Learning To Give Up Parental Control

Learning to Give Up Parental Control

A fellow parenting blogger asked me recently what the biggest challenge of parenting teenagers is compared to the younger years.  My answer was quite simply, learning to give up control.

I say learning because it does not come naturally as a mother to let go, it takes not only willpower but careful management.  My “helpful suggestions” seen in the early primary years by my kids as genuine pearls of wisdom are viewed in the secondary and university years as attempts to “micro-manage” and as any parent navigating the same path will know, this is quite simply a cardinal sin as your offspring attempt to strike-out on their own.

Over the years I have tried to stand back and be mindful and respectful of their journey towards adulthood, but that doesn’t mean to say it has been easy.

The threats to our teenagers are very real and scary in this 21st century world they are growing up in and so very different to those of our own halcyon days, but how can they learn to manage life’s challenges and navigate their own path if we are holding them back for fear of what they might see, do or experience?

To really properly learn how to deal with a scenario you must first of all be exposed to it and I don’t mean deliberately seeking out danger, but over-protection of our teens and keeping them away from the ugly bits of life isn’t the answer, even if for some it might seem so at the time.

There does, however, need to be a balance between over-managing and allowing too much freedom too soon. One way of achieving that according to the parenting experts is to guide them without dictating and instead of rules have agreements that your teenagers feel have been reached collaboratively.

Setting boundaries is familiar parenting language, but it is a phrase which takes on subtle nuances of its own in the older years.  Inevitably those boundaries will sometimes be pushed, tested and maybe even broken – that is life, that is growing up, that is exploring – after all isn’t life a voyage of discovery and those teenage years have discovery stamped all over them.

My blog was born from that standpoint.  As I became the mother to two teenagers I was simultaneously approaching my midlife years with its own set of personal hurdles to overcome. Discovery about the next stage was what simultaneously scared and excited me.  I wanted to share it and learn from those at the same point. My journey continues and so does that of my teens.

I don’t want my teens to look back and hate me for their teenage years.  I want them to say like I do about mine “what fun I had.” I want them to seize opportunities.  I want them to make up their own minds’ about the world, to have their own opinions.  They might be informed by me but I don’t want them to be me or anyone else.  I want them to quite simply be themselves and for them to do that I must relinquish control.

I remember when my eldest went off and had his ear pierced being quizzed about my reaction by other mums who were convinced that this seemingly rebellious act would be a step too far for me! Hilarious on many levels. It’s what teenagers do nowadays and is such an insignificant and superficial act in the grand scheme of things.  Also who were they to ask that question?  They knew nothing of me, our real life as a family, what made us tick, laugh, cry and unite.

Judging others I have found is a big part of parenting by some people, born undoubtedly from insecurity. Those that speculate about the parenting habits and decisions of others invariably have little faith in their own.

Ultimately we are all different.  On occasion I might raise an eyebrow on hearing a story and say “Where are the parents?” but I try not to judge others by their parenting protocol, maybe just question their ignorance.

There is no rule book, no universal instructions of parenting that we all need to abide by.

I live my life on my own terms.  I have zero point zero interest in what anyone else thinks about that and I apply the same rule to my parenting choices and those of my teenagers. Let me be.  Let them be.  Most importantly, let them learn, develop and flourish.

In my opinion, the key to giving up parental control is to step back but not away, to show an interest and to be involved without controlling.  Although undeniably tough at times, it is a strategy that has worked for me.  I am happy in the knowledge that an environment of open communication, discussion and compromise with my teens ensures they turn to me when they need to and are  respectful if not always in agreement with my choices, more so than if I tried to control their every move through a paranoia of potential consequences or their desire to do things differently.

Learning To Give Up Parental Control




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  1. April 11, 2019 / 6:51 am

    Thank you for this post. We are just heading into the tween and teen stage and I suddenly feel all at sea. Like you, I also find myself going through rather unwelcome physical and mental changes as I enter my 50s and the two things together seems particularly challenging. I hope we can navigate the way smoothly and let go gracefully, but we none of us know until we get there how we will react, do we? I think I may need to keep returning to the mantra I had when my kids were toddlers – that everything is a just a phase – and to keep talking to friends in a similar position (and reading blogs like yours) to remind myself that I am not alone!

    • Jo
      May 9, 2019 / 4:02 pm

      Hi Sarah thank you for reading the post and am glad you found it useful. We must keep in touch. There is a lovely community of bloggers/parents going through this stage and sharing our experiences is a great help in navigating the inevitable ups and downs. I think you are right the “it’s just a phase” mantra is a good one along with “it will be over soon!”

  2. March 27, 2019 / 8:47 pm

    We’re not there yet but one day we will have three teenagers all at the same time – yikes! #ablogginggoodtime

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:11 pm

      Good luck with that! There will be good and bad bits as with every stage of parenting but surmounting those challenges is par for the course. x

  3. March 23, 2019 / 9:30 am

    My son is only 8 so I have some time before I need to worry about this but I like to think I’ll take my mum’s approach to it. (Or a modified version at least!)
    She never dictated what I could or could not do. She never told me who I could be friends with. She never told me I couldn’t go to the places I wanted to go (cinema in the city, sleepover at friends, parties etc) she only had a few rules that I had to follow and as long as I did, we were good. She believed I needed to learn for myself and make my own decisions and mistakes. One of her rules was honesty. As long as I told her where I was going and when I’d be back, who I’d be with – and told the truth! – she was fine. If plans changed while I was out, I dropped her a text or quick call and it was fine.
    I was a pretty responsible and level-headed teen but I wasn’t an angel by any means. The approach my mum took meant that when I saw friends bending the truth or out-right lying to their parents about the who/what/wheres I was mystified. I’m sure mum didn’t like a lot of things but she trusted me and I respected (and trusted) her so it worked. I knew she was there if I needed her and wouldn’t judge or punish if I messed up, just help and guide.

