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How to Improve Your Relationship With Your Teen or Preteen

Parenting a preteen or teen is a whole different ball game when it comes to being a parent. And while I’ll do my best to offer some advice on the matter, it’s up to you to do the work it takes to have a good relationship with your teen.

teen parenting

Parenting advice on teens and tweens – back to the basics

I used to think mental health issues among our youth was only something we faced a lot of in today’s culture.

Then, I read this.

“The fact that teenage suicides are increasing at an alarming rate each year gives morbid testimony to the increase in pressures. Emotional maturity is a strange and inconsistent thing; some bright students are upset by the slightest disappointment or rejection, and a 6′ 10″ basketball player may have deep feelings of insecurity.” – Bill McKee

This is from an article my parents gave me the other day that was written in 1970.

I was blown away.

I felt as though I was reading an article about our youth today as he discussed the outbursts of anger, teens that are generally repulsed by adults, disrespectful, incapable of working through their emotions, and suicidal.

Everything we are dealing with today when it comes to our preteens/teens is identical to that of 50 years ago.

But here’s the thing. While the reactions and actions parents deal with when it comes to teens are still the same, the things THEY are facing in society are vastly different.

Common problems teenagers and their parents face

A kid from the ’70s might have dealt with a bully in school, peer pressure, expectation from their parents to get good grades, a parent who isn’t interested in them, etc.

A kid from today might also deal with the same things. But you add in the moral decline of our society, lack of face-to-face interactions due to technology, celebrity role models from hell, social media influence, parents who are emotionally absent due to smartphones, and even higher academic expectations—what do you get?

An even more devastating suicide rate and mental health issues among young people. The issue isn’t drugs or alcohol—that’s long been around. The issue isn’t even technology. The issue is social media magnifies the problems teens already face.

Example: What’s the next level of bullying compared to that of the 70s? Cyberbullying. When not only ONE person can ridicule you, but thousands at a time.

The obsession with how many likes and comments they get on social media begins to determine their self-worth, as well as become one of the only ways young people interact with one another.

What is typical teenage behavior and how should you discipline them?

At the hands of society, parents are left feeling incapable and dumbfounded as to what their kids need, especially when it comes to things like discipline. Read more about disciplining your teenager here.

We no longer have a concept of what is normal, and what’s not.

Instead of dealing with the typical teen issues, like that of 50 years ago, we are always on the offense, trying to keep our children from getting lost in the effects of society.

As well as our kids dealing with added pressure from social media, we ourselves are engulfed in the never-ending race to do it all perfectly: Don’t put your kids in time out. Don’t feed them this if you want to keep them from having temper tantrums. Lazy parenting is the way to go. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. If you do this, then you’re a terrible parent.

I sometimes find myself daydreaming about removing our family from society.

But is that the only escape from the madness? What’s the solution?

Well, if I refer back to this article written in the ’70s, the answer is still surprisingly the same, and remarkably simple.

How our society plays a role

Our society will always be changing, but at the same time, remaining the same.

Culture, morals, politics, opinions—there is nothing new under the sun. We are living in a world that has recycled everything over and over, yet still comes up empty-handed.

Society has everything to do with what’s happening to our youth.

But aren’t we also a part of society? Have we allowed it to infiltrate the lives of our youth while simultaneously succumbing to it ourselves?

I believe so.

So what now?

Well, since there is literally nothing we can do about the influence of society on our kids, we must be the stronger influence.

How? Well, simply put. Have a relationship with your kids that will stand the test of time.

I’m going to refer back to the article I read from the ’70s, because at the core of it all, the best thing you can do for your kids, no matter the era we live in, is to have a firm foundation and healthy home life for them to depend.

Stop getting sidetracked by all the opinions out there, and do the hard work that parenting requires.

My take on this article written long ago—here are 5 ways to stop society from ruining your child.

parenting a teen advice

1. Develop trust with your teen or preteen – it’s never too late

“Trust is taught; doubt comes naturally.” Another incredible quote from the article.

Teens have and always will have the mindset that the most important thing in life is to be accepted, cool, and important.

A preteen/teen is at an age where they need to start making adult decisions, but lack the emotional understanding of their feelings to do so properly. This combination makes it extremely hard for them to navigate their lives; deal with rejection, failure, etc.

So, if something difficult happens to them, even if it’s not a big deal from our perspective, it’s a monumental event in their lives. When we can meet them with empathy—instead of resistance or control—then amazing things can happen. Trust is built.

The advantage we have in modern times is the technology to understand the science behind a teen’s rebellion. Their brains are forming, and in that process, they generally don’t know why they do the things they do. They run mostly off of emotion. And that’s NOT their fault.

Here are some practical ways to build trust with your child.

