Tuesday Topic: Privileges for Teens from Hard Places

I’m enjoying getting back into the routine of Tuesday Topics; I hope you are too.  This week’s question comes from Jen who asked,

How do you find the balance of allowing older children and teens from “hard places” to have freedoms/privileges when they haven’t shown the same level of respect  that you would expect from your other children?

I’m sure there are lots of us who are dealing with older kids and teens who want to be treated like other kids their age, but their maturity and behavior don’t meet the expectations we would normally have.  How do we parent them in a positive and productive way?

We want to hear from you!  Please don’t be shy; leave a comment and share your thoughts.

If you have a question you would like me to share as a Tuesday Topic, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com.  If you have a blog and would like me to link your question to your blog, please share a link to it as well.

I am loading up my four homeschoolers and heading to Spokane for orthodontist appointments this morning.  I have a feeling it won’t be our most productive school day, but I’m actually looking forward to the drive and hopefully time to think.  The sun is up and the morning looks beautiful; as long as Sunshine doesn’t get carsick, it should be a good drive.  I won’t be home to approve comments for several hours, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t show up until this afternoon.

Have a great Tuesday, friends.  See you soon!




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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. M J W
    March 27, 2012

    This is exactly where we had a confrontation last night. How much to allow a new 15 year old to do when she is not ready to obey in small things and also has trouble with forgetfulness that could lead to danger, as in using a gas stove. I'm looking forward to reading the advice of experienced adoptive parents.

  2. Zack's Mom
    March 27, 2012

    I think this is one of our greatest challenges with our almost 16 yr old fellow, who so adamently compares himself to his older neurotypical sisters. As they drive and date and go away to college he is more and more aware of the differences. We have allowed him the grief of these awarenesses, as they happen and agree there are very hard parts about having a hurt brain. We try to brainstorm with him ways he might still feel like a big kid…going to a movie with a friend where we are in the same theater, but sitting separately, talking or texting on our cell phone with a sibling or favourite uncle, although he is nowhere near ready to have his own cell yet, we've allowed a closely monitored gaming tv in his own room ( a privelege his sisters never had), outings with 1:1 worker that are cool (laser tag, rock climbing) so he has good experiences to share in a group or at a family get together.

  3. Zack's Mom still...
    March 27, 2012

    We also talk about the 'up side' of having a disability, more outings (doctors are all in the 'city') with mom and dad, more vacations, more toys, spoiled as the youngest in the family etc. This helps off set some of the hard things. We also work hard to allow his need for regular teen individuation…allowing him to choose a used vhs movie (he wrecks dvds and vhs are cheap) that we might not fully approve of but can live with, etc. He needs to feel like some of the tasks of adolescence are still his. We are still learning, and with only 3 kids the task is somewhat manageable…very definitely supporting him in his grief and learning, allowing him the choices where he can make one safely and letting him vent his feelings are all really important at our house. We still have meltdowns, still expect upsets and plan for the hard days as we know they will happen. Will continue to learn, I imagine, as the next few years unfold.

  4. anonymous
    March 27, 2012

    I am also looking forward to the responses….. my oldest bio kids are 21 and 17, while my oldest adoptee is only 9. Being as I also have a bio 9 year old it is crystal clear to me that the maturity level, and the ability to make good choices just is not there with my adoptee. I cannot imagine a day when I will be willing to accept financial responsibility for him behind the wheel of a car. I imagine the conversation will be very intense when my 9 year old daughter is 16 and allowed to get a drivers license and drive, while my adopted son of the same age is not……. Of course it will be assumed that the difference in treatment has to do with bio vs. adoptee – which could not be further from the truth. Fact of the matter is that trust is EARNED by behavior in this household, and when trust is broken – and broken again – and broken again – and broken yet again – it makes it very difficult to imagine trusting him some day.

