That’s right. You read that correctly. Teens can manage their parents. Here’s the truth – parents do have authority… AND teens are able to be an active participant in the parent-teen relationship. Now hear me out though: it is not up to the teen to take responsibility for their parent(s)’ emotions, actions, or behaviors. And parents, don’t take this article as permission to place more responsibilities on your teen.

Why is this matter important to address?

In many homes, relationships between parents and teens have become conflictual, volatile, or just flat out messy now that teens are home for more hours than ever before with e-learning and the perpetual cancellation of events, activities, and social gatherings.

Maybe every little issue turns into a full-blown argument, or maybe teens think parents are being more strict with all these COVID guidelines to follow. Well teens, there are things within your power you can do to help in this area.


Here are 3 ways teens can manage their parents:


1.  Establish clear boundaries.


Boundaries are okay! And, boundaries are not just set and communicated by authority figures only. Every individual has the right to establish boundaries with others.

As children age, they begin to better understand their individuality and the difference between them and others. Boundaries communicate where you end and where the other person starts. In a parent-teen relationship, this gets tricky. It is sometimes hard for parents to acknowledge, agree with, or respect teens’ boundaries.

And that is understandable. Boundaries need to be communicated, and in the context of the parent-teen relationship, negotiated. Here is an example of a healthy boundary:

A teen is trying to get their homework done and the mother enters the room without knocking and tells them to get downstairs and help with dishes. The teen and parent can set boundaries around the parent entering the room without knocking, how the teen can protect their homework time, and how the parent can trust that the teen will get the chore done.


2.  Learn their love language.


People naturally give and receive love in certain ways. Often, people feel resentment or anger because they don’t feel loved or appreciated by significant others and family members. Do those words sound familiar? Have you heard your parents’ complaining that no one appreciates them? Be ahead in the game and proactively learn how your parents feel loved. That way, you can be sure that you are communicating your love in a way that makes sense to them. 

Here are the 5 love languages, as articulated by Dr. Gary Chapman:

  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Physical Touch

Do they appreciate handmade gifts from school? Help with dishes? Walks around the block with the family? A letter of encouragement? Lots of hugs and pats on the back?

Before you try to identify their love language, take the quiz for yourself: 5 Love Languages Quiz for Teens.


3.  Recognize their emotions.


‘Recognize’ is not the same as ‘take responsibility for.’ Can you think of how that is different? Imagine a parent is raising their voice at their teen because for the 60th time, they are telling the teen to get off their phone and help set the table. Sounds like a typical Tuesday night occurrence, right? The teen might respond out of annoyance or even begin to raise their voice back.

Instead of responding, take a moment to try to identify any of these 6 basic human emotions:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Surprise
  • Fear

By doing this, you might be able to better understand where your parent is coming from and respond differently to stop the argument before it even begins.

Parents, if you are reading this, what do you think? Does this fit your family? Can you imagine what might happen if your teen adopted these principles?

Teens, does this sound totally outrageous? Or could you see how this might benefit your family?


Family relationships, especially between teens and parents do not have to be so difficult and conflictual. I can help you navigate your relationship, especially during this turbulent time. So if any of this hits home for you and you’d like to explore how I can help, schedule an appointment with me today.

Jamie Mahoney

Jamie Mahoney

Adolescent Therapist

I believe change is possible for everyone. I help teenagers and young adults break through the barriers that keep them from developing meaningful relationships, knowing who they truly are, and confidently navigating their way to greater independence

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