7 Ways to Parent Teens Successfully

It is a different ball game in today’s world to parent teens successfully. This generation of teens face a lot of different stressors and pressures than previous generations.

With technology and social media, teens are connected to a much larger world. They are privy to a lot more stimulus and information, including exposure to worldwide issues, and at a much  earlier age! I’m pretty sure I was wearing classically “uncool” sweatpants (don’t get me wrong, sweatpants can be cool nowadays) and running around playing make-believe until I was at least 11 or 12. There is a lot of pressure for teens on how they show up in the world – as a social advocate, through body/self image expectations, popularity contests (think likes on social media) etc.

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That translates to it being  a really challenging time for you as a parent to navigate these dicey waters.

It’s important to acknowledge the challenges when it comes to parenting teens successfully, with our fellow parents and non-parents, to create supportive communities, and talk about the shifts that have happened in parenting throughout the generations. Of course every family/situation is different, but there has been an overall shift to a more authoritative (aka sometimes called balanced) parenting style. This kind of parenting is one with a lot more discussion around things, instead of authoritarian (it’s “my way or the highway”) or passive/permissive (the kids are the boss or do their own thing). You can read a brief definition of some of the parenting styles here.

Many more parents today are wanting to be quite engaged and involved in their parenting, and that’s a wonderful thing! There is an emphasis on making the relationship with your teen a top priority… and if that speaks to you, it may mean pivoting , and learning new skills and approaches. 

Here are  7 ways you can parent successfully while putting the relationship first: 


Parent Teens Successfully: Listen and Seek to Understand

I hear from teens on a daily basis: “my parents don’t get it. They don’t understand me, and they never will.” etc. While part of this is normal – all teens at some point feel their parents don’t understand them – it is also really indicative that parents need to reconsider their way of  listening. 

You probably have a lot of advice and wisdom to impart to your teen; experiences to share, and values you want to instill in them. These things are all important! However, the real impact is when you can step back and be a listener more than a talker. When you  listen most of the time,  and add in wisdom just a little bit of the time, the impact is far greater.


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Parent Teens Successfully: Get to Know Your Teen as A Person

Get really curious about who your teen is! Ask them what they like or enjoy. Ask their opinion on things (I have yet to meet a teen who doesn’t want to share their opinion). What kind of passions do they have? Which hobbies interest them? What doesn’t interest them? Which are the things they dream of doing one day?

You want to create opportunities for quality time to truly get to know your teen as a person. 

Buuuut, you’ll need to be careful not to leave them feeling badgered. I know I get caught in the ‘one too many questions’ with my teen… I think the conversation is going great, and then I ask one more question and I get an eye roll, an “I don’t know”, or a “nothing”, said with attitude. That tells me I asked too many questions! Oh well, I can always try again next time.

You can also get curious by getting to know the books and movies your teen is into. Take an interest and read/watch them yourself; ask them things that will get their perspective, it’s a wonderful peak at who they are.

There are 100 questions you can ask your teen in this article – just remember not to ask them all at once!


Parent Teens Successfully: Have a Go – To Venting Place

It is not easy to be a parent and the pay sucks! It is trying on your emotions, and even your own thoughts. A normal part of parenting is to sometimes think things like “I don’t know what to do… they are driving me $%@* crazy…..I don’t know what to say any more.”

It’s Important to have somewhere to go, or someone to talk to; a venting person. This allows you to have a safe space where you can say the things that could be harmful if you said them directly to your teen… I’m not suggesting that you put on a fake facade to your teens and then smack talk them to your friend… But things like “they are driving me crazy! They’re so lazy and won’t clean up after themselves!” are good things to vent to a friend or another parent that will ‘get it’, instead of saying it to your teen.

9 Reasons Every Mom Needs a Venting Buddy is a really great resource that dives into the amazing things venting does for you as a parent; it’s more than getting some complaints off your chest!


Parent Teens Successfully: 70/30 Rule

This is about giving yourself some compassion to not get things ‘right’ all the time; 100% spot on. Set an expectation, or a goal, for yourself as a parent to try and get things ‘right’ 70% of the time, instead of all the time

You’re  going to mess up at some point, say the wrong thing….lose your temper. You might even say something really mean. It’s all okay, as long as you’re leading with love, curiosity, and kindness a lot of the time. Leading in this way 70% (80% would be superstar status!) of the time gives you some leeway when you do mess up. It allows you to go back and apologize, to let your teen know you didn’t handle it the way you wanted to, and move on from there- remember the emotional bank account blog? (Going back and apologizing can be really powerful)!