    1. Cari B
      March 28, 2012

      We are also dealing with this. We had 3 bio children then adopted a baby in 2005 and a toddler and 12 y.o. in 2010 both from different countries. Our children now are 15d, 14d, 13s, 11s, 7d, and 4d {d-daughter and s-son}. Our 14 y.o. daughter who is from the Caribbean and has only been with us for 21 months acts more like a 10 year old, yet she feels that she should have the same privileges of our older daughter and son. We have tried to explain to her several times that privileges are based on behavior and good choices, but she tells us that we won't let her do these things because she comes from a different country and because she is adopted, which is completely ridiculous. She was with her birth mom {for 12 years in an unhealthy, volatile environment} up until 7 months before we brought her to the US. We are really trying to protect her from things that could happen if she was allowed on FB or had a cell phone, because she doesn't show common sense at times or lacks self-control when she is in one of her angry moods. She's very implusive and would just as well "throw you under the bus" when she's mad at you and then say "sorry" a few hours later after she calms down. She gets just as mad at our 4 year old for arguing with her as she would someone her own age, therefore, I'm always listening for any bullying.

      We struggle with trying to reward/encourage the good moments when there are so many negative, moody moments with her {on a daily basis}. When we do things for her, nothing seems good enough because she doesn't have that treasured cell phone or more access to the internet.

      I would like to know what other parents have come up with for privilege ideas. I like the one of letting them text their friend from the parent phone that way it can be monitor.

  5. Sleepyknitter
    March 27, 2012

    We are struggling a little with this issue. Our proud, angry, sensitive 14-year-old just arrived in our home last fall. At this moment, she is sitting at her desk using my "fabric-only scissors" on packing tape, even though she has two "everyday use" pairs of scissors in her room, and I am sitting at my desk being caaaaaalm. Outwardly. 🙂 Since she has only been here five months, I don't feel ready to make an issue over something like scissors. But we have these tiny moments every day, all day long, and in between these moments of "little issues" there is, every once in a while, a fairly serious issue such as fire safety when using the kitchen stove or so forth, where we jump in right away and often wind up with a major battle on our hands that leads to several weeks of tension from our daughter. When do we jump in and say something? When do we hold back? When do we let her "explore" and make mistakes as we would allow a toddler in our family to do? I am trying hard to keep as many interactions as possible on a positive note, and to avoid negative confrontations, especially since she is so insecure about her English, but we are probably just a couple months away from a time when she will have enough English — and enough confidence about our good opinion of her — that I hope to be able to say, "Please don't use my expensive scissors on packaging tape. Try this other pair instead." These little "citizenship" moments over small issues lay a foundation for much larger ones, and I am never sure when I have pushed too hard too early or should have pushed but didn't.

  6. Barbara
    March 30, 2012

    We struggle with this a lot. My comment was way to long to put here, so it is here: http://breadandhoney-barbara.blogspot.com/2012/03


    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 30, 2012

      Thanks, Barbara; I'll hop over and read it.

  7. Laurel
    April 9, 2012

    Definitely a struggle at our house. Bio teens ages 15 & 18; adopted teen 13. Bio younger kids ages 10 & 12; adopted younger kid age 10.

    Both adopted girls can act like preschoolers sometimes, and they've been home 4 years. They cannot be trusted to use the stove … the dvd player … the computer. No. They often seem to have no "common sense" … no logic or understanding of natural consequences. They break things as a toddler or preschooler might. They don't think thru safety issues, and we have worked on this diligently for 4 years.

    I cannot see either of my girls getting a driver's license as a teen. I cannot imagine them doing so many of the things that all of my older kids (6 bios. in their 20's) have done. My older kids went to community college at ages 16 & 17. My older adopted daughter will most likely be ready academically … but no where close to ready socially or emotionally.

    So. So. Hard.

  8. Maria
    April 14, 2015

    I also faced the same obedience issue with my child. However, I searched for a clinical psychologist and found one here http://www.drkarenhutcheson.com . I consulted Dr. Karen Hutcheson for right treatment of children from hard places. Her advice really helped me and now I am a happy parent. Anyone facing the same issue could talk to Dr. Karen.


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