to Avoid with Your Teen According to Experts

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Biggest Parenting Mistakes to Avoid with Your Teen According to Experts 

Written By: Nancy Reynolds

Open any book about parenting teenagers and you’ll find a laundry list of parenting “don’ts.”

Don’t yell.

Don’t rescue them every time they fumble.

Don’t take their “offish” behavior personally.

Don’t do too much for them or you risk raising entitled teenagers.

Parenting teenagers is hard!

In fact, most parents would agree that teething babies, toddler temper tantrums, and sleepless nights (which they thought was hard at the time) were a walk in the park compared to the challenges of helping their kids transition into adulthood.

As hard as you’re trying to raise a well-adjusted, hard-working, and functional soon-to-be adult, you’re probably doing far more right than you realize. Still, there are a few parenting pitfalls you’ll want to avoid according to experts. Here are the biggest parenting mistakes to avoid with your teen.

Biggest Parenting Mistakes to Avoid with Your Teen According to Experts


Expecting the Worst

You’ve listened to the tales of other parents, you’ve tuned into stories on the news and you’ve read more than a few articles highlighting the challenging, tumultuous teen years. Now, you’re bracing yourself for the worst. However, research shows that expecting bad behavior is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

According to John Duffy, clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling books, The Available Parent and Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety, “When parents lower their bar of expectations for their children in most any area, kids will recognize it as a show of no-confidence.”

Rather than anticipating the worst, parents should understand that this is a time of growth and exploration for teens, which means mistakes and risky behavior can happen. The more open, communicative, and involved parents are in their teen’s life, the more likely teens are to make choices that align with their parent’s values.

Putting Your Parenting on Autopilot

My son is 17 now. He’s almost an adult. He’s perfectly capable of managing his own life and making decisions on his own.”

According to experts, simply because your kids are nearing adulthood doesn’t necessarily mean they’re quite ready to venture off into the world without you – their parental wingman. In fact, throughout your kid’s teen years (and even well into their adult years), you hold the power to have tremendous positive influence in their life.

According to the UC Berkeley Institute of Human Development, neuroscientists studying adolescent brain development found that during your kid’s transition into adolescence, neuroplasticity (neural connections that are flexible and responsive to change influenced by environmental experiences) provides a window of opportunity for parents. The study found that teens who have a strong, positive relationship with their parents have a better self-image, emotional stability, deeper more meaningful relationships with others and they’re less likely to experience depression or engage in risky behavior.

Being Your Teen’s Best Friend

“I figure if my teen actually likes me, then surely I must be doing something right.” While there’s probably some truth to this, according to experts, the goal is to be respected by your kids, not necessarily liked. Sure, it’s okay to hang out with your kids and act like buddies (that’s the best part about parenting teens), but your teen needs to know that when the chips are down, you’ll choose to be their parent over their friend every time.

According to an article in Psychology Today written by psychotherapist, Nancy Colier, one of the biggest parenting mistakes to avoid with your teen is trying to be their bestie. “In the process of trying to be friends with our kids, we’re giving away our authority, depriving them of the experience of being taken care of, and denying them of the confidence that arises from knowing that we can (and will) stand our ground to protect them even when it incites anger.”

Essentially, it’s precisely because we love our kids that we need to be able to withstand the turmoil that comes along with them not liking us all the time.


Taking the Little Stuff Too Seriously

Your daughter wants to dye her hair pink. Your son left the house (again) without a jacket in 42-degree weather.

When you’re a parent, it’s hard to turn off the constant parental instruction. It’s even harder to relinquish control and let some things go.

Richard Carlson, psychotherapist and author of the best-selling book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, saysLearning to stop sweating the small stuff starts by deciding what things are important enough to engage in and what things you should choose to simply ignore.” Rather than exhausting yourself by focusing too intently on the small stuff, focus on keeping things in perspective. Ask yourself this question, “Will this matter a year from now?”

Not Taking the Big Stuff Seriously Enough

Within the last few months, your son’s behavior has changed. He’s been hanging around the wrong crowd, missing curfew and you fear he might be doing drugs. You have a few choices. You can either wait it out to see if his behavior is merely a phase, chalk it up to normal teen behavior, or dive in to determine the cause.

Rather than waiting it out and losing precious time or hoping for the best, The American Academy of Family Physicians urges parents to know the warning signs that might indicate that their teen is struggling.

“Teens experiment when trying to define themselves. They might change their values, ideas, hairstyle, or clothing – all of which is fairly normal. However, when their behavior takes a drastic turn or becomes destructive, it can be a telltale sign that it’s time to step in.”

Cracking Down Too Hard (or Not Hard Enough)

When it comes to establishing rules with teenagers, there’s a fine line between too much and too little. Tighten the reigns too much and it could cause your child to feel suffocated and become rebellious. Too little and there’s a good chance they’ll walk all over you.

“The challenge of parenting lies in finding the balance between nurturing, protecting, and guiding on one hand, and allowing your kids to explore, experiment, and become an independent, unique person on the other,” said Jane Nelson, author of Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Empowering Your Teens and Yourself Through Kind and Firm Parenting. The responsibility lies with parents to instill their family’s core values, rules, and boundaries and communicate them through words and actions in a loving, supportive environment.

Not Following Through with Consequences

We’re all guilty of it from time to time. When our child starts arguing, pleading, or complaining about consequences we’ve set when they’ve broken our rules, we cave in and shorten their punishment or let them off the hook altogether. We take the path of least resistance to avoid conflict. But those tempting shortcuts aren’t doing our kids any favors.

In the words of experts, the key to effective discipline is to say what you mean and mean what you say – even when it isn’t easy or convenient. Don’t set consequences you know you won’t be able to follow through on and don’t allow yourself to become a discipline pushover. Your teen is watching.

Not Trying Hard Enough to Connect

You ask your son to come out of his bedroom and watch a movie with the family and you’re met with a “Nah…. thanks, I’m good.” Your daughter seemed interested in going shopping with you, but at the last minute, she chose to hang out with friends instead.

You’re trying to have a relationship with your teen, but it seems as though they aren’t willing to meet you halfway. But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

Dr. Laura Markham, clinical psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids says, “Your teen still needs you and your guidance, but you can’t control them. The only way to have any influence in their lives is by having a relationship with your teen.”

By listening more than you talk, carving out quality time for your teen (even if it’s only a few minutes a day), having plenty of open, non-judgmental conversations, and continuing to keep your heart and mind open to your teen’s feelings, you’ll lay the foundation for open communication and strong connection.

If you enjoyed “Biggest Parenting Mistakes to Avoid with Your Teenager According to Experts,” here are a few others you might enjoy:

What Teenagers Really Need from Their Parents

10 Triggers That Are Setting Off Your Teen Big Time

How to Stop Nagging Your Teen: 10 Tips to Create More Peace in Your Home

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Amanda Hatcherson July 6, 2021 - 9:42 am

It’s always better to take everything seriously – both the important stuff and the small stuff. You never know where a problem might be hidden, and underestimating your child’s complaints can make it worse. I know that 95% of the time I overreact to teenage problems that my daughter will forget about in a day or a week. However, I’m sure I’m always there when something serious comes up.
These are good tips! Being a parent of a teenager is always walking through a minefield. There is no way to avoid mistakes anyway.

Nancy Reynolds July 7, 2021 - 12:19 pm

Thank you for your feedback and tip about always being there for your kids when something comes up! I think you’re so right… we may not be able to (or want to) help our kids avert every mistake, but we can certainly stand beside them through the ebb and flow of life while they learn.


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