Don’t shame or blame yourself every time you make a mistake. Instead, think about what you can do next time, how you can clean it up, etc.

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Parent Teens Successfully: Modelling

You can be a powerful influencer for your teen by modelling the behaviours and values you want to see. Things like respectful communication, talking openly about thoughts and feelings, self-care, choosing healthy relationships, etc.

You can model respectful communication by talking to your teen in a calm, respectful, caring tone… This doesn’t mean you’ll receive the calmness back all of the time (or even most of the time) from your teen, but it will allow them to see that it’s a possibility; that it can be done that way. You can show your teen how to have a healthy body image, by practicing things that demonstrate you’re caring for your mental health and that you love your body. For more tips on modelling, this is a really great article: Parents: Role Models and Positive Influences for Parents.

(Check out our upcoming Body Image Workshop for Teens if your teen is needing more help in that area specifically. Information for parents is also included).


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Parent Teens Successfully: Positive Discipline

Positive discipline is using consequences, expectations and rules as a way of teaching rather than punishing. On an unconscious level, punishments or consequences can have the intention of ‘hurting’ your teen in a way; showing them what it feels like, or ‘getting them back’.

Imagine your teen breaks curfew – instead of punishing, ask yourself “what can I teach here? What lesson would I want them to learn?” Discipline can be an opportunity to teach the importance of safety and communication. Going forward, you can set an earlier curfew, no outings for a period of time, or require more check-ins the next time they go out.

For key points around positive discipline, check out this PDF.

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Parent Teens Successfully: Let Love Lead

Put the relationship first. No matter what happens. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important.

You want your teen to know they are important to you, that their safety matters, and that they have your support if things go wrong. For example, If your teen is experimenting with alcohol (even though you rrrreally didn’t want them to), you want them to know they can call you if things go awry. Or when it comes to apologizing – letting your teen know you’ve made a mistake, and building that trust with them, is more important than the need to be right all the time.

When you’re communicating with your teen, ask yourself “when I say (or do) this, am I saying/giving them the message that they matter? Am I telling them that this relationship is important to me?” Take an inventory of what sending that message looks like.

This comes up for me a lot when I think of situations with my own teen when I want to nitpick – like  when he comes home  on time, but full of sassy attitude. It would be so easy to nitpick about the attitude! But when I  stop and think – is it more important for me to stop the sass, or can I put the relationship first? Instead of nit picking, I can start a conversation – “How was your night? You seem a little off – is there something you want to talk about?”…..or ignore the sass and notice the timely entrance. 

Implementing these 7 ways to parent your teen successfully is a work in progress. Don’t forget the compassion part, and remember to find joy in the journey!


The Happiness Pill Program

I have created a program called The Happiness Pill Program that is designed to bridge the gap between you and your teen, so you can really begin to put your relationship first. The program focuses on a one on one approach where you as a parent will learn to communicate and collaborate with your teen from a better common ground. 

After we have begun that work, your teen and I will create a road map of their wishes, goals, and dreams, and the steps to get there. I will be giving them the tools throughout the 6-month program (through group coaching) to navigate bumps on the road, decrease anxiety, increase confidence, build better relationships, love themselves, and ultimately create their own happiness.

All while checking in with you so you can continue to build a strong bond with your teen on their journey to end overwhelm and depression.

You can go to my website below for more details here, or email us at info@pyramidpsychology.com to get on the waiting list.

Happiness Pill

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

The Miracle of Teen Feelings

This could apply to all humans really, but my passion and purpose are all about helping teen girls build bulletproof mindsets and believe in themselves, so I’m writing for you today.

Feelings (emotions) can fill your heart with love and joy, steady your body with calm relaxation, or claw at your chest with heart rippling anxiety. Feelings can be raw, intense, and totally hijack your body and brain.


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Even though they can be pretty powerful at times, your feelings are also a practical and important barometer (measurement tool) for how you are doing in any given moment. They give so much information and if you can be curious enough to learn about them, they can be a guide to your inner world and what you are needing.

Here are 5 things you must know about feelings:

Photo by Ilya Shishikhin


Feelings are the body’s response to your thoughts. Feelings can seem like they are happening in response to something outside of you like a breakup, a test, a fight with a friend, etc. The truth is that it is not the situation or event that causes the feeling. It is actually the mental filter which it is interpreted through. So the mental filter (your thoughts about the thing) which you see a situation through leads to the feelings you experience.

