Ages & Stages > Teenagers

Teenagers (age 16-18 years)

Here’s where you get fired as the boss. If you've done a good enough job you get rehired as a trusted friend and advisor. If you continue to do a good job, your teen may well even take your advice.

It's appropriate for your teen to want to make her own decisions now, and to think for herself.  And yet teens are still developing, and have widely varying levels of maturity. It can be a scary time for parents, especially those who don't yet trust their teen's judgment. 

The most effective parenting strategy with teens is to focus on the relationship.  Punishments just drive your teen away and make it less likely that you'll have the information about what's going on in his life that you need to be a good parent.  The only leverage you really have with your teen is love.

It's appropriate for teens to be oriented more to their peers than their parents now, but kids who are well grounded in their families will respond well to parents' efforts to stay connected.  And parents who have bonded adequately with their children at each earlier stage will feel invested enough in their teens to stay connected, even if a lot of effort is required.

Gameplan for Positive Parenting Your Teen

Positive parenting a teenager?  A terrific teen who's responsible, considerate, shows good judgment, at least most of the time?  Yes, it is possible! Here's your game plan.

You may not feel like you have much influence on your child these days, but teens’ behavior is highly correlated with the strength of their bonds with their parents. Here's your gameplan for positive parenting your teen.  (Read article. )

Staying Connected with Your Teen

Much of the same advice applies that was true when he was a toddler: Reconnect every day, and don't wait when you see there's repair work to be done.  If we've accepted our child's dependency needs AND affirmed her development into her own separate person, she'll stay fiercely connected to us even as her focus shifts to peers, high school and the passions that make her soul sing.  (Read article.)

Talking: Have the Tough Conversations

Seize every chance you get to talk with your teen, and then do more listening than talking.  Here's how to become a brilliant listener, How to get your teen to talk with you, How to Have the Tough Conversations,  100 questions to ask your Teen, and more.  (Read article.)

13 Things You Should Know When You Talk To Your Child About Alcohol

Parents are the most important influence on whether kids drink alcohol, and the earlier you start these conversations, the better. Kids whose parents teach them the risks of using drugs and alcohol are half as likely to use them. Don't wait until your kids are teens before you have these conversations. This is a topic you'll want to revisit over the years as your child reaches new levels of understanding -- and temptation. (Read article.)

Teen’s Perspective: What Peaceful Parenting Taught Me

I often get questions from parents unconvinced of the effectiveness of my parenting techniques. They ask questions like: “Does this stuff really work?” and “How do kids learn about consequences if they aren't punished?” Here is a piece by a real teen about her infractions, how her parents responded, and the effect on her moral and emotional development.  (Read article.)

Beyond Discipline for Teens

The teen years are notoriously challenging for parents. Much like the toddler years, kids sometimes seem intent on doing exactly the opposite of what we ask, for some of the same reasons:  Their job now is to find their sea legs as a person, to shape an identity, to sort out what's important to them. Their integrity would be compromised by simply doing what we ask because we ask it. They need to believe it's the right thing for THEM. (Read article.)

Dinner: Keep Your Teen Part of the Family

The more frequently teens eat dinner with their families the better they do in school, the happier they say they are, and the less likely they are to get involved with drugs, alcohol, sex, or vandalism.  Don't expect your teen to open up a lot at the dinner table, but use it as a foundation for those late-night talks when teens are more likely to let their guards down.  (Read article.)

Conversation Starters for Family Discussions

Parents often tell me they don’t know where to begin to have a “real” conversation with their child.  These questions will get you started.  Rather than badgering your child with them, use one as the jumping off point for a two-way conversation.  Start by asking your child the question, and listen to the answer, remembering to reflect back what she’s saying so she knows you understand. (Read article.)

Use Crisis to Connect More Deeply with Your Child

Life is full of difficult discussions we need to have with our kids, from explaining to our four year old why Grandma died, to hearing from our ten year old that he was bullied on the playground, to confronting our sixteen year old about missing her curfew. (Read article.)

How To Keep Your Child from Developing an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders--as you probably know--are a serious risk factor for your child.  Parents have a lot more power than they realize to prevent eating disorders. What can you do to prevent your child from developing an eating disorder?   Help your child develop a healthy body AND a healthy body image. (Read article.) 

Q & A: Letters and Answers about Teens

Have a question about parenting your teen?  Questions from readers, with wise and practical solutions from Dr. Laura Markham to the worst problems your teenager can dish out!  (Read article.)

Best Books on Parenting Teens