  • Make rules TOGETHER and be fair. Include them in the process, so they feel more freedom. Freedom is a special gift to give your teen. It shows them that you trust them, and the hope is that it becomes mutual.
  • Be firm and follow through on your word. If they break the rules, then they need to know that you are true to your word, even it means there are consequences.
  • Stop controlling them. When you feel resistance from your child, back off a little and recognize that God is in control, not you. Again, freedom is the best gift you can give your child.
  • Let them make their own decisions, even if you know it’s the wrong one.
  • Tell them you trust them. Give them second chances—again and again.
  • Give them all the grace that your heart has to offer. They are figuring life out. Let them go, pray for them, and let God go the distance. In all reality, they are not yours to control

Set Screen Boundaries

That being said, teens and tweens still need boundaries and limits to protect them. As their parents, it’s your job to make sure they are held accountable. This especially rings true when it comes to social media and technology. That’s why I’ve partnered with Bark – an incredible software built to protect your kids across ALL devices, and ALL social media apps. There’s a reason why they are the leading parental control software, so use code WORDBIRD at checkout and get a 1-month free trial to find out why!

Also, check out these other articles on meeting the emotional needs of your kids.

teenager texting

2. Recognize that healthy communication is the pivot point in your relationship with your kids

Non verbally, verbally. There are SO many ways we communicate with our kids on a daily basis, even when we aren’t trying.

We communicate that our kids aren’t important when we stare into our phones as they tell us a story from their day. We communicate they aren’t enough when we don’t say things we should, like “I’m proud of you” or “you’re such an amazing person. I like you.”

Communication is where respect is built. If we can’t communicate to them that they are important or worth our time, then how do you expect them to respond? And when communication breaks down respect, it breaks down trust.

Slowly and surely, the relationship will begin to PIVOT, and not in a positive way.

Cute and cuddly toddlers are easy compared to the mood swingers of the preteen era.

But don’t lose heart. You won’t ever be perfect. Don’t read this article and deem yourself a failure. Have grace for you as well. We all fail, and there is no perfect way of doing this.

But, make an effort. You are the most influential person in your child’s life, and the responsibility is HUGE.

But that was your choice, right? You were all in the day you held that tiny little human in your arms who turned your world upside down.

Don’t give up on them when things get hard

I know it’s sometimes easier to look through your IG feed than to be intentional with your teen or tween who seems as though he wants nothing to do with you. But I assure you he does. Deep down.

He will lose respect for you the moment you stop trying to communicate your love and admiration for him.

Show appreciation for their efforts. Be the nonjudgemental space they go when things get rough. Accept that they don’t know why they do the things they do as a valid answer to a mistake they made.

Accept that they won’t always agree with you, but that’s also a good and healthy sign of them becoming their own person with their own opinions, which brings us to the next point.

Check out this card game you can play with your kids that start-up incredible conversations and meaningful interactions.

girl getting tattoo

3. Recognize rebellion as a healthy and necessary step in your child’s journey

At the ages of 2, 10, and then again as a teen, your child will test their boundaries more than at any other point in their lives. As they begin to form opinions of their own, yours become less credible, and the outcome is rebellion.

It’s normal and human.

Quoting the article again. “The force and extent of his or her rebellion will depend considerably on you, the parent.”

Now, let’s talk about action and reaction. If your reaction to their rebellion is emotional and angry—which is entirely understandable—then they will most likely push back even harder.

You have to leave your ego at the door; otherwise, your child will adapt to your reactions, become an excellent little actor, and all honest communication will get lost in the notion that you desire perfection.

It’s not a competition. “Pride stifles love, the gap grows wider, and the relationship will deteriorate quickly and steadily.”

peer pressure

4. Understand the pressure they are up against

In one of my other articles, Dear son, you are more than your good grades, I touch on the subject of peer, academic, and otherwise pressure to be perfect among youth, which can quickly cause a teen to delve into some emotionally dark waters.

The pressure is real for them—to be popular, accepted, loved, and admired. And to make matters worse, adults are usually the last person they want to confide in when it comes to seeking the solace they don’t even know they need.

But if you’re patient, then this almost unbearable stage of rebellion will pass, and their heart will soften to you once again.

Don’t add to their pressure of expectation of perfection. And I know this is hard, but don’t expect perfect grades. Don’t compare them to their friends or other siblings.

Be excited to see them, and meet them with grace, love, and understanding.

how to improve your relationship with your teen

5. there for them

So much rebellion is magnified when parents try and control their kids. Expect for them to make a ton of mistakes, but love them through it all. Be there.

I know that’s easier said than done, but whoever said parenting was easy.

Now I need to go follow my own advice. Ugh. Only with God is it possible.

If you think your child is at risk for suicide, then please call this number immediately. Also, be sure to check for the signs of suicide, so you are more aware of what to look for.

Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation

I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Book list to teach kids about racial diversity. 

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer

If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

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