We would all love to attain that holy grail of parenting teenagers: to be the ‘cool’ parent among our kid’s group of friends. Such status would feed our ego and give us an indication that we’re doing something right. If the teens are into me, I tell myself, I must not be totally screwing this up!

I want to tell you that popularity among local youth is not the shallow goal it might seem to be.

No matter what your teenager tells you or how hard s/he rolls their eyes at you, teens also wish their parents were fun, cool, and relaxed. Why? So that you won’t be so busy and you’ll be more available. So that you won’t be so stressed and you’ll be able to react calmly to their requests. So that adult living actually looks somewhat enjoyable and they don’t have to dread life after high school.

As the parent of a more-independent-every-day teenager, you might think it doesn’t matter if you spend a lot of time just chilling with your teen. You might say, “my job is to provide and guide, not to make her/him like me.” And I would agree. But the thing is, you can only be poised to lead your family and model responsibility if your children are noticing what you say and do. If you seem unapproachable, preoccupied, or if you simply aren’t physically around, your teenager will look elsewhere for attention and fulfillment.

Is that what you want?


I have said before that parenting consciously means making a commitment to do some intensive work, but we know it’s not the non-stop action of having a toddler. So what exactly is one DOING while parenting a teenager? You are being on-call. As much as you possibly can.

  • You are hanging around, but not neck-deep in your personal projects.
  • You are in the spaces your kid occupies, but not taking up too much space.
  • You are near-by and accessible, without being on top of them.
  • You act like you have better things to do, but in reality you have one ear open for them and you can drop what you’re doing to have a conversation when they approach.

The *work* is being seriously intentional about hanging around with attention.

It’s not as easy as it seems, because it can really feel like nothing productive is happening and you are wasting your time. But don’t believe it. These are just the messages of a society that doesn’t value the slow work of building relationships swirling in the background of your mind. Just like everything else with parenting, this is temporary. Remind yourself that the finish line (sort of…) is only a few quick years away. And guess what? You might win the parent popularity contest too!

Reminding yourself to be patient, reminding yourself to be present, and reminding yourself that your personal goals & desires are not as urgent as they seem is really tough sometimes. The work of parenting a teenager is the work you do on yourself.

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