When To Push And When To Back Off

The Art of Parenting Teens


Photo by Jenni Brennan of Changing Perspectives

“Mom, I need to thank you for pushing me to go to that interview.”

My 15 year old’s words caught me so off guard that I almost choked on my sip of water. I glanced at my husband across the restaurant table and we shared an invisible high five. We did it — we made the right choice to push!

If you’ve ever parented a teenager, you know that there is an almost constant struggle between pushing them too hard and not pushing them hard enough.

So, when it turns out you made the right choice as a parent AND your teen appreciates it, these are the moments that you remember as a parent of a teenager.

The day of the surprise thank you had started like a normal weekend day with teenagers as everyone coordinated rides, work schedules, and sports commitments. My husband and I had realized that we had a small window of opportunity that day where both teens would be busy at the same time as one would be at work and the other would be at sports practice. So, we made a reservation for a fancy new restaurant we’d been wanting to try — just the two of us.

As we headed to the restaurant, my husband and I reached for each other’s hands, commenting on how nice it was to finally have some time alone for a bit of a date. Covid had really made days like today few and far between. Just as we pulled into the parking lot though, our 15 year old son texted us to let us know he was getting off of work early and needed a ride home. Right then.

Yet another grown up plan thwarted. This is the life of parenting teens sometimes.

Quickly reframing the moment, we changed our reservation from a party of 2 to a party of 3, pushed it back by 20 minutes, and decided to take our son out for dinner with us.

As the three of us walked into the restaurant just a short time later, I couldn’t help but be transported back to so many years earlier when the three of us walked into a restaurant together for the first time. Back then, we carried our now teenager inside the restaurant via a baby carrier and he slept in my arms during our whole meal. On this day, though, he held the door for us, both of us short enough to duck under his outstretched arm to get through the…



Jenni Brennan, Changing Perspectives

Passionate about exploring the topics of grief, parenting, relationships & mental health. Visit me at www.changingperspectivesonline.com