My teen and I were supposed to write this article together, but her life got in the way. Nevertheless, we want you to know that she articulated these ideas and we hope they will be helpful for you. Even if you’re the mom of toddlers, know that while especially teens want these things, all kids will benefit from you implementing them. It’s best practice to start while your kids are young.

what your teen wants the non gift giving guide

The teen years can be hard to navigate. The teen doesn’t know what they want all of the time, and as his mom, you don’t know what to do all of the time. That helpless feeling? Normal. Hopefully, really knowing what your teen wants will assist you to not feel so lost.


We’re all busy. We get it. We know it’s hard. Figure out what works for you and yours, but pay attention. Whether it’s screen free evenings where you’re just present in the same room as your child, or Saturday morning pancakes together, or giving undivided attention to your teen for a few hours each evening, being “there” is key. It feels impossible at the end of the day, but nights are when teens are biologically most animated and talkative. Be intentional about giving her your attention. This doesn’t mean advice, reprimands, reminders or anything else. Just be there listening and holding space. It means a lot to him. Your teen wants you. 

Quality AND Quantity Time

Hand in hand with attention, teens want your time. They want to be noticed. They want to know you’re present in their lives. You can’t be busy all week and try to cram in quality time on the weekends in between basketball games and chores and errands. If at all possible, be there when they get home from school. Be there when they’re doing their homework. Be there to share a show and bowl of ice cream. My teen girls and I reserve Monday nights for just us. I’ll be honest, I resent it sometimes. I want to be in my bed reading or scrolling at the end of a long day, but I sit there and hang out with them. When I’m there for the little things, watching the show with them, making them a priority, they know that I’ll be there when the crisis comes too.What your teens want- three teen girls smiling at the camera

Let Them Be Kids and Treat Them Like Adults

Force them to go sledding or roll down a hill with you. Have an impromptu dance party. Jump up and down when you finally move your marker during a game of Catchphrase. Be silly. Laugh together. If at all possible, invite preschoolers into your life and play. Lacking a preschooler, play. What your teen wants is time with you.

At the same time, treat your teen like an adult. Say please, say thank you. Even when they roll their eyes at you, be polite. Remember you’re raising an adult. Don’t wait for them to earn your respect, but treat them with respect especially when they are at their most unloving. 

Think about your relationship with your partner. If you’re exhausted, you might be a little snippy. If your partner responds in kind, you feel unloved, even though you know you should have tried harder to speak in a kinder manner. The same is true for your child. They might be disrespectful to you, but doing your best to respond kindly and gently even so will go a long way to make them feel loved.


You know you’re going to mess up. Own it. Let your child know how much you love her and didn’t want to wound her with your words and voice or actions. Your teens want and need you to be real with them, and that means about your mess ups too!

Have you heard of the three point apology? Model it for your kids. It goes like this “I’m sorry I… It was wrong because…Next time, I will…”

As an example, I’m sorry I yelled at you and spoke harshly. It was wrong because I love you and I want to speak gently. It can be painful to have someone raise her voice at you and I never want to hurt you. Next time, I will tell you I’m getting frustrated and that we need to revisit this topic at a later specific time.”

Your child is always learning from you. And yes, teens are children.

We came up with several more ideas I could share in a later post. Let us know in the comments what you’d like help learning about when it comes to teens and what gifts you can give them that don’t cost a thing.




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