17 Things Teens Secretly Want from their Parents

September 5, 2017

If you’re like most parents, asking your teenager questions about their life may feel like dead-end conversations more often than not. Because parents don’t want to annoy their teenager, many take a “hands off” approach to parenting in an effort to avoid becoming a nuisance. However, most teenagers secretly want some very specific things from you as their parent whether they’re willing to tell you or not. Here is a list of 17 things your teen wants most from their parents:

1. Love

Maybe a few years back your kid asked you to let them out of the car down the street from their school so their friends didn’t see you dropping them off. Maybe when you say “I love you”, their response of “Love you too” seems more like a required statement than how they really feel. Maybe your kids rolls their eyes whenever you tell them you love them.

Whether you get the sense your teen appreciates your love or not… they do.

Not only do teens appreciate your love, but they need to know their parents love them. So many of their friends and acquaintances do NOT demonstrate love to them, but they need to know that someone has their back and truly does love them for who they are.

Whisper in your teen’s ear that you love them. Tell them more often than not. Don’t let a day go by that they don’t hear how much you love them. Don’t assume they know. Let them know. Over and over.

2. Respect

So many parents demand respect from their teenagers, but they fail to realize that the best way to lead is from example. If you expect respect, give it first. When a teenager watches how you act and react in different situations, they learn how they are supposed to act and react. If you are unsure how to respect your teen, read the rest of this post to get a few tips.

3. Affection

Your teen will get affection one way or another. Physical touch from another person is even considered one of the 5 love languages. While your kid will likely outgrow their desire for piggyback rides, they still crave physical closeness to another person. Look for moments to sit closely on the couch, snuggle in bed, tickle your teen’s hair, or rub their back.

If your teen cringes or backs away quickly from your affection, this may indicate that they have built up a resistance to your harsher parenting style and affection feels forced or awkward.

Challenge yourself to approach your teen in a softer way than you have, and begin to re-introduce affection that may have been lacking. More than likely, your teen will begin to respond with less disgust and more appreciation.

4. Boundaries

While some parents have good intentions of giving their teen complete freedom, giving full trust at such a moldable and fragile age can backfire. Your teen simply does not and cannot know of all the dangers lurking out there that can harm them, so your job as the parent is to help protect them from their own naivety. Boundaries set up perimeters explaining how far a teen can go in any given situation before they find themselves in trouble.

Your teen will also find more comfort within a set of fair boundaries rather than without.

This isn’t to imply that you should micromanage your kid’s life and revoke all responsibility and privileges. In contrast, the older your teen gets, they should earn more and more trust, thus earning more and more responsibility.

As they gain more responsibility, let them know what you expect and why you expect it. Letting them know the “why” is important because it allows them to see your heart in the matter. Telling your teen they must obey because “I said so” does not allow them to hear your intentions, they simply hear your authority.

While they should listen to you based on authority, they will honor your authority because they believe you genuinely want the best for them.

5. Security

Different from boundaries, security tells a teen they are safe and protected against outside threats. This may include protection against criminals or predators, but also against other friends, family members or anyone or anything that could cause potential harm.

6. Consequences

Boundaries are useless unless they are enforced. Rather than make a list of rules and consequences, sit down with your teen and make them together. Establish a set of “house rules” that are required for your teen to have the luxury of living under your roof. It is a blessing to live under your roof, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.

Once rules have been established, brainstorm with your teen fair consequences for violating each rule. You can negotiate the terms of the consequences, but lean on the side of letting your teen come up with their own punishment.

Then if/when they violate your house rule, they can’t be mad at the consequences considering they’re the one who came up with them.

That being said, you must follow through with your consequences. This isn’t to say you can’t extend grace at times (see the next point), but if you never follow through with punishments for violations to your house rules, then you are training your teen that they can break whatever rules they want and nothing will happen. Honoring your agreement with your teen tells them you are willing to honor your word. While they may not like it at the time, you are reinforcing that you mean what you say.

7. Freedom to Fail

Teenagers are going to make mistakes. Each mistake a teen makes is also a learning experience. If your teen has made an egregious error for the first time, give them grace. If they don’t learn from their mistakes, they aren’t learning lessons from their failures, and the lack of learning needs to be addressed even more so than the failure itself.

There is a difference between intentional disobedience and an honest mistake.

If your teen is willfully disobedient, then consequences for their actions should be made. If your teen makes an honest mistake, give grace instead of consequences.

Granting a teen freedom to fail does not, however, mean that you provide no boundaries, expectations, or advice on how to succeed. Simply saying to your teen “You’ll find out the hard way” and not equipping them with steps to succeed is foolish parenting.

Give them a game plan for success, and if they fail along the way, extend grace as they learn from their mistakes.

It is also important to separate failures from their identity. Just because a person fails at something does not make them a failure overall. Help your teen understand that failing allows them to learn and grow, and that their identity should never be based on their failures.

8. Praise

Every child wants to know their parent is proud of them.

While you don’t want to inflate their ego in unhealthy ways, you do want to let them know you are proud of them.

You might be so frustrated with your teen that you feel you have nothing to praise, but that likely isn’t the case. Your teen is probably doing something right. Maybe they woke up on time this morning. Maybe they ate all their dinner tonight. Maybe they put their shoes away like you’ve asked a thousand times. Whatever they have done right, catch them doing it and praise it.

