parenting and letting go

5 Things Dads of Teens Need to Let Go Of

Generally speaking, my wife and I were pretty strict parents. In fact, our kids would say we were the strictest parents they know. That’s why I was so surprised when I sat down with my adult son and he reflected on a number of things he used to do with his friends—things I was blissfully unaware of. Here we had held onto the belief that our parenting had enabled him to avoid many of these mistakes. We were naïve.

But as parents, there are many things we need to hold on to: our hope, our commitment to loving them, our kids themselves. However, there are also things parents need to let go of. Parenting and letting go are both challenging—but they’re possible. Here are 5 things every dad of teens needs to let go of.

1. Ego

Perhaps another way to say this is “pride.” But I like ego because I think there’s an inherent self-centeredness in that language. Our ego centers us in the story so that everything our teen does is an affront to us: our authority, our respect, our wishes. However, so often when teens make decisions, the last person they are thinking of is their father. It’s not really about you. It’s about them and what’s going on in their lives. If you can get out of your own way, perhaps you can get a sense of what is really going on.

2. Judgment

You have lots of opinions about many things, and so do I. But one of the keys to parenting and letting go is recognizing that not every thought you have is actually correct. You are wrong about some things. The problem is that you rarely know which of your opinions are right and which are wrong (because you wouldn’t hold on to them if you knew they were wrong). This means you’re going to need to work hard to let go of judgment of your teen, your teen’s friends, and that entire generation. That doesn’t mean you can’t say something is wrong. Of course you can. But a good practice might be learning to ask yourself first if you’re certain something is true or if it’s just how you think things should be done.

3. Dreams

You have dreams for your teen. He is going to be a star athlete or a successful businessman or a father of three with a wonderful wife who will be the ideal daughter-in-law (she may even call you Dad!). We all do this and there’s nothing wrong at all about dreaming for your teen. However, he will inevitably make choices that differ from the ones you would make if you were him because he’s not you. Parenting and letting go requires a willingness to acknowledge that he gets to dream his own dreams and that’s how it should be.

The more you try to control your teen, the more your teen will pull away.

4. Control

One of the hardest things about parenting children is that when they are younger, they are entirely dependent on your ability to control their environment to keep them safe. However, the older they get, the more you need to learn to release control. And that can be dreadful. After all, if you can’t control her environment, how will you ensure that she is safe? How will you make certain she makes the right choices? Unfortunately, you can’t. And you won’t. But the more you try to control your teen, the more your teen will pull away. If you’re not able to let go, you’ll end up with neither control nor a relationship with her.

5. Anger

So many things teens do make us angry. Whether it’s the eye rolls or the huffing or the outright rebellion, our wounded egos want to fly off the handle, screaming, shouting, and pounding our fists. But this is not the way to build relationship. Anger can be an enemy of intimacy if we allow it to master us. One of the critical decisions in parenting and letting go is the decision to let go of your anger. It is not a helpful tool in most instances. The sooner you let it go, the quicker you can give attention to what matters.

Sound off: What else do parents of teens need to let go of?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it means to let go of things, and how can letting things go be good for us?”