Understanding Your Place Of Influence In Your Child’s Life.

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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As a parent you are the greatest voice of influence in your child's life. But your voice is not the only one they will listen to. There's a season when you will be lower on the list, behind friends and culture. How you respond when this happens is critical to your relationship with your child.

Several years ago I was meeting with the distraught parents of a 15-year old kid. For over an hour I listened as they poured their hearts out, saying things like, “I don’t know what happened. Just a few years ago he wanted to be around us, he would tell us everything, he never talked back to us, he was the perfect child. That’s all