Parents, Here’s Why Your Teen Needs You to Stop Calling All the Shots

You can't prepare your teen for the real world if you're clinging to control

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Parents, Here’s Why Your Teen Needs You to Stop Calling All  the Shots

Written By: Jessica Manning

I actually thought my son was joking when he pointed out the basketball shoes he wanted. In the past couple years, I’ve come to accept that his tastes are vastly different from mine and that there’s no point in buying him anything without getting his approval first.

But these shoes were hideous… at least in my opinion.

I’m talking about a conglomeration of neon colors speckled with random black blobs that almost looked like cowhide. I raised my eyebrows and asked, “For real?” He’d scoured multiple websites, slaved over the decision, and somehow landed on these. I could tell he was excited about them, which is exactly why I refrained from saying what was actually going through my mind – “Maybe you should let your skills do the talking instead of your shoes.”

Quite often, I have a hard time holding back from sharing my thoughts about my son’s choices. And if I’m being completely honest here, I have plenty of thoughts AND opinions.

Parents, Here’s Why Your Teen Needs You to Stop Calling All the Shots


I’m learning that I have to stop calling all the shots – pushing my thoughts and opinions is my way of having a finger on every little thing. When it comes down to it, sharing my opinions on inconsequential matters is about control – and my desire to hold onto it with a vice grip.

Knowing how over-the-top excited my son was about the (ugly) basketball shoes he wanted, I knew this was not one of those times I needed to toss out my opinion. This was about letting him decide, letting him express himself through his own tastes, and mostly, about me stepping back and letting him be him. After all, it’s not like I was going to wear the shoes and him wearing them had nothing to do with me. I knew nothing positive would come from ridiculing his tastes. In essence, I handed control over to him.

There’s a difference between being in charge versus being in control. It’s more than semantics; understanding the difference can help you foster a healthy relationship with your teen.

In Charge Vs. In Control 

Parents can be in charge without always having to be in control.

The battle for control starts at a very young age. Think back to the tantrums your toddler threw – they were almost always triggered by your toddler’s burning desire to make their own decisions. Well, guess what? Teenage fits aren’t that much different. Just like they did when they were toddlers, they crave having a voice in decisions that directly affect their lives, even decisions that may seem insignificant to us.

Our kids are at an age when they’re beginning to individuate – they’re figuring out who they are, who they want to be and they’re creating their own separate identity from us. But we need to understand, as parents, that becoming your own person is awfully difficult if you have zero control over your decisions. 

Protect Your Teen’s Well-Being & Safety

Of course, the tricky part is deciding how much control to give your teenager.

A pair of shoes is quite trivial compared to other common control conflicts, such as curfews, time spent with boyfriends/girlfriends, driving privileges, etc. 

When it comes to certain things, there shouldn’t be any confusion about who has the authority. While we can let go a bit when it comes to the clothes our kids wear, how they decorate their bedroom, and what sports, clubs, or hobbies they choose to pursue (among other things), we need to be in charge of decisions involving our kids’ well-being and safety. We also need our kids to toe the line when it comes to family rules and expectations – our teens are relying on us to provide structure and boundaries in their lives (even though they may fight us every step of the way).

Share the Control With Your Teen

In a healthy parent/teen relationship, the parents are in charge, but BOTH the parent and teenager share control.

For example, because I was in charge, I set the price range I was willing to pay for my son’s shoes, but he was in control of the ones he chose. While not always easy, giving my son more control has done wonders for our relationship.

Having authority doesn’t necessarily mean you need to control all the decisions. When you hold the control reins too tight, your teen starts to lose the ability and confidence to make their own choices. Sure, it’s easier for you to call the shots on everything, but you need to train your teen how to take control now so they’ll be prepared when it’s time for them to take control of much bigger things in their life. Plus, many studies show that teenagers with controlling parents are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

Help your teen feel in control by including them in conversations and allowing them to make decisions that affect them. Ask for their input and opinions about issues that create conflict in your home. “Because I said so” screams, “I’m in charge AND in control.” It will not suffice as an answer for most teens who want more autonomy. 

Raise Good Decision-Makers

While our kids are still living under our roofs, we need to teach and empower them to become good decision-makers who methodically think through their options (this is a process as your child matures) and who can predict consequences. Controlling all their actions robs them of the opportunity to grow and learn, and potentially leaves them as floundering young adults who cannot competently think and fend for themselves.

Teach your teen how to analyze options and potential consequences of their choices. Guide them to draw their own conclusions about choices that will lead to their best interests. 

We want our kids to develop a strong sense of self – to know who they are and to trust their instincts. 

So, the next time you find yourself questioning your teen’s choices or decisions or you have the urge to jump in and make a decision for them, reflect on whether you want to be in control (because, let’s face it, old habits sure are hard to break), or if this is one of those times when you need to step back and allow your teen to be in control.

I know it’s all too easy to keep calling all the shots, but the more healthy, age-appropriate control you offer your teen, the more you’ll be preparing them for their future. Oh, and don’t be afraid to let them shine in ugly shoes; it’s their statement, not yours. 

About Jessica Manning

Jessica is a high school counselor with over 20 years of experience working with teenagers. She earned an M.A. in school counseling and a B.A. in English and secondary education. Jessica is married to a high school principal and has three teenage boys; her current life revolves around all things teen. When not working or following her sons’ sporting events, Jessica appreciates any opportunity she gets to veg at home with her family and her dog, Phyllis. 


If you enjoyed reading, “Parents, Here’s Why Your Teen Needs You to Stop Calling All the Shots” here are a few other posts you might like:

Want to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Teen? Check Your Ego at the Door

Letting Go… The Hardest Part About Parenting Teens and How to See the Upside

Mamas: Here Are 10 Things Your Teen Son Quietly (and Desperately) Needs from You

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