Letting Go.....The Teen Years

Understanding Adolescent Development of Boys: Ages 14-18

by Dr. Nelson de Ramirez


Adolescent development can be a very exciting and challenging time for parents and teens. The transition from childhood to adulthood begins during this phase. In a few short years your teen will become an adult. This is an important transition for them and helping them make sound decisions will have a profound effect on who they become as adults. Research has shown that happy teens are ones who operate under real world rules that encourage self-control. Parental strong-holds during this time encourage rebellion.

Letting go or relaxing your grip on your teen may be scary; however, it is an important developmental process. As parents, your role is critical in teaching them good decision making. The more control you let go now, the more they gain. This self-control is important for them to make good decisions as they transition into adulthood.  

Developmentally Speaking

The ongoing need for autonomy and individuation are by far the greatest changes during this time. Early adolescents (age 14) brings about a variety of biological, psychological and emotional challenges. With the proper support you and your teen can navigate this developmental roller-coaster.

Developmental Changes

  • Sense of oneself as an autonomous individual
    • Driven by the biological processes marking the transition to a more adult role
    • More need for control
    • Desire to have greater independence outside of the home
    • Spend more unsupervised time with peers
    • Movement toward an equality in interpersonal power and authority
  • Puberty
    • Hormones controlling physical development activated=Growth Spurt
    • Testosterone levels increase about 800%
      • Testing limits is common at this stage
    • Changes in their body lead to desire for greater distance and privacy
    • Mood swings are normal during this time
      • Give kids space, don’t interrogate but let them know you are there if needed
    • Parent Child Relationship
      • Undergoes a change
      • Teens question family rules and roles leading to greater conflict
      • Fewer interactions
        • Functional role of fostering greater independence
        • They are “trying things out” on their own leading to greater self-efficacy

Parents Role

During this developmental period the parents role shifts toward a guiding figure. Setting structure and limits but also letting go of controlling all aspects of the teens life. Mothers of sons often feel they are losing their sons as they pull away. Remember, puberty is kicking in and boys are looking for more independence and autonomy. Fathers often feel in competition with their sons as the testosterone levels increase and boys become more outwardly aggressive. It is the father’s role to mentor and model appropriate behavior. Fathers need to lean into boys and build a relationship that the boy can use as a guiding light into manhood.


I am a firm believer that it is important that parents must teach children to own their own grades. Children must understand that their successes and failures belong to them. This is one of the most common transitions that lead to control battles. Parents who do not let go, teach children that grades become a tool for punishing their parents. This is a negative cycle that needs to be avoided.

Computers and The Internet

I believe that having filters on your home computers is important. However, teens know how to get around just about any filter out there. If you have been relinquishing control, then your teen should have the self-control to make good decisions. I encourage teaching teens the importance of moderation, self-control and the need to consider what they want to expose themselves to online. Some images you just can’t get rid of!

Schools have increased their reliance on the use of computers for just about everything. Having raised three teens I learned that the computer is a necessary component to their education. They access online homework, books, group projects, research and submissions daily.

Structure and Clear Expectations

Expectations and structure are crucial components to navigating the teen years calmly. Remember, teens are wanting autonomy and having clear expectations helps them discover themselves all while following the expectations of the family.


Allow teens the opportunity to learn to make decisions. Provide options so that they can get used to taking control and the resulting outcomes. This will help teens build a sense of self efficacy and self-concept. Small decisions now make for good decisions in the future when temptation and risky behavior will have greater consequences.


This is a wonderful time and you are an integral part of that transition from childhood into adulthood.

So, hold on, let go…a little, and enjoy the ride!

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