Fort Worth, Texas,
14:41 PM

8 Mistakes Parents Make When Their Teen Starts To Pull Away

“What do I do when my pre-teen or teenager starts to pull away?”

Man…this is a tough one.

Remember when your child was a toddler, and you taught them to poop on the potty? It was all leading up to this moment. Everything we have taught them along the way was an effort to allow them to become more independent.

But, now that they are, why does it hurt so much?

This time can be painful and confusing, but it can be handled with grace on both sides.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy.

Here are 8 mistakes that parents make when their child starts to pull away:

1. Holding on too tight. Not allowing your child to spread their wings can create resentment and frustration. Yes, they are your baby, but they don’t want to be treated like one. It’s OK to let them try new things and make mistakes. Be there to help them learn from them.

2. Not holding on tight enough. Even though they seem more independent and don’t seem to want you around, they are still immature and still need someone to protect them from the big mistakes. Monitoring their technology use and being aware of their friends are essential examples.

3. Taking this transition time personally. They might act as they hate you…they might even say that they hate you…but they probably don’t actually hate you. While you might get your feelings hurt from time to time, it’s important to remember that this transition is healthy and not a reflection on your parenting skills.

4. Making judgments too quickly. If your teen starts to tell you something about their life or feelings, they can see right through your judgy looks. Practice in the mirror…whatever it takes. Just listen without (apparent) judgment.

5. Giving up too quickly on family time and family plans. You’re going to get shot down over and over. It’s OK to make family dinners a requirement as often as you think it fits your family best. Also, make a point to involve your teen in planning family time. If they choose the activity, they are more likely to be a willing participant. You can also leverage that to say, “Remember when we all played Fortnite together? Now it’s your sister’s turn to plan.”

6. Trying to have serious and deep conversations all at once and face-to-face. These are awkward and unlikely to meet their desired goals. Talk about the issues in small chunks. Use the car ride or some physical activity time (playing catch).

7. Dominating conversations. Say anything that smells of “I-told-you-so” or involves a long drawn out lecture, and you’re actually doing more to push your child away.

8. Not recognizing warning signs that it’s more than just standard teenager stuff. Unfortunately, teens and pre-teens do get depressed, and significantly withdrawing can be a sign. Look for the following:

  • Significant abrupt changes in interaction.
  • Severe withdrawal (not coming out from arriving at home until school the next day).
  • Moving away from activities that they used to enjoy.
  • Loss or gain of appetite/sleep.

Growing up can be difficult. Don't forget that. We've all been there before. But normally, things will get better and they will come back to you soon enough.

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click here to make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.


Comments 1 - 2 (2)
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Karen Baker
Received answers to questions I have been asking. I feel like I have made so many mistakes with my teen age granddaughter that my husband and I have raised since she was 2. She wants to grow up so fast and I guess I did too, but parents seemed to be expected by the teen herself to have a lot of say in who they picked as friends and where they were going specifically. We are involved, but sometimes the rolling of the eyes is too much! I see by your writing that I lecture too much. I knew she wasn't listening but felt I had to say it anyway. I will try something different after reading this. All of your comments were very helpful.
Mike Lund
Great tips.
One thing that helped my wife and I stay connected with our teens was the magic of texting. We found that by using simple everyday texts, we were able to convey information, humour and advice.
If interested in learning more go to