Why You Need to Fill Your Teen’s Power Bucket to the Brim

by Nancy Reynolds

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It’s been pounded into our heads for years that we need to fill our child’s self-esteem bucket to the brim. Make them feel special. Make them feel worthy. Make them feel appreciated, empowered and capable. But, heads up parents, now that our kids are teenagers, there’s another bucket we need to fill… their power bucket.

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute. If I give my teen power, I’ll be relinquishing authority which means I’ll lose all control.” But according to Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and author of “If I Have to Tell You One More Time,” nothing could be further from the truth.

“Our kids are hard-wired for power – we all are, which is exactly why we need to share the power with our kids. Give them more opportunities to make decisions so they’re less likely to fight for power. Give them more control over their own life,” says McCready.

Let’s face it, handing over the reins to our kids isn’t easy. After all, we’ve been the primary decision-maker in our kids’ lives since the day they were born. From the food they ate and the clothes they wore to what time they woke up and what time they went to bed — aside from a few carefully chosen choices, our kids’ lives have been dictated by our decisions.

I know with my own kids, now that they’re teenagers, they don’t want me dictating their schedules. They don’t want me telling them what they can and can’t wear. They don’t want me telling them what to eat, when to study and what time to go to bed. They’re itching for more control. They’re fighting for more autonomy. And, they’re tired of me calling the shots. And, so the battle begins.

“How far can I go? How hard can I push? How loud do I have to get for my parents to hear me? I don’t want to fight with my parents, but they need to understand that I don’t need them to be as involved in my life as they once were. It’s not that I don’t love them, I’m just ready to do a few things on my own,” said one 15-year-old girl.

Although most parents I know recognize their teen’s need for more autonomy, but when their teen starts pushing back, they oftentimes view it less as a yearning for more independence (and a normal part of their teen’s development) and more as an act of defiance.

“Since my son has been young, I’ve always had a standing house rule that his bedroom has to be picked up once a week. Not necessarily deep cleaning, but I expect him to pull the sheets off his bed, put dirty clothes in the hamper, put clean clothes away and vacuum if it needs it. Suddenly, (almost out of nowhere) he’s been fighting me tooth and nail. He says it’s not important, that he has more important things to do and he’s too old for me to dictate how and how often he cleans his room. I feel as though I’m losing all control over him. He’s fighting me on everything.” — Mom of 16-year-old.

According to McCready, the harsh reality is, if we don’t offer our teens some age-appropriate autonomy over their own lives, they’re going to fight us every step of the way. “They’re going to get that power one way or the other. If we don’t give it to them in legitimate ways, we’ll pay for it later in power struggles,” said McCready.

Ending the power struggles with your teen is easier than you might think. Here are 7 ways to fill your teen’s power bucket without losing all control.

7 Ways to Fill Your Teen’s Power Bucket


Let Them Explore Their Own Sense of Style

From casual (and maybe even slightly grungy) to chic, bohemian or preppy, teenagers are notorious for going through a myriad of style changes and fashion preferences trying to figure out what feels right. Heck, they might even dye their hair pink. Unless what they’re wearing is obnoxious, obscene or completely distasteful, let it go. Give them the freedom to have a little fun and figure out what suits them. (Oh, and don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. You know your child, you know who they are and you know what’s in their heart.)

Give Them a Voice When it Comes to Family Time

One of the biggest battles of the wills with our kids always seems to arise when they choose friends over family or when they decline our invitations to spend time with the family. We can either demand that our kids spend time with us (in which case they’ll act hopelessly miserable the entire time) or we can fill our teen’s power bucket and give them a voice in the matter. Let them weigh in regarding how much time they spend with the family, what you do when you’re together, and for how long. You might be surprised that your teen actually looks forward to family time.

Relinquish Most Control Over Their Bedroom

To a teenager, their bedroom isn’t simply a place to sleep, it’s their refuge. It’s where they relax, decompress, hang out with friends and shut the world out when life gets to be too much. As much as we’d like to see their room decorated a certain way or kept neat and tidy all the time, we need to keep in mind that this is their little corner of the world.

If your teen wants to paint their room red, let them. And, unless it’s a total disaster with piles of dirty dishes stacked on the nightstand and knee-deep dirty clothes on the floor, let it go. When it gets too messy for your taste, put the hammer down and ask them to clean it – on their timeline, not yours.

Give Them the Space They Crave

Don’t mistake your teen’s need for space and privacy as rejection. If your child comes home from school, says two words to you, grabs a handful of Oreos and disappears into their bedroom for a couple of hours, don’t take it personally. Not only do teenagers crave alone time, many parenting experts agree that not only is it a normal and healthy part of their development, teenagers need that quiet, alone time to figure out who they are.

Let Them Decide How to Spend Their Free Time

We’ve guided our kids’ path for years. We signed them up for camps, helped them choose extracurricular activities and made sure they spent their free time wisely. We might have even gently persuaded them to follow in our footsteps. But our kids aren’t little anymore. If your son loves to play the guitar, foster his passion as opposed to pushing him into a sport he hates. If your daughter loves to draw, cultivate her artistic interest and talent. Every teen needs something they can call their own, whether it aligns with our opinions or not.

Let Them Manage School/Grades on Their Own

“How is that history project coming along? Are you almost finished?” “You have that big test in your math class on Monday. Have you been studying?”

This is one of those grips we need to loosen over time as our kids move through the teen years. Soon enough, they’ll be venturing off to college or the workforce and they won’t have us to lean on. Unless there are extreme circumstances, give your teen control over when they do homework, how long they study, whom they study with and, ultimately, their grades. If they ask for help, jump in. If they’re managing things fine on their own, back off unless it becomes necessary.

Let Them Decide When to Complete Chores

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mom of teens, my kids want (and need) to call the shots when it comes to their schedule – especially when it comes to chores. Rather than nagging and yelling (which I was guilty of doing), I now leave a to-do list on their bedroom dresser or desk with a list of chores that need to be done and a timeline of when I’d like them completed and then… I walk away. I don’t hover, nag, check-in on their progress or inquire. Nine times out of ten they get it done.

By relinquishing some control and sharing the power with your teen, not only will you be filling their power bucket, you’ll be empowering them to become more autonomous and creating far more peace in your home.

If you enjoyed this post, here are a few other posts you might enjoy:

Mentally Strong Teenagers Have Parents Who Refuse to Do These Things

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

Things Teenagers Wish They Could Say to Their Parents


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