Parenting Teenagers, Part 3: A Life of Their Own

IMG_4735 - Version 2“Who in the world told my kids they could have a life of their own?” I remember chronically thinking this while ours were teenagers. Just when we hit a parenting stride that was awesome (awesome… meaning I was pretty much in control of their schedules and daily details, and made sure none of it actually conflicted with MY important plans), they started individuating and making plans of their own.

As parents, this is the season we begin to battle two conflicting emotions: the urge to take back control and the desire to become buddies. Both usually originate from legitimate motives. One, we don’t want them to fail and we believe we hold the keys to that. Two, we want them to like us during a chunk of years when they possibly won’t. Both are a disservice to them.

Since our kids are entering a new season of life, a new parenting approach has to be considered. We loosen the tight reigns of the training years and move to the sidelines for coaching. Coaches don’t the leave the field. They don’t get distracted with other stuff. They watch carefully, call some plays, and pull their players off of the field from time to time. They have no immediate goals of keeping their players happy. Mostly, they encourage their players to run the plays and respond to situations according to the training they’ve received.

Transitioning to the coaching role wasn’t intuitive for me. Disciplining and training had become engrained. What helped me most was thinking about it in terms of “I’m for you.” I’m for your physical safety. I’m for your emotional health. I’m for your relational success. I’m for your mental and spiritual development. I’m for you making it to the end of these middle school years, or high school years, with as few regrets as possible. You’re the player, but I’m not afraid to pull you aside for tweaks, corrections, and sometimes sitting out a game. I’m for you. I know you can do this, and I’m here to help when you need it.

Resisting the urge to control and not caving to the desire to prematurely make friendship a priority brings health to a family. Coaching our kids through those middle and high school years, in spite of a few regrets here and there, is the stuff rich relationships are made of later. In hindsight, my kids gaining “a life of their own” has truly broadened and enriched mine!


  1. Andrea E says

    With both junior & freshman sons & a 6th grade daughter- your words of wisdom & encouragement could not be more timely. I think it can be tricky to remember which role you are in with each particular kid at the time & not revert back (to controlling much) or skipping ahead, sometimes forgetting to ask myself – what’s my role right now with this child? (And not their brother or sister!) Did that even make sense? :). Anyway – appreciate you sharing. I still have my Nehemiah verse in place -“I am doing a great work, and cannot come down…”

  2. Samantha says

    Thank you for that wisdom! I love your blogs on parenting. Even though our son is only 7 months old, we want all the wisdom we can get!

  3. Jill says

    Love to read your words of wisdom as we enter these parenting years that we thought were so far off!! They aren’t!! With a 13, 11 and 9 year old we are trying to figure out how to manage “screen time”- TV, computer, etc. How did y’all manage this? Any words of advice?

  4. says

    WELL PUT! I know with each phase I had to regroup and find my ‘new role’…even now with 3 adult children I still had to find my role. Not knowing that role is detrimental. You did good! (Hugs!)

  5. Charlotte Lewis says

    i love to retread your posts, Sandra! And during a reread this morning I wondered if you wrote parenting entries for young children. My granddaughter is 71/2; is bright & therefore strong-willed. (her precious teachers call it “confidence”). Do you have any suggestions/prior posts?
    So thankful for your ministry here in Athens.

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