The Four Cs of Parenting: The Key to Raising a Strong, Capable Teenager

According to experts, putting these simple principles into action can make all the difference in the world

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: The Four Cs of Parenting: The Key to Raising a Strong, Capable Teenager

Written by: Marybeth Bock

When our kids were babies and toddlers, the resources we had at our fingertips to guide us through those tough sleepless nights, temper tantrums, and our endless list of parenting questions were everywhere.

Fast forward and now that our kids are teens, the answers aren’t quite as easy to find. Where the issues we faced with our babies seemed rather “universal,” the issues and challenges we’re facing with our teens seem far more unpredictable and everchanging. 

In fact, I think most parents look back and laugh at how simplistic their parenting issues were when their kids were young. Now, everything seems bigger… from our kids’ problems and the consequences of their actions to our parenting worries, the impact of our parenting decisions, and even our kids’ feet. All SO much BIGGER. It can be so overwhelming.

But what if I told you that when you really boil it down, there are only four primary areas you need to focus on when raising your teens?

According to Dr. Christian Conte, founder of the 4 Cs of Parenting, “Parenting is the most honorable and incredible job in the world; but at times, it can be complicated, scary, and overwhelming. Putting these simple principles into action can make all the difference in the world when it comes to raising healthy, well-adjusted teenagers.” 

The Four Cs of Parenting: The Key to Raising a Strong, Capable Teenager


1.  Care

No matter what you do, your teen needs to have a sense that your words, intentions, and actions are always coming from a place of care, acceptance, concern for their well-being, and love. Despite how grown up they may look on the outside, your teen is a work in progress who still needs a whole lot of love, patience, and understanding.

Showing your teen you care includes:

  • Giving them space and freedom to voice their ideas, thoughts, and opinions without being judgmental. 
  • Embracing their growing and changing identity as they evolve into who they’re meant to be.
  • Offering them physical and emotional affection including kisses, hugs, and high fives as well as support, encouragement, and praise. 
  • Allowing them space to grow and mature by accepting and supporting their growing independence and need for privacy.
  • Being available and involved in their life so they know they can count on you. 
  • Offering guidance and boundaries to keep them centered, safe, and on the right track.
  • Being understanding, empathetic, and supportive of their stresses and monitoring their mental health. 
  • Not withholding physical or emotional affection on those days when your teen speaks rudely, ignores you, or is struggling to manage their emotions. (Quite often, teens need the most love when they’re at their worst.)

2. Consistency

Your kids need to know that when you say something, you mean it. Being a “pushover,” not standing your ground on important issues, or allowing your teen to manipulate you won’t serve your teen well in the long run.

Knowing what to expect, knowing they can truly count on you, how you might react, and what your expectations are of them provides a strong, secure foundation for teens whose world is often chaotic and unpredictable.

It can also empower them to stand up to peer pressure and makes them feel protected.

According to Dr. Conte, “Although it’s probably not realistic for parents to be 100% consistent, the more you recognize the value in consistency, the more likely you will make following through a priority.”

Showing your teen consistency includes:

  • Being steadfast when it comes to the “non-negotiable” boundaries and rules you set for your teen.
  • Aiming to be steady in your own life so your teen has a sense of predictability in their home life.
  • Maintaining a healthy, loving, caring environment your teen can count on.
  • Not allowing your teen to manipulate you to get what they want.
  • Outlining your expectations and consequences when your teen breaks a rule so they know unequivocally what to expect.

3. Choices

Remember when you used to tell your toddler, “Would you rather pick up your toys now or wait until after dinner? It’s your choice.” The choices you allowed your child to make helped them establish decision-making skills, understand the consequences of their decisions, and helped them feel empowered.

Now that our kids are teens, we need to ramp up the choices they’re allowed to make even more to prepare them for adulthood. As hard as it might be to let go and allow them to fail on occasion, those decisions are life lessons that will help them in the long run. According to Dr. Conte, “The reality is that even if we are “telling” our kids what to do and they listen, they are still choosing to listen. In fact, even making “no decision” is actually a decision.” And, they have to live with the outcome regardless.

Giving your teen the freedom to make choices includes:

  • Providing them with choices and empowering them to take control of their life. “Hey listen, I really want you to clean your room. You can either clean it now or, since I know you have a lot going on, you can wait until Saturday.”
  • Giving your teen guidance (without control. “I know this situation is challenging. Have you considered options A or B? What about options C, D, or E? “
  • Helping your teen understand that not making a decision is actually a decision that can prove detrimental or beneficial depending on the circumstances, i.e. choosing not to study for that big test, choosing not to engage in gossip, choosing not to listen to your rule about curfew.
  • Teaching them, by example, the steps of considering and reviewing the calculated risks associated with each decision they make and choosing the right path (which can help them avert “big” mistakes).

4. Consequences

Have you ever helped your teen finish a school project because they waited too long to start it? Have you ever emailed their teacher asking if they can retake a test or let them stay home from school because they didn’t study hard enough?

You may feel like you’re helping or protecting them, but you’re robbing them of the opportunity to learn that every choice they make has consequences.

Consequences always come in the form of rewards or penalties. Either way, teenagers stand to gain by either facing the repercussions (and lessons learned) of a poor choice or feeling proud and empowered as a result of a good choice.

Allowing your teen to face consequences includes:

  • Start by setting clear expectations, rules, and/or boundaries, and then make sure your teen knows what the consequences will be for breaking your rules or pushing your boundaries. (i.e. privileges taken away, more chores, less freedom to play video games or watch television.)
  • Follow through with your consequences, “I’ve asked you twice to stop being disrespectful to me. If you continue to use that tone with me, you won’t be going out with your friends this Friday as planned.”
  • Allow your teen to face the repercussions of their actions or non-actions. Natural consequences can be a powerful teacher. 
  • When putting consequences in place, focus on your teen’s behavior. Don’t attack their character. 
  • When your teen makes a good choice, praise them. “Wow. This was a tough situation and you handled it beautifully! I’m so proud of you!”

When you’re raising teens, there’s SO much to think about, so many concerns and so many worries. 

As parents, we’ll never get everything right (after all, we are human). But if we can focus our energy on the four Cs of Parenting principles, we’ll have a far better shot at giving our kids what they need to venture out in the world capable, prepared, and strong.

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “The Four Cs of Parenting: Raising a Strong, Capable Teenager,” you might enjoy reading these posts, too!

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