By Casey O'Roarty


Empowering Teens: The path from enabling to positive parenting

Parenting is a journey filled with ups and downs, and navigating the teenage years can be particularly challenging. Many parents strive to raise responsible, confident, and accountable young adults. However, one common pitfall in parenting is falling into the trap of enabling rather than empowering our teens. In this blog post, we’ll explore the transition from enabling to positive parenting and how it can benefit both you and your teenagers.

Photo by Ernest Brillo on Unsplash

The Challenge of Positive Parenting

Positive Discipline, conscious parenting, and similar approaches all emphasize creating a supportive and nurturing environment for your child’s development. However, the challenge lies in the application and integration of these principles into your daily parenting routine.

Enabling behaviors often creep into our parenting styles unintentionally. This can manifest as doing too much for our kids, shielding them from natural consequences, or keeping quiet about important issues to avoid conflict. The result? Teens who feel discouraged, rebel, or become overly dependent on adults.

Enabling parents often rescue, overprotect, and attempt to exert excessive control. They might take on tasks like waking their teens up, doing their laundry, or cooking their meals, inadvertently robbing their children of the opportunity to develop essential life skills.

The Difference Between Support and Enablement

A critical question arises in this context: What is the difference between being supportive and enabling? It’s a nuanced distinction, but a vital one. Enabling comes from a place of fear, worry, guilt, or shame and involves doing for your children what they can do for themselves. In contrast, support equals empowerment.

Supporting your teens means empowering them to practice life skills, problem-solve, and learn from their mistakes. It’s about having faith in their capabilities to handle life’s challenges. While you may feel your enabling actions come from a place of love, they can hinder your child’s growth and independence.

Empowering Parenting Behaviors

Empowering parenting behaviors align with the principles of Positive Discipline and are essential for helping your teens become responsible and resilient individuals. These behaviors include:

  • Listening and giving emotional support: Provide validation without trying to fix or dismiss their experiences.
  • Teaching life skills: Encourage your teens to develop practical skills they’ll need in adulthood.
  • Working on agreements: Use family meetings or joint problem-solving to foster cooperation.
  • Letting go without abandoning: Give your teens autonomy while remaining emotionally available.
  • Sharing your thoughts and feelings: Communicate openly without lecturing or demanding agreement.

By embracing these behaviors, you’re sending a powerful message that you believe in your teens’ abilities and trust them to navigate life’s challenges.

Expect Pushback and Imperfection

Transitioning from enabling to empowering parenting isn’t always smooth sailing. Your teens may push back against the changes, resist new responsibilities, and make mistakes along the way. It’s essential to anticipate and accept this as part of their learning process.

Remember, your goal is not perfection but progress. You’re giving them room to grow, make mistakes, and develop essential life skills over time. Be prepared for resistance but stay committed to your role as a supportive and empowering parent.

The Long-Term Perspective

As parents, our ultimate aim is to raise young adults who are responsible, confident, accountable, and capable of handling life’s challenges. This journey is a long-term commitment, and our parenting approach should reflect that.

Empowering your teens sets the foundation for their lifelong development. It’s about preparing them to be cooperative, collaborative, and respectful individuals who can navigate the complexities of adulthood with confidence.

Embracing Confident Authority

When practicing empowering parenting, it’s crucial to embody confident authority. This means maintaining a firm yet empathetic stance when setting expectations and boundaries. Your role is not to control but to guide and support your teens as they learn and grow.

One common area of contention is chores. While it may be tempting to give in when your teens resist their responsibilities, it’s essential to hold the line. Chores are an opportunity for them to practice life skills and contribute to the family. Encourage dialogue and involve them in deciding which tasks they’d like to take on.

Understanding the Deeper Issues

Sometimes, the behavioral challenges you face with your teens are symptoms of deeper issues. Teens may use certain behaviors as coping mechanisms for problems they don’t know how to communicate. In such cases, it’s essential to explore the root causes and address them with compassion and understanding.

Parenting is a dynamic journey filled with opportunities for growth, both for you and your teens. By transitioning from enabling to empowering parenting, you can help your teens develop the skills and confidence they need to thrive. 

Embrace the challenges, stay true to your intentions, and trust in your ability to guide your children toward becoming capable, resilient adults.

Author bio

Casey O’Roarty, M.Ed, is a facilitator of personal growth and development. For the last 15 years, her work has encouraged parents to discover the purpose of their journey, and provided them with tools and a shift of mindset that has allowed them to deepen their relationship with themselves and their families. Casey is a Positive Discipline Lead Trainer and Coach. She hosts the Joyful Courage podcast, parenting summits, live and online classes, and individual coaching. Her book, Joyful Courage: Calming the Drama and Taking Control of YOUR Parenting Journey was published in May 2019. Casey lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, and two teenagers.


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