What Teenagers Really Want From Their Parents

Door etiquette, respect and surprise compliments are on the list.

I told my daughter that her uncle asked what she thought about being a main character in my stories on Sharon Patch.

My comment prompted her to read my columns again after a long hiatus, and I got an earful.

She objected to my portrayal of her as a typical teenager. 

Her appraisal speaks more to my failure to accurately represent her true character than her biased view. She is bright, perceptive and talented in many atypical ways. And she is different from her peers who don’t have a mother who happens to be a writer.   

Her consolation prize for allowing me to describe her messy room and my messy memories is a chance to have her say. I invited two of her best buds to add their sentiments and I compiled this list of their wishes.  

What do teenagers really want from their parents?

  • Let us make mistakes. We are trying to be the best people we can be, but we can only figure out what not to do after we have done it. Let us draw our own conclusions. Step in only when you foresee a disastrous or harmful consequence.   
  • Give us solitude and space to be ourselves. Our rooms may be humming with Eminem lyrics and YouTube videos, but this chatter helps block out the academic, social, and societal pressures we face everyday.
  • Stand by us even when you think we might be wrong. Don’t side with the impossible-to-please physics teacher, the two-faced friend, or the creators of the MCAS test. Have our backs when no one else will. 
  • Observe the rules of door etiquette. Knock first and wait for a reply before entering. You could catch us undressing or in a private moment. When you leave, shut the door.
  • We may be children, but we deserve respect. Don’t joke about us in a negative way to other adults. Respect our distaste for public displays of affection. Refrain from requesting a kiss when our friends are near.
  • We appreciate surprise compliments. We like to hear we are “beautiful inside and out.” However, if you like our hair or clothes say so and stop. Don’t undo the praise by following it with a question that starts with the word “why?” 
  • We want your approval. When we are pleased with our accomplishments, join equally with our happiness or surpass it. A grade of B in Geometry may fall below your standards, but if we sweated for that grade, expressing your disappointment is hurtful.
  • Let us manage our own homework, projects, and school requirements. Badgering us backfires. Don’t take away privileges when you think we are shirking our school responsibilities. We will rebel and do less.
  • Assign us chores. Remind us and instruct us, but don’t give up on us. Expect us to empty the dishwasher, wash our own clothes and cook meals. None of us wants to arrive at college unprepared to live independently.
  • Understand that we know about the real world. We are not oblivious to the good and bad around us. Give us credit for being more capable than you think we are and we will earn your trust.
Cindy May 04, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Great column, Elissa. We should treat everyone in these ways, not just teenagers. Loved this!
Deb May 04, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Elissa - you have NAILED it - this should be THE list for raising teenagers - once again - a great job...
Elissa C. Rosenthal May 04, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Your point about extending these rights to everyone is well taken! Thanks for the nice feedback., Cindy.
Elissa C. Rosenthal May 04, 2011 at 07:33 PM
Thanks, Deb! This list comes straight from the mouths of teenagers (with a little journalistic interpretation on my part). I'm realizing we should listen more and talk at them less.
fredi rosenthal May 04, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Thanks Elissa. It's been so long since I've had a teen ager in the house, I'd forgotten their do's and don'ts, for parents. Your daughter and her peers sound like inteligent, great kids. Now, to adhere to their wishes! Keep up the great columns Fredi
Harold Oseni June 02, 2013 at 05:41 AM
This is great it should be done by more teenagers, they are the experts, when it comes to their expectations
Harold Oseni June 02, 2013 at 05:44 AM
We should allow more teenagers to air their views, they are thexperts when it comes to their needs


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