My friend asked me for guidance regarding her son, so I am passing the question on.

Her very talented son is a senior in high school. Since it is his last year at home, he feels that he no longer needs input from his parents. His is a very bright, well-mannered and popular young man who was home-schooled until 9th grade. His parents feel he has had limited exposure to "the real world" and that he would continue to benefit from their guidance.

They do not want this transition to mar their very good relationship and create a problem between them. Yet, research indicates that the human female brain is not fully mature until between 21 and 22 years of age and the male brain is not fully mature until nearly 30 years of age.

My friend recognizes the importance of the decisions her son will makes at this time in his life for impacting his future.

What are your suggestions? How can they promote his independence, but provide parental guidance and the benefit of their age and experience?

  • Can you provide a link regarding that research? I think people mature at different rates personally. If this child really is exceptional, and independent, then I think they simply have to make sure he knows they are there if he needs guidance, but not to push it on him. I know what I was like at 18 and I really did know it all. Having my parents dictate chapter and verse made it worse. One other thing to note, is that parents are not really always right, and someones age and experience, may not mean they have all the answers, or even be able to relate to what modern kidsgo through
    – Hairy
    Sep 6, 2011 at 7:30
  • 2
    If they haven't driven enough of their own guidance into him after 9 years of home schooling, nothing will. I don't blame the kid for thinking it's time to detach. In the end, all they can really do is offer up that they'll be there if he's ever in need of advice.
    – DA01
    Sep 6, 2011 at 21:37
  • @Hairy - link provided. Sep 7, 2011 at 0:11

2 Answers 2


Ah, the arrogance of youth.

I remember going through a similar phase. My parents seemed like idiots when I was in high school. They just didn't get it. But as I got older, they got smarter.

I have some thoughts ...

  • Parents need to be clear about the difference between being a parent and being a friend. When the choice must be made, choose parent. Parents need to be prepared that the kid won't necessarily like them when parental prerogatives are exercised.

  • Parents (in the USA) are 100% responsible for a kid until 18 years of age, and can be held legally responsible far longer if they are primary financial support for the kid.

  • There is a huge difference between discussing and dictating. At this age, giving orders and ultimatums is unproductive. Parental positions need to be communicated and explained. Even if the kid disagrees, make sure that the reasons behind the parental position are known clearly.

  • Parents are not obligated to financially support a child on a path with which they do not agree. Obviously, this should not be used for minor disagreements. It doesn't mean not paying for college because of a disagreement on the major chosen. It does mean not allowing the kid to spend the college fund on an acting coach or an apartment in Hollywood.

  • My daughter was always clear that once high school was over, she was either a full time student, or a full time worker. She is also clear that we are not a money tree.

  • 1
    Great answer! I especially smiled at as I got older, they got smarter :-) Sep 7, 2011 at 5:48
  • Excellent response! Thanks for a thoughtful and well developed answer! Sep 8, 2011 at 0:14
  • +1 for There is a huge difference between discussing and dictating. At this age, giving orders and ultimatums is unproductive. Parental positions need to be communicated and explained. Even if the kid disagrees, make sure that the reasons behind the parental position are known clearly Nov 14, 2012 at 3:20

In addition to what tomjedrz says, it is critical that you listen, listen, listen. They will be more receptive to your advice and guidance if they feel heard and respected. Try to treat your teen as though a young adult you are mentoring at work or something along those lines instead of treating them like a child is often treated by a parent. Of COURSE you have final say and of COURSE you are NOT a friend. However, a mentor is still in a position of authority, but people being mentored are usually treated in a way that is much closer to what it is your teen wants from you in terms of treatment.

No matter how much they protest, they DO still want your guidance and they know they still NEED it, they just also want to feel as though they are being treated like the adults they ALMOST are.

Before telling teens what you think about a decision they are making, it is important to ask them what they think and listen as non-judgementaly as possible (at first). Ask clarifying questions, paraphrase (i.e. "let me make sure I"m understanding you correctly, You think. . . ") and make sure they know you heard, understand and respect their thoughts - even if you disagree.

Then, depending on how the teen's answers and the topic at hand are playing out, you might ask questions like, and what are the benefits of _? What are the drawbacks? OR you can state your opinion about their conclusions (respectfully, but succinctly). If they don't want to listen to you, you can point out that a. you are the parent still and b. you listened to them, now it is your turn to talk.

While the relationship required for this to work takes time to build, it is worth the effort and will not only make the both of you closer, but help your teen learn life lessons about critical thinking and decision making he/she can't learn while you enforce rules and dictate how they should make many of their decisions. As painful as it may be, let your kids make small mistakes now and help them avoid the big mistakes by choosing your battles to a much greater extent than you are naturally inclined to.

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