Working with teens can be a real challenge. This post is for teens, to let them know how to improve their relationship with their parents.

Paul: You know, Vic, when I'm working with families about this, the place that I always want to start is with an understanding of parent psychology.

Vicki: Parent psychology for the youth?

Paul” Yeah. Wouldn't it be helpful? If you are a young person, think about it. Wouldn't it be helpful to know how your parents are thinking? What is going on in their mind?

Vicki: Is that possible? I'm curious, what is parent psychology?

Paul: Okay. So, this is interesting because we've done a lot of videos on our You Tube Channel, Live On Purpose TV, for parents about the three stages of moral development. This is parent psychology. Parents think in a very predictable way and judge where their kids are depending on their stage of moral development. Vicki, give us a quick overview of what stage one is all about. Vicki: So, stage one is, “I want to get everything for me. I'm selfish. I'm motivated by my consequences, by what I can get out of things.”

Paul: A very externalized locus of control. The only reason I do anything right is because there is something in it for me or I'm going to get clobbered if I don't. Okay, that's stage one. Stage 2, that's more cooperative. I don't want any trouble. I want to keep the peace and I'm going to go along and comply with reasonable requests.

Vicki: But they might not be very happy about it and let you know. They may have some attitude.

Paul: Right. Cooperation not always the right attitude. And then stage 3.

Vicki: That is where you actually take initiative to do things. You see what needs to be done. You see the proper behavior or whatever is expected in the situation and you just do it out of initiation. These stages are important because your stage of maturity determines your level of control that you get to have.

Paul: That control word is such a buzzword for to our teens. I had a 15-year-old young man on my couch and his mom was on the other end of the couch. I was asking both of them, “Okay, what's going on?” Mom had this laundry list of things that she wanted to address with her son. I asked the son, the 15 year old, “What's going on?” He gets this indignant look on his face and he points over at mom and he says, “SHE is trying to control my life!” I go after mom. I'm like, “What's the deal? You're trying to control his life?” And her response? “Not at all. No, Heavens, no. I want him to control his life. I don't want to control his life. I got other things to do.” But here's the parent psychology part: How mature you are matters in how much control you have. But how mature your parents think you are will determine how much control they try to take in your life. So, if they think that you are being immature, they are going to get all control freaky on you.

Vicki: Yeah, because in a parent's view, you can really see where control has to be in place. So, if you don't perceive this child as being able to take that control in a responsible way then you are going to take it.

Paul: Look at it from a parent's perspective for a minute. Either you control yourself or I have to step in and control you or if I can't do that, the state is going to come in.

Vicki: So, a big thing for helping a teenager understand parent psychology is recognizing that they don't really want all the control. They want you to have control by showing maturity.

Paul: Parents want maturity. Kids want control. And that's why it's important to understand that parent psychology. Now, let's get into some things that you can do to improve the relationship. If you are a parent listening to this presentation today, you might want to share this with your teenager because these are some really powerful ways to improve that relationship and come up with a little better balance.

Vicki: One of the first things a teenager could do to improve their relationship with their parent and to show maturity is just to be nice. Be kind. Use nice language. No profanity. I remember one time you had a youth saying, “There's nothing wrong with the way that I'm speaking. It's fine to speak this way, you know?” But I think you asked him, “If you had a job interview and you knew they were going to pay you $500,000 dollars a year if you could just land this job. When you go to the job interview, what's the language you're going to use?”

Paul: Would you use the same language you are throwing out at your mom?

Vicki: Yeah. And so, obviously, because as a youth, you know what language is acceptable and isn't acceptable for adults. Make it your choice. Be kind. Use the best language. Don't use profanity. Say nice things. Maybe even compliment occasionally.

Paul: So simple but this has such power as you interact with people in general especially your parents or the people who have authority over you. Be nice. Be respectful. Be kind. Be cooperative. So simple and yet it's not very often implemented. Or at least when it's not, there's conflict.

Vicki: Right.

Paul: Vicki, I'll take the next one, because I get this all the time. “How do I get my kids to clean up their messes?” That's a hint of something that we could do to improve the relationship. If you are a teenager, clean up.

Vicki: You would not believe how much credibility and credit it gets you to just clean up without being asked.

