to parent a teen parent yourself

May 17th, 2016

These days kids are 2 going on 12. Mine is 18. What I keep in mind with my teenager is this one thing, the sum total of my old teacher’s advice on raising kids.

Become one with your child.

That may not mean what you think it means. It does not mean to fabricate phony friendship or rah-rah enthusiasm. Nor does it mean to harbor ambition, fear, hope, or dread. It means to become as your child is right now, meet them where and as they are, dissolving the distance from which you judge them. When judgmental distance disappears, you may see that the teenage years are very reminiscent of a far, far, earlier stage in parenting, when you tiptoed about, wanting nothing more from your child than that they sleep and eat, whereby they mysteriously and marvelously continue to grow.

When I become one with my daughter as she is, I find that the secret to parenting a teenager is to parent yourself. Here are seven ways to do that:

1. Be quiet! — Teenagers become as quiet as the quiet you once wished for. They seem to disappear inside themselves, but they are not lost. Accept their silence within your own nonjudgmental quiet. The silence you keep between you is undefiled love. Trust, faith and respect grow in the silence. That way, when your teen speaks, it will be something they really want to share.

2. Do not disturb — You’re worried about whether your teen has enough good sense. But what do you give them 24 hours a day? Doubt and distrust? A nag, prod, poke, or push? An ominous warning? Anxious oversight? All of the above?  Imagine that your teen is now wearing the sign you once hung from the doorknob to the nursery. Baby sleeping. Don’t let your neurotic fears continually rattle the calm between you.

3. Feed yourself —Children learn to feed themselves. Now it’s your turn. As teenagers wrest themselves from their emotional dependence, parents can feel starved for love. Nourish your own neglected passions, purpose and interests. Fulfill yourself by yourself, and you’ll free your children from your emotional appetites. Now all your relationships can mature.

4. Draw no conclusions. — We are deeply attached to the illusory signs of  “successful” parenting. As in all of life, the next setback inevitably interrupts our self-congratulation. The only conclusion is that there is no conclusion. Stay on the ride. See where it goes. It keeps going forever.

5. Grow up. This is what I remember from being a teenager. As I reached the age where I could see my parents’ foibles and follies, I wished for one thing only: that they grow up. Like my daughter, I am trying my best to grow up.

6. Knock softly. For a few more years at least, your children are still guests in your home. As with any guest, be a good host. Give privacy; respect boundaries; ask permission.

7. Wait for the door to open. It will. Because there was never a door to begin with. You are not strangers. You are not enemies. Two blooms on a single branch: you and your teenager are one.

This may be a good time to read:

8 Reminders for Mindful Parents
8 Ways to Raise a Mindful Child
10 Tips for a Mindful Home
15 Ways to Practice Compassion on the Way Home for Dinner
7 Tips to De-Stress Your Home
Rules for a Mindful Garden
10 Tips for Mindful Writing
5 Tips for Meaning in Cleaning
10 Tips for Mindful Work


Get Maezen’s writing delivered to your inbox.



  1. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for this concise guide to parenting teenagers. I’ve bookmarked it for when my daughter turns that age. Judging by my colleagues’ remarks about parenting teenagers, I’ll be needing it 😉

    Comment by Daniel Hake — December 3, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  2. Ten is the new thirteen. Thank you for this list.

    Comment by Jena — December 4, 2012 @ 2:44 am

  3. Karen, thank you as always. I remember some years ago the great relief, or was it a slap on the cheek, when I was reading the book ‘Queen Bees and Wannabees’ -not because it gave me information about my daughter’s social life but because it enabled me to see that..!I was not the centre of her universe as I thought!…her bad moods were rarely to do with me, her silences were because she had a complex problem of her own social relations to solve – liberating and sobering, and very helpful for realising that the best thing I could do was -grow up myself, do what I say not what I do, and, as you say, be there and available for the moments when she (and now as they grow up, her two sisters)want to ask me something, as me.

    Comment by Alison — December 4, 2012 @ 4:07 am

  4. Thanks for sharing. Seems like good advice for all of us – parents of any age or indeed not just parents.

    Comment by Paul Brennan — December 4, 2012 @ 4:13 am

  5. I read this aloud to Kate and she said I could say she liked it. Then she asked me to get her some coffee as she finished her homework.

    Comment by Chris — December 4, 2012 @ 6:33 am

  6. Georgia retweeted it. 🙂

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 4, 2012 @ 7:51 am

  7. I think, or perhaps it goes without saying, “be present” is so very critical at this stage. I have found that my presence is wanted, not my involvement, not my medding, not my questioning, not my fixing, simply my quiet presence. Really challenging for me, but I am grateful that it is this simple: Be present.

    Comment by MJ — December 4, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  8. Oh, I just love this. The best advice I have heard. Mosty I just hear, oh you are in for it now!! My oldest is still a “tween” but I can already see her changing and I so want to give her the space she needs yet let her know I am there for her as always. Thanks for these simple ideas.

    Comment by — December 12, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

  9. This was lovely and well said. Thank you.

    Comment by amy — December 15, 2012 @ 12:46 am

  10. This is beautiful. Thank you for the reminder. My soon-to-be thirteen-year-old son is going to appreciate me remembering these tips too, especially the one about honoring the silence between us.

    Comment by Debi — September 6, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

  11. this is all so good I wish I could go back to when my two were teens and “be quiet” “don’t disturb” “feed yourself” “draw no conclusions”–

    but I know to stay in the present moment and use this wonderful teaching for all the disruptions I encounter in myself and outside

    Comment by daniel — September 6, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month