You may not feel a lot of emotion if I tell you that Sarah is no longer best friends with Jude, but if it is you that is no longer friends with your best friend, you will probably have a lot of feelings about this. The meaning we give to situations and events cause our feelings. Why is this important to know this? Well it means anytime you are feeling a feeling you can check-in with yourself by asking:

What is the story I am telling myself right now (e.g. I’m not a good friend, I’m not smart enough, I will screw this up, I am strong, I can always try again, I am a good friend)?


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When something is unknown or uncertain, our human brains see it as a threat of danger. The danger can be physical, but it can also be emotional or psychological danger. So if you don’t know what you are feeling or you are not sure how to express that feeling, you might end up getting totally overwhelmed. Being able to name your feelings might sound way too simple to make any difference, but it can really help your mind and body start to feel better.

​I like to use the emotion wheel below as a tool to practice this skill. You can start at the centre (these are the 6 primary emotions that have been researched and pretty much found globally across cultures and ages.) They are Happy, Angry, Scared, Disgusted, Sad and Surprise. Then from there you can branch out to other feelings that might help you better understand how you are feeling in that moment.

​I like to print it out and have it around. You can circle different feelings that you notice coming up for you often.



It can be really easy to get caught up in your thoughts and feelings, kind of like being swept up by a storm. Once you calm down or it is over, do you ever realize that you can look back and see things much more clearly?

Imagine your thoughts and feelings like a big aquarium full of sea life. When you are caught up in your thoughts and feelings it is like swimming in the aquarium along with all of the sea life. It can feel pretty overwhelming to imagine swimming in the water with sharks and stingrays beneath you! (Did I mention the aquarium was really big?)

Being able to observe your feelings and taking a step back can give you a whole new perspective. It is like standing outside of the aquarium and looking in. All of the sea life is still there (your thoughts and feelings), but you can now look at it with curiosity instead of overwhelm. It often opens up the possibility of choice on what you want to do and how you want to respond when you are observing your feelings.

Photo by Silas Hao on Unsplash


One exercise that can help you practice observing your feelings is an exercise introduced by Daniel Siegel, called SIFT. You divide a piece of paper into 4 (see below) and take 1-2 minutes to write or list anything you notice. Start with sensations and work your way through.

Sensations – Any body sensations you are noticing in this present moment (e.g. tense, tight, tingling, numb, warm, cold, shaky, etc.)

Images – Any images that you are noticing. Some people see them as pictures, moving images like a movie, colours, shapes, symbols, or nothing at all. All of these are ok!

Feelings – Any feelings or emotions you are noticing in this moment. It may be one dominant feeling, or different feelings mixed together.

Thoughts – Any thoughts you are having right now. They can be repetitive thoughts, questions or random thoughts. Anything goes!


Your brain and body are pretty amazing. They take in everything that is happening in your environment – what you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste – and within fractions of seconds, decide if things are safe, dangerous, good, bad, liked or disliked.

The thing is our brain can’t tell the difference between an actual situation and a thought. Weird right?! Meaning we can think ourselves into worry (and other emotions) and our body will feel it like a real danger or threat.

Next time you feel worried, scared, or anxious yourself: Am I in real danger at this moment? What is the evidence for this? Then take a couple slow breaths and see how you’re doing.


Photo by Evelyn Paris on Unsplash



The more you resist a feeling, the more it will keep coming back. The expression “what we resist persists” means that if you try to avoid anxiety or ignore anger, it gets bottled up until it basically explodes in ways you are not meaning to. Allowing yourself to feel what you’re feeling helps it flow through instead of getting stuck.

Think of your emotions like houseguests. If your anger houseguest comes to the door and you pretend like you’re not home, anger keeps knocking. Then anger knocks louder and maybe starts trying to find other ways to get it. Your feelings are like really persistent houseguests. Or you may have your joy houseguest that comes by and you invite in and you never want it to leave. Eventually joy is like, “I need to go home now” and you may cling to it and ask it to stay just 5 minutes more.

Learning that feelings come and go constantly is important, and if you allow them to stop by and hang out for a while, they always leave.

Photo by Seyedeh Hamideh Kazemi on Unsplash

I love this translated poem, written by Rumi –

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

​You are the miracle that is a Teen and I feel so honoured to write to you today. Here’s to hoping your feelings can be your guide.



If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook – Thanks!

– Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology – helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.