Saying yes

With teenagers, as with toddlers, parents should try to say yes as often as possible. There are so many, many things to say no to (drugs, alcohol, sex, the bad friends, the wrong date, buying a new car, wearing too much make-up, dropping out of school, going to that concert/party/drag racing event, and the list goes on). But teenagers have a really, really hard time hearing “No.” and respecting it. They are on a relentless drive to make their own mistakes.

So what to do? Try your hardest to find something – one little, tiny part of what they want – to say yes to. An easy example is preteens’ desire for wearing make-up. One solution may be to allow them to wear only eyeshadow (or whatever), but nothing else. And only after school.

The most common problem situation that parents have trouble saying yes to is that person your teenager wants to date. Something in you responds to something in that person, and you know that they are up to no good. Now, some teenagers will be able to hear you when you say that. Some teenagers might even appreciate some dating advice from their parents. But let’s be honest: there aren’t very many who feel that way. Most teenagers will do whatever they can to get together with someone who their parents have forbidden them to meet. The point is not to forbid your teenager from meeting someone. But do frame the parameters within which your teenager can meet someone.

Here are some examples of parameters you might find useful:

  1. They can meet only at your house, when you are home.
  2. They will stay in the living room.
  3. They can talk on the phone all they like, but they cannot meet in person.
  4. They can go public places together, but only if you are present at the same place, and they must stay within your line of site (if not listening range). The object of your teenager’s affection doesn’t even have to know you are there watching over them.

The point is that you are creating a situation which you feel like you can live with. You may not be happy about it, it might not be a situation you would ever consider to be best. But the point is that you can abide the situation until the relationship subsides. And your teenager is much less likely to throw him/herself into the arms of his/her beloved simply because you have forbidden it.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. What if your kid is 20 and doesn’t live at home any more?

  2. Great post! I am the mother of a 15 year old daughter and I have taken this approach to her dating. She does date older boys, they’ve generally finished high school, and I’ve found that laying down rules that allow her to feel as though she has freedom not only allows me to retain my authority but also to give her the space to make her own decisions and mistakes.

    This has accomplished two things, I know who’s she’s with and what they are doing and he can see that her family is aware of her activities and care about her well-being and it tends to weed out undesirables because they can’t “get away” with anything because we’ve made her dating a family affair.

    Plus, she feels no need to sneak which I believe put more teens into dangerous situations because now you don’t know who they are out with, what they are doing and you have no control. Likewise, because the teen is sneaking, they are unsafe because they can’t talk to you about a situation because they weren’t supposed to be there anyway.

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