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Parenting Skills for Teens: Warmth and Control

At one of my very first counseling jobs, my supervisor told me something I never forgot:

Warmth and control need to be in line with each other when it comes to parenting.

One can’t be higher than the other or the kid will struggle.

Increasing Warmth Ideas: Go do fun things without rules. Play at the park, go to a movie, listen without giving advice. Be affectionate. Be playful and make jokes. Call each other funny names. Get your nails done or let them miss an event without it being a big deal. Listen for a long period of time. Do homework at the coffee shop. Make art together. Buy them the school backpack they wanted. Grocery shop together and pick out their favorite meals. Tell them how funny they are or how much you appreciate when they help their brother or sister. Give them praise. Notice their strengths and point them out.

Increasing Control Ideas: 1. Give a deadline and a consequence if it isn’t met. 2. Give a reward when they meet the expectation 3. Give a consequence for disrespect (rolling their eyes, talking as if you are stupid, being demanding, throwing a fit when asked to do something) 4. Make a chore and a time it needs to be done. 5. Follow through and set a limit like “you must be home by 5:30pm or you must text to let me know why). “You must have your chore done before we leave for the movie.” 6. Set an actual expectation like grades must be Bs or above or (insert consequence). 7. Designate the desired action and then the reward in advance. “If you go to the birthday party, and don’t text me to pick you up early, I will….. “ “If you complete the reading of Chapter One and the study guide, I will take you for ice cream.”

When you think of control, think carrots you can dangle, and consequences you can enforce.


  1. Not going to a friend’s house
  2. Leaving their phone with you for an hour
  3. You not driving them to the mall or somewhere else
  4. Not getting their hair highlighted, nails done, shopping
  5. Missing an event they enjoy could be gymnastics or dance or a football game
  6. Just having them spend some time in their room for an hour or so.
  7. Not playing the board game they wanted to play if they just talked to you in a disrespecting way. “I don’t feel like playing when you talk to me like that.”

Consequences should be manageable, time limited. Grounding someone for a month or taking their phone for a week punishes everyone, including you, and creates a situation where there is no light at the end of the tunnel. They need light at the end of the tunnel for leverage. Try 24 hours or an hour or until bedtime instead.

Consequences should be corrective teaching experiences. “This is a natural consequence of not completing your laundry.”

Consequences need to make sense, fit the situation, and they shouldn’t be reactively done in frustration.

Consequences shouldn’t be extreme like, “I’m going to sell your car” or “send you to boarding school” or “leave the vacation and go home”.

Just start thinking of ways to reward them and what you can do if they don’t follow the guideline. Write them down, have them ready.

Happy Tuesday!

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Free Clear Mind Therapy provides in-person therapy in Fishers & Indianapolis and online therapy across Indiana. Specializing in anxiety therapy for teens, adults, and kids.

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