Parenting Teens

   Written by on February 8, 2018 at 12:49 pm
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Have you heard the Italian Proverb “Little children, headache; big children, heartache”?  Yes, parenting teens brings you a unique set of problems.  The teens years have been described as the time when your children stop asking questions because they are convinced they know all the answers.  Anton Yelchin pictures teens as being like atoms, moving at hundreds of miles an hour, bouncing off each other.

So how do you effectively parent teens?  Tim Sanford provides valuable insight into this question in “Losing control and liking it: how to set your teen (and yourself) free.”  He looks at how to balance control, influence, and responsibility.

How many ways can you list where we use the word control?  Cruise control, remote control, quality control, crowd control, traffic control, self-control cars, control management, weight control, arms control.  Should you be controlling your teens or influencing them?  What is the difference?

Control is defined as to command, restrain, or manage.  Control is when you are the only variable to the outcome.  Influence is when you’re just one of any number of variables to the outcome.  With your teens, your best hope is to influence them.  Trying to control what we cannot only creates tension.

The issue of control is behind many of the tensions between parents and teens.  There are different kinds of controls that exist in a relationship.  The key in parenting is knowing which is which and knowing what to do with each.  Incorporating control, influence, and responsibility, Tim Sanford provides four styles of interacting.  Two are healthy (hold and fold); two are not (toss and grab).

HOLD.  When you hold on to the control over yourself, you take responsibility for your actions, thoughts, and feelings.  If you make a mistake, you own up to it and fix it, however you can.  This is the “what’s mine is mine” mindset.  You’re responsible.  This mindset is honest, healthy, freeing and helps relationships grow stronger.

TOSS.  You exercise control but you avoid taking responsibility for your actions, thoughts, and feelings.  You toss your responsibilities onto somebody else to fix.  You’re irresponsible.  You’re acting like a garbage truck, dumping what is yours onto another person.  This is the “what’s mine is yours” mindset.  A mindset that is immature and damaging to relationships.

GRAB.  You grab for the control over other people and end up becoming a manipulator.  You exercise force, guilt, shame, or threats so the other person will collapse into compliance.  While you may be able to give good reasons why you “need” to use this style, it is not healthy for either person.  It is destructive to any relationship.

FOLD.  You fold your hands and help the other person understand their own actions, thoughts, and feelings.  Using the fold method of interacting, your goal is to help your teen think through the problem.  Your framework is to provide influence by outlining suggestions.  In a very short time, your teen will be out of the house and they will be making decisions on their own.  Your goal is to help them grow into making wise choices.  Remember Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s advice, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.  One of these is roots, the other, wings.”

Making the shift from parenting a small child to helping your teen develop good decision-making skills is not an easy shift.  The Serenity prayer is a great way to help you get through each day:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him, forever in the next.


Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or


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