Publicly praise them in front of others. However, don’t limit your positive comments to just public settings. If you only praise in public, your teen may begin to suspect that you are only praising as a show and don’t really mean it.

In your quiet moments with your teen, take the time privately also to praise them for what they have done right.

9. Attention

We live in a very distracted world and time is your most valuable asset. Time is worth more than whatever you have in your bank account, and you are limited to a specific number of minutes and no amount in your bank account will ever be able to buy you more once you run out.

Invest a good amount of your valuable asset—your time—in your 2nd most valuable asset—your family.

Make what is important to them be important to you. Dig into their interests and give them attention without being distracted. If you have the opportunity to chat with your teen, silence your phone, flip it over, pause your Netflix show, and focus on giving your teen your full, undivided attention.

Don’t attempt to multitask while talking with your teen. Doing so will only communicate to them that they aren’t worth your full attention. If you are in a distracting place when your teen initiates a conversation with you, circle back with them when you aren’t in a distracting environment and make sure you fully understand what they were explaining to you earlier.

10. Listening Ear

Don’t just hear the words your teen is saying, but truly listen. It’s one thing to be able to regurgitate words they said; it’s another thing to be able to dialogue with them in an actual conversation.

If you have to say the words “I was listening”, it probably means you really weren’t.

Be present. Make eye contact. Don’t be involved with other things during a conversation with your kid. Listen with your body.

When you don’t listen well, resist the temptation to justify why you weren’t listening. Simply take ownership for your failure, ask for forgiveness, and ask them to share again.

11. Encouragement

Your teen won’t come outright and ask for encouragement, but they want it. They need it. One of the greatest desires they have is for acceptance. You may not agree with all the choices your teen has made or the direction they are going, but look for opportunities you can encourage them and watch how it affects them in a positive way.

12. Appreciation

There’s a lot you do for your teen, and I’m sure there are plenty of times you feel underappreciated. On the flip side, there’s a lot your teen does for you, and they also likely feel underappreciated. Showing some appreciation for the blessing your teen is to your family will likely result in reciprocal appreciation for you.

13. Advice

Your teen may not ask for it, but it doesn’t mean you can’t offer advice.

The secret to sharing advice is not giving it without getting permission first.

As your teen goes through a trial or difficulty and you see an obvious solution, don’t assume your kid wants to hear your input. Sharing unsolicited advice implies to your teen that you don’t think they can come up with a good solution on their own.

However, if you simply ask your teen if they want to know your thoughts on the subject, you are giving them the benefit of the doubt that they may already have a good solution before you blurt it out. If they grant you permission to share, they are more likely to implement your advice because it was their idea for you to share it.

14. History

Knowing family history can be impactful to a teen. Share stories of your past and how your teen fits into the bigger picture. In addition to sharing stories of your parents and relatives, also share stories from your own teen’s earlier years.

Just make sure you don’t only speak highly of them when they are younger. Talking about how cute your teen “once was” may imply to the teen that you no longer believe they are cute. Share stories of memories from the past, but also highlight characteristics or achievements from the present.

15. Acceptance

Your teen wants to believe they are enough, but the sad truth is they rarely feel truly accepted. Competitive nature among high school students has never been higher. Students want to one-up each other with sports, grades, boy/girlfriends, college choices, jobs, etc.

Nearly all poor decisions your teen will make come from their fundamental desire to be accepted.

The craving for acceptance is why a relatively good teen will hang around others who are a horrible influence. The craving for acceptance is why teens go to parties and get drunk when they have no interest in alcohol. The craving for acceptance is why teenage girls get pregnant when the last thing they want to do is take care of a baby during their teenage years.

Your teen has a lot of pressure to fit in. Make sure your teen knows you accept them, acne and all, no matter what. They should never have to earn your acceptance. They deserve it because they’re your kid.

16. Trustworthiness

Follow through and do what you say. One of the worst things you can do is make a promise to your teen and fail to follow through.

If you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.

Not only are you honoring your teen, but you’re again leading them by example and training them to honor their word.

If there happens to be an occasional fluke and you cannot honor your word, take ownership, ask for forgiveness, and do your best to not let it happen again.

17. Empathy

Your teen doesn’t understand how your “adult problems” are so much bigger and grander than their own. Their recent breakup hurts, and it hurts bad. Their recent “F” on their math test that they actually studied for is humbling. All the stress and details for their upcoming school dance can be overwhelming.

What your teen doesn’t need is a lesson from you on how insignificant their problems are in the real world.

Their perspective of their world is real to them. Your problems may have more dollar signs involved or more at stake, but there’s no need to belittle your teen’s issue at hand.

Hurt with them. Grieve with them. Cry with them. Be there to console, without having to one-up their situation with a much bigger situation of your own. Showing some empathy will give you a window into their world and likely get you invited back into new problems down the road.


By choosing to give your teen more of each of these 17 items, you will likely grow closer to them with each passing day.

Remember, your teenager won’t be a teenager long, and while many parents dread these years, they can also be some of your sweetest if you take the time to give your teen what they need most.

The bottom line is what they need most is you.

Question: Is there something else teens need that is not mentioned on this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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