    Learning to let go would be hard. There’s no right or wrong way to parent. Your approach seems pretty awesome to me. 🙂

    • Jo
      March 27, 2019 / 1:47 pm

      Mia thank you for taking the time to comment in such detail. I love your mum’s approach. Honesty is a big think in our household too (something I definitely inherited from my own mother who is a big stickler for it). With honesty comes peace of mind for me and less hassle for them. Equally like your mother I think it is important that children are not wrapped up in cotton wool but given the chance to discover the good and bad bits of life – it is only then by doing it themselves that they will develop that ability to stand on their own two feet (another favourite expression of my mother’s!) It’s funny isn’t it how our own upbringing has such an impact upon our own parenting techniques?! Xx

  4. March 22, 2019 / 7:10 pm

    Hey Jo, I really love this post. You have such a great attitude and approach to parenting, and keep the goal of having them look back on it all and say, you know, that was fun! That is what I hope too. Thank you for a great read. #ablogginggoodtime xoxo

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:12 pm

      Oh thank you Lisa, your comments are always so refreshing and supportive and I appreciate that. This is what this blogging community is good at for sure. x

  5. March 21, 2019 / 12:33 pm

    Wonderful advice and great stories about your teens. All of my children are adults now and I am still learning how to let go. It’s a life-long process!
    Laurie recently posted…Lord, Give Me Patience, Now!My Profile

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:13 pm

      Laurie you have hit the nail on the head – it is absolutely all about learning how to let go and that journey certainly never stops. x

  6. March 21, 2019 / 11:19 am

    Ironically I am sitting here having just read this thinking how did this post arrive just at the right moment for me? It has been an emotional evening, I am already emotionally vulnerable because my brother is having surgery tomorrow and then I find out my almost 15 year old has betrayed our trust in such an unexpected way. I was truly blind sighted and feel hurt by her actions and for the first time I think I actually feel like a mother of a teenager! It is like my little motherhood bubble has burst and now it feels all to real. I know she feels disappointed in herself as she does have a good moral compass, and I know I should expect this kind of thing, but I feel deeply hurt. We try to parent with a happy medium, not too strict, but not lenient either, and so I feel surprised that she lied to us and went behind our backs. Why does it surprise me though? I was her age once and I know I acted just like this. It is just the start I am sure of many little moments of heart break. I do have to start letting go, just a little, but gosh it is hard! There is no rule book, I like what you say, step back, not away! Thanks for helping me tonight and letting me get stuff off my chest! Oh and of course thanks for linking up #ABloggingGoodTime

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:17 pm

      Mac I think that is the hardest part of this parenting stage that we expect them to carry on behaving as they always have but they just don’t. There are all those outside influences to deal with and along with that an inner urge to assert themselves and sometimes in the wrong way. They forget the family boundaries all of sudden – the four walls syndrome as we call it. As they move away from us they move closer to their friends – obviously – and along the way forget their familial allegiances and it is always at the worst time for us. I hope that your brother’s surgery went well. So lovely to be back in touch. x

  7. March 20, 2019 / 9:53 pm

    Really interesting post, Jo, and soo well expressed. It really is down to us individually how we manage all this … letting go can be so hard, but ultimately it’s what we are supposed to do, isn’t it? As we say so often, my wife and I, it’s a work in progress!

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:19 pm

      Absolutely Enda and letting go is tough as well as knowing how far too! There is no route map at least only a mountainous one with unexpected twists and turns.

  8. March 20, 2019 / 8:51 pm

    I reckon you wrote this post just for me. I am reading it (in the bathroom , obviously, where else does the mother of two teenagers go to hide on her phone?)
    I am a complete control freak. If I had my way I’d still tell my 17 year old to smile properly for photos instead of trying to look like tweetypie.
    But. As you say, you’ve got to let go otherwise the house resembles a world war 3 zone and your daughter slams the doors so hard I think there’s been another bloody earthquake in New Zealand.
    I love the way you parent; you are my hero. It is so good to know that there are millions of women, just like me, going through the same internal torment. And who’s skin has been scratched off the inside of their palms for want of trying to remain shchtum.
    Don’t ever stop writing!

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:26 pm

      Oh Liz you always pop up when I least expect you to and when it is most needed. Thank you for unswerving support – you are a legend. There is no right or wrong way at this stage but I do hope that my/our teens will remember our guidance with fondness one day and realise it was all for the right reasons. Our bumps are continuing and our journey is a taking a different route which makes me nervous but it feels right at the moment although hard! Big virtual hugs my friend. x

  9. March 20, 2019 / 8:23 pm

    This is a really thought provoking post. I think this is also the hardest thing about parenting for me because eventually we will all have to sit back and watch our children make a decision that we would not. It’s like sitting on the sidelines, awaiting a disaster but not saying anything. It goes against everything in our nature! But it’s so important and I’m still learning. Great post and very well written 🙂

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:27 pm

      Suzanne I know that you have experienced some really tough times over the years and you are still smiling. That is encouragement for sure. We are going through a bumpy course of our own right now and I thought of you but I am hoping we can manage it as well as you did yours. x

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