The Zen of Parenting a Teen

image angry teenager“Few things are more satisfying than seeing your children have teenagers of their own.”  ~Doug Larson

Check out the following teen missiles and the ever-powerful parenting comebacks compiled over 1,000+ hours when counseling (despondent, but spunky) teens and their (despondent, but intrepid) parents.

1. “You love my brother more than you love me.”

B.S. Alert: Often a manipulative tactic to induce guilt and get you off your P-game so you’ll cave to the request to buy her something, avoid a chore, etc.

Comeback: That’s not true. I love you both the same.

2. “You can’t take my cell phone away. What if there’s an emergency?”

B.S. Alert: You survived adolescence without a mobile device. If there is an emergency, chances are every other person she’s with will have one. And you don’t want her walking around alone, right?

Comeback: Hand me your phone. I’m not about to engage in a physical struggle. If you refuse to give it up, I’ll go online and disconnect it.

3. “I wish you’d leave me alone and let me find out about ____________ (insert the blank) by myself.”

B.S. Alert: If he hasn’t made wise decisions about the issue at hand in the past, he’s not likely to in the present.

Comeback: I understand you would like to __________ by yourself, but as long as you’re living under my roof, you’ll follow my rules. The answer is no.

4. “My teacher gave me an F because he doesn’t like me.”

B.S. Alert: The oldest excuse in the book. What are her grades in other subjects? You’ll need to check your “authority” issues on this one. How do you feel about teachers/academics/education?

Comeback: Really? I’ll call the school in the morning and arrange a parent-teacher conference to verify why you received a fail.

5. “I don’t like my teacher because he’s too strict.”

B.S. Alert: Some kids don’t like teachers who impose boundaries in the classroom. Strict is synonymous with structure.

Comeback: Too bad. When you’re in college you can choose your professors. Until then, follow his instructions and I don’t want to hear anymore excuses.

6. “It’s not my pipe, it’s my friend’s.”

B.S. Alert: Uh, oh…time to closely monitor her whereabouts, including peers, clothes, and her room/purse/backpack/school locker. Call on familial or other support to supervise her while you’re at work.

Comeback: What’s the name of your friend? Give me her number and her parents’ names. Additionally, I’m going to call the Dean tomorrow and set up a meeting. No child of mine will be involved in drugs at middle school.

7. “I want to go live with my dad.”

B.S. Alert: Another manipulative tactic to induce guilt and exploit your insecurities. Stick to your guns and check your tendency to feel sorry for him because you’re a single parent. It is what it is.

Comeback: This is the arrangement me and your father came up with, and this is the schedule we’re sticking to for now.

8. “You’re not my friend anymore.”

B.S. Alert: She’s not your mini-me Mom, and sorry Dad, but he ain’t your Dude. Your teen is your child and not your BFF.

Comeback: You’re right. I’m not your friend. I’m your parent.

9. “You don’t give me any freedom.”

B.S. Alert: There’s a BIG difference between the freedom to choose (appropriate) clothes for school, and the freedom to hit the bottle.

Comeback: You’ll have freedom when you’re a self-supporting adult.

10. “I can’t wait till I turn 18. I’m gonna be outta here so fast!”

B.S. Alert: She’s likely terrified of the pressure of adulthood. This threat is intended to call your P-bluff.

Comeback: Here’s a calendar.

11. “You never approve of my friends.”

B.S. Alert: If you don’t have a good feeling about your teen’s peer group, it’s likely for a good reason.

Comeback: I like (insert names) ______________ and ______________. Why don’t you invite them over this weekend?

12. “Can I go to a party with my friends?”

B.S. Alert: Can you confirm this is a supervised party? Beware the rave in some godforsaken desert or airport hanger.

Comeback: Let me get in touch with the parents. I’ll give you my decision after I speak with them.

13. “Erin’s mom lets her do anything because she trusts her.”

B.S. Alert: Kids crave structure. They feel out-of-control developmentally and internally. Hold tight, and know that blind trust = denial.

Comeback: Erin’s mom is not your mother. I am.

14. “It was only a couple of beers. Besides, most of the kids at my school get drunk almost every night.”

B.S. Alert: Is there a part of you which feels that life is so unbearable that your son is justified in getting high? I’ve met a staggering number of respectable, intelligent and successful adults who sadly, turn a blind eye to Junior’s substance use. Please don’t allow him to numb life’s pain in the name of , “if he uses at home, he won’t get a DUI…”

Comeback: You’re not most of the kids at school. I know life is tough, and being a teen is difficult. Let’s talk about what you’re going through. I was a teen once and I’d love to share my mistakes and the lessons I learned. Let’s come up with a list of activities and resources to de-stress. Bottom line—using is not the way to deal with problems.

15. “I’m just going to sneak out again once you fall asleep.”

B.S. Alert: If it’s gotten to this point, it’s a serious issue. But you already know that. Hang tight and be willing to go to extremes to regain control.

Comeback: I’ll nail your windows shut/remove your bedroom door/sleep next to the front door/chase you to Timbukto, if need be.

16. “I only lied because I knew you’d be mad about the truth.”

B.S. Alert: Focus on enforcing the truth, no matter what. It’s the key to living authentically.

Comeback: The rule about lying is NEVER lie to me. Now hand me your mobile phone. You’ll get it back on Monday morning.

