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Blog: How to Respond When Your Teen Demands More Power

By Dr. Laura on September 11, 2023
Woman and teen girl armwrestle

I recently received an email that may sound familiar to many of you parents. The mom wrote this: 


My 16-year-old daughter can't wait until she's 18 so that she can do WHATEVER she wants. How do I help guide her? She keeps saying once she's an adult, then she can do anything. Eek! Thank you in advance.” 


This is a very common thing for kids to say. They equate adulthood with doing whatever they want and making their own decisions. How do you deal with this as a parent? It’s your job to teach them the responsibilities that come with gaining power. 


Make a List Together

The best way to teach this moral lesson is sitting down with your teen at the table. Have them write down the word ‘Power’ on the left side of a piece of paper. On the other side, write the word ‘Responsibilities.’ They must draw an arrow going from ‘Responsibilities’ to ‘Power.’ That's the only direction it goes in. Whoever has the responsibility has the power.


Now, have your teen jot down on the ‘Power’ list all the benefits they think of. They may write, “Come and go whenever, no curfew, have a boy or a girl sleep over in my bedroom, drink and smoke in the house.” I highly encourage you to have fun with them. This is your teen’s time to get creative with their ideas and beliefs around maturity. Make sure to complete this side first as it puts them in the mindset for what follows.


Once they’ve come up with everything, it’s time for you as the parent to follow this script:  


At 18 years-old, you can do all of this only if you take on the responsibilities which give you the power. If I'm paying the mortgage, for the car, gas, medical and taxes on the property, these responsibilities give me the power to make all decisions about my home and myself."  


Your teen should now complete the second half of the assignment by listing every adult task and obligation they can think of on the ‘Responsibilities’ list. Let them think of more examples themselves to really see how ready they are.


By following these steps in order, you show your kids the reality of their misguided ‘18 years-old' myth. What gives them the authority to do anything on their ‘Power’ list under your roof in two years’ time? Are they paying all those bills? This is your home, and you make the rules.  


Dr. Laura's Deep Dive - The Tumultuous Teen Years - Play Now


Reinforce the Rules Around Power and Responsibility

Those of you with teenagers who pull the ‘Wait till I’m an adult’ card, you tell them that's absolutely true! They can do anything they want, but the catch is that it has to be at their own place of living while paying all their own bills. Those responsibilities give them the control to do anything they want.  


Age has nothing to do with power. Whoever completes the responsibility has the power. That's how you earn it. 

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