The power of saying “YES” to your teenager

Age-appropriate freedoms should also be accompanied by age-appropriate responsibilities. The teenage maxim should be “fewer rules, greater responsibilities.”

Stop yourself! Push that internal-pause-button before you cut your teen dead with the emphatic, NO! Ask yourself why you’re saying no. Most of us were once teenagers, it’s just that our “forgettery” has grown with the years. NO, can be such a knee-jerk response – it begs a little examination.

There is music beyond Abba, there are shoes other than grasshoppers and white no name brand tennis shoes. A short back-and-sides is no longer the coolest haircut around. We need to pick our fights – We so easily interject at least two “no’s” per sentence; we must learn not to!

Examine your “no”

I’m not suggesting we cave in to our teens every request, far from it, just that we save our NO’s for issues that undermine our families/biblical values…. rather than issues of fashion or personal preference. Even when the answer is going to be an emphatic no, we need to hear them out first.

Most teens have a need to be heard, a need to know that their requests are being taken seriously. If we can do that instead of the mid-sentence slap down, chances are that we will be better heard when the NO is really needed! Chances are that you will be spared the carefully rehearsed 44 reasons why you should be saying yes.

There is a time when no is a full sentence however.

“I have heard you and considered your request. The fact that I have disagreed with you does not mean that I am not listening to you.”

We should not be bullied into agreement nor allow them to rehash their same reasoning over and over. Sadly, on our clear refusal, the response can become more and more desperate, loud and unpleasant. As tempting as it is, we should not respond in kind. A quiet voice in response to a loud angry one completely deflates. In other words, employing the opposite spirit

We are familiar with Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 6:4 “to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.’ We are slower, however, to quote the first part of that same verse, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.”  And exasperate we do, when we throw down the “no” too quickly, with too little thought.  

Age-appropriate freedoms

In a similar vein, we need to allow age-appropriate freedoms often.

Every child is on a headlong rush from nappy to front-door key/credit card/car key. Their single-minded devotion to this cause is most impressive and leaves us as parents and educators with a problem. You see, our every instinct is to protect and nurture and relinquish control slowly, very slowly; while theirs is to move in the opposite direction with their foot firmly on the accelerator. And we wonder why we so often clash?

Give them chunks of what they are wanting! We have to give age-appropriate freedoms. Encourage the direction in which they’re moving, don’t fight what is quite normal, this desire to become independent.

But it comes with a very clear understanding…

Manage your new freedom well and you will be entrusted with more; abuse your new found freedom and you slip down the ladder.

Your 10.30pm curfew reverts to 9.30pm, your allowance/cell phone allowance is reduced, your freedom to channel flick is curtailed…until you again show yourself trustworthy.

Fewer rules, greater responsibilities

Age-appropriate freedoms should also be accompanied by age-appropriate responsibilities. The teenage maxim should be “fewer rules, greater responsibilities.” If we get the balance wrong we will sit with either an ungrateful or a resentful teen.   

Teens repeat behaviour that gives results they enjoy. We need to take the risk and walk the tightrope (from which we will periodically plummet) of allowing ever greater, age-appropriate freedoms. Come to think of it, it would be far easier not to allow these freedoms at all…or would it?  

Take your teen to Matthew 25, the Parable of the Talents, and show him/her v 21, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” They won’t enjoy the servant bit, but should understand the principle involved.

Genesis 2:24 tells us that our teens will leave us, we must prepare them for this time and not shield them from it.

Share this article
Author: Gavin Fish
Blessed with a long-suffering wife, two adult children, a daughter-in-law, a bicycle (wannabee road cyclist) and uncountable bonsai, Gavin was in education for 34 years, the last 12 of which as Principal of Fish Hoek High School. He is steeped in the traditions of Scripture Union and a lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ and now works in his community as a Life Coach with a heart for teens, young adults and their parents.
Published: 17 September 2022
to our magazine updates

Contact Information

Contact us click here
+27 (0)21 686 8595

SU National Office 83 Camp Ground Road Rondebosch Cape Town

Our working hours Monday - Friday: 8:30am - 5:00pm