What Do Teens Really Want?

Portrait of a mother with her son teenager
Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock

What do kids really want — parents or a gift certificate? Many parents want to know. When T. Suzanne Eller, author of Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know, asked teens to choose between a $200 gift certificate and a weekend with one or both parents, she received hundreds of fun, introspective and sometimes sad answers. In the end, nearly 98 percent of the teens chose the weekend with parents.

Teens who spent a great deal of time with family presented a mixture of responses, but almost 100 percent of teens whose parents were absent due to work, responsibilities or other reasons opted for the weekend.

The last time we spent a weekend

“As a normal teenager, I would choose the gift certificate. But now that I think about it, the last time I spent a whole weekend with my parents was … NEVER, so I would like to spend the weekend with them.” —Diana C., age 16

Your presence and time are valuable to your teen. However, the reality is that families struggle with a myriad of demands. A culture of busyness has produced a nation of overworked, fatigued parents. Sometimes these demands cause parents to “check out” once they arrive home.

An in-depth conversation

“I wish my dad would spend more quality time with me and not worry so much about work. I wish we would have more in-depth conversations without him watching TV while I’m talking.” —Michelle H., age 17

Define the significant things in your life, and rate them in order of importance. Then take inventory of the past month and the percentage of time spent on each. The actual time spent reveals true priorities. If you say that family time is a high priority, but it’s minimal or inconsistent, then perhaps this is an opportunity to restructure those priorities.

The worth of a parent

“I think it would be really fun to hang out, plus my mom is worth more to me than a $200 gift certificate any day.” —Adam D., age 18

You don’t have to do it all. You are not required to give your kids every material thing or every opportunity. Perhaps the best gift will be discovered as you slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of togetherness, even when the rest of the world is still spinning wildly.

This article first appeared as "Random Life" in Focus on Your Child Teen Phases, December 2006. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
Copyright © 2006 by T. Suzanne Eller. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Connect on Their Terms

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