Paul: This is coming from a mom. It carries more weight than it's worth, honestly. And so, clean up. Clean up your face and your body. Clean up your room and your area. Clean up your language and your appearance. Anything you can do to clean up is going to put you in a more powerful position in your relationships in general, and especially with your parents.

Vicki: This next tip is one that I am really quite passionate about. And that's just expressing gratitude. It goes so far to just say thank you to someone. Or “I like the way you do this.” Or “It's great that you provide this for me.” Or “I'm so lucky or blessed that you always make dinner, mom.”

Paul: I think each of our kids have used this, and it has gotten each of them some significant leverage with us as parents. It really does pack some weight when a child comes into our bedroom at night and says, “Hey, just before I go to bed, I just wanted to let you guys know that I really appreciate you taking us to that park today. That was so cool. Thank you so much.”

Vicki: Yeah.

Paul: Or getting up from the table, “Thank you for this dinner, mom. That was really good.”

Vicki: It doesn't take much, just a little bit of gratitude goes a long way.

Paul: I know how much effort it takes. I've measured it. Guess how much benefit you get? It just opens up all kinds of things.

Vicki: Yeah. Huge.

Paul: Here's the next tip: Pitch in. That's an old phrase. Do people still use that? It came from a campaign to stop littering, at least this is when I remember it. Remember the old pitching commercials. They showed people throwing trash into a garbage container instead of littering it on the streets, right? Pitch in. It also means step up and do something to contribute. One of the families that I'm working with right now calls it family contributions. They don't call them chores. They are family contributions. This is what I'm doing to contribute to the family. It carries a lot of weight. Why? Remember parent psychology? Parents will take the amount of control that they think they need to take based on how mature they think you are. If you are pitching in…

Vicki: That's showing initiative, first of all. And that's Stage 3 behavior. Parents immediately, begin thinking, “Aha, this kid is ready for more control.” They think that you are being more mature.

Paul: And it doesn't have to be a lot even, just like gather all the dishes. You are going to walk away from the dinner table anyway. Take some of the dishes to the kitchen at same time. This is how parents think, and it will improve your relationship to pitch in. Sometimes the relationship between parents and teens gets a little strained because the teen wants something and they get the answer, “No, you can't have that.” Parents will have another conversation about how you can get to yes. That's a powerful parenting strategy. But right now, let's talk about the power of accepting “No”. Accepting no.

Vicki: Graciously. See, sometimes when your parents say no, you're like, “Ugh!” You throw a little tantrum.

Paul: When you do that, you are telling them why no is the right answer.

Vicki: You may tell them how they are wrong and they are abusive and they are depriving you of your human rights.

Paul: Ruining your life.

Vicki: Ruining your life, right? That's not going to fly with any parent I know.

Paul: Remember, our goal is to show your parents that you're more mature, so that you can get more control. So, that does not show maturity.

Vicki: It takes a lot of maturity to accept, “No” graciously.

Paul: I want to give you one little tip, though. If you can start to rephrase a request to, “What would it take for me to be able to go out with my friends on Saturday?” Instead of, “Can I go?”  shows you are willing to do something.

Vicki: Do you remember our third son, Brennan, used this all the time? I don't mean use it in a manipulative sort of way. He just figured out, “Oh, this works.” He would approach us and say, “Dad, what would it take for me to be able to do this or that?” Now, as a parent, I'm looking at that and I'm thinking, “That's not a yes or no answer.”

Paul: No. And it actually psychologically, it puts you into problem-solving right away. Versus yes or no. It's a great tool to use. Then it gives you something very specific that you can do and gives them a way to measure whether you are cooperating, initiating, and ready.

Back to the no for just a minute. For you to accept no, when no is the answer, accept it graciously, this is magic. It works something in your parent’s head that tells them you are more mature. Or at least they will think you are more mature. Accept the no by saying something like, “Thank you. I understand and I accept that.” Now, that sounds weird but even if you were to think that and have your response mirror that somehow, that's going to go a long way. In fact, it's hard.

Are you ready as a parent to take this to the next level? Because we're ready to team up with you. And we've got some great programs available. The first step would be get on a call with one of our coaches. Schedule your call today at Let's get you on a call and figure out what's the best fit for you and for your family as you move forward.