parenting-a-teenager

3 Ways You Need to Disappoint Your Teen

Our first time parenting a teenager was a little rough. We had no idea what we were doing. And I was that dad who always wanted his kid to be happy with him. I loved saying “yes.” So I would hate it when my son would come to us all excited about something, and we would decide we had to say “no”. I just couldn’t stand the look of disappointment on his face.

However, as the years have passed and my son is now a young adult, I’ve realized that some of the best decisions we made were the ones that disappointed him at the time. What I knew, of course, but often got lost in my desire to make my kids happy, is that teens actually don’t often know what’s best for them. Here are 3 ways you need to disappoint your teen.

1. Be uncool.

If you’d have asked me what being an “uncool” parent meant before I had teens, I would’ve told you something like, “being the guy who can’t name their favorite artists or who tells embarrassing dad-jokes.” But that was the silly stuff. What I soon discovered as we were parenting a teenager was that what really made us “uncool” in the eyes of our kids was being one of the few parents who postponed social media access and weren’t OK with underage drinking.

Our kids often felt left out because all their friends were connecting on the latest app or allowed to go to certain parties. They and their friends couldn’t believe how uncool we were. And holding the line wasn’t always easy. If I’m honest, my wife was much better at it than I was. But as I look back now as my kids gradually grow into young adults, I realize they don’t hate us for those decisions. In some cases, they’re actually grateful.

Your teen needs boundaries, not a buddy.

2. Give them responsibility.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel.” His point (I think) is that freedom from all burdens may not, in fact, be the utopia we all imagine. Perhaps there is something to our limitations, and our responsibilities, that makes us more fully human.

But being responsible is lame, right? At least that’s what parenting a teenager taught me. To be clear, she never actually said that. But the complaining when we said she had to get a job and the eye rolls when we got on her for copying her friend’s homework made it clear that being responsible was not cool (see point 1). And yet, we want her to grow into the human being she was created to be. If she’s going to do that, she’s going to need to take responsibility for herself, those things given to her to steward, and her impact on the people around her.

3. Say no.

Sometimes you just need to say no. Your teen will push limits. He’ll want to stay out past curfew and skip school and buy really expensive shoes. In some cases, you might say yes. But if you feel like you need to say no, say no. That might sound simple, but as I mentioned, I’m one of those parents who loves to say yes. So saying no can make me feel like I’m being a horrible person. But here’s the thing—your teen needs boundaries, not a buddy.

It’s tempting to want to be your teen’s buddy. But that’s not your job. Your job is to create an environment in which your teen can grow up to become a responsible, joyful and healthy adult. In order for that to happen, she needs you to help her sort through what’s right and wrong, push her to work toward a goal that requires her to delay gratification and deal with disappointment. And to do all that, she’ll need to hear you say no.

Sound off: In what other ways do you need to disappoint your teen?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think I say no to you sometimes when you ask for things?”