17. “My girlfriend and I aren’t having sex.”

B.S. Alert: This is tough, but it is possible to make it very difficult for your kid to engage in sex when there are many eyes and ears on him. Some parents choose to provide birth control for older teens.

Comeback: From now on, Tim’s mom will be picking you up after school. Do not invite anyone over when there’s not an adult at home. I’m going to call Sara’s parents and discuss this matter.

18. “I feel like you never think I’m good enough.”

Caveat: This is a heart-breaker on so many levels. Do an honest assessment about your parenting style. Ask some unbiased friends/family members to weigh in. Know that no one, especially a child is wired for perfection.

Response: You are good enough. I love you and accept you the way you are. I’m so sorry if I’ve expected too much, or tried to change you in ways that are not realistic. I’ll work on this. Now come on over and give me a hug!

And you thought ‘zen,’ ‘teens,’ and ‘parenting’ were mutually exclusive ;).


What did I miss?

What’s your favorite teen argument and parental comeback?

Please leave feedback in the comment box below :). And if you liked this post, please share it on your favorite social media site.

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Have a great week!


{Photo: Melmoth the Wanderer}

About Linda Esposito

Hi there! I'm an Anxiety Saboteur and the creator of the soon-to-be retired If you want to join me on Wired for Happy click this link to subscribe for details.

13 Responses to "The Zen of Parenting a Teen"

  1. SaraNo Gravatar says:

    I think I have to borrow that quote—priceless!

    As a school counselor I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen parents fall for #6 and #16. I don’t know if it’s easier to believe your kid is not engaging in substance use, or if parents are so stress-ed and overcommitted just like their teens.

    I’ll have to remember these comebacks. I seem to have one in the back of my mind but when the parents get to my office they”re so emotional and I end up spending 10 minutes listening to them blow off steam and blame their kids’ issues on the school system.

    Thank you for posting this!

  2. Susan GiurleoNo Gravatar says:

    Linda, great post. In response to #15 (depending on severity and frequency) I often suggest parents tell their teen they will call to police if they leave the house in the middle of the night and can’t track them down. In most cases, this gets the kid’s attention that this is a serious issue and not a game.

    • Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

      Agreed Susan. The only problem I find with calling the police is when a) parents use this as a threat and do not follow-through, or b) when the police respond the parents don’t press charges on their kid, so the message is “I’m going to call on an ‘authority’ (because I feel that I have no power, and law enforcement, the boot camp, the social worker, etc. has that power to control you) but really nothing is going to change.” So much easier and effective to not let the problem escalate to this level…

      Also scary is when parents DO NOT call the police when their child doesn’t come home at night…

      Yup. One of my least favorite parenting conundrums–a real energy vampire for sure :(.

  3. JoAnn JordanNo Gravatar says:

    Linda, this is a helpful post. Providing an example response is helpful. We use a modification of #2 when turning off the internet at night.

  4. Mr. Cynical (Dave)No Gravatar says:

    Sorry to be the bearer of bleak, but if you are at the point when your child has learned it’s okay to sneak out in the middle of the night, maybe you need to go back to the basics. Meaning, what did you teach them about sneakiness in the first place?

    My dad had a certain discipline style, and I’ll leave it for your interpretation. My older sister snuck out of her bedroom window exactly one time to rendezvous with her boyfriend. Once dad got wind of it, it was the beginning of the end for her galavanting ways.

    Nowadays the universal excuse seems to be to blame the behavior on the lack of a male role-model. Even if dad split the family scene, there’s always other males who can step in if the mother doesn’t choose to.

    Just like delinquent teens, some parents need a bootcamp to get them in shape.

  5. Kathy Morelli, LPC (@KathyAMorelli)No Gravatar says:

    Hey Linda – Great list of relevant answers. It’s funny you are practicing good straightforward parenting there! The answers are from a centered, confident person who has worked on their own childhood stuff and feels good about herself! .

  6. Alison Golden - The Secret Life of a Warrior WomanNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t have teens yet but I’m getting ready. Thank you for providing me with the fodder I need. Some we’ve already been through and worked out what works but the drug and sex stuff? Ugh. Does anyone sail through teendom? We’ve already been through a lot (no calling 911 but close) and come out the other side for now. I tell myself it won’t last, but secretly I’m hoping it will.

  7. Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

    Thankfully Susan Giurleo already left a comment cuz last time I posted about the trials and tribulations involving teens and Facebook, she kicked our psychological ass for being overly worried–hehe! Actually, I don’t know if your comments was involved, but regardless, we’ll support one another Alison–our boys are close in age, and gawd knows we’ll still be online when those magical teen years come…;).

    I’d like to believe I”ve earned some karma parenting points for the many hours I’ve toiled helping parents of teens…time will tell :).

  8. HajraNo Gravatar says:

    One thing I see is that children play the blame game very easily. Maybe it is something they learn from parents or something they use to avoid “punishment”, “embarrassment”; but yes, we need to make kids understand that there is nothing wrong in standing up to what you have done. We need to work on accepting failure and working to better it rather than having to treat it as “the end of life”!

    • Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

      Hajra–great point about taking responsibility for one’s actions. And you’re right–if the parents model this then kids won’t be as compelled to blame others for their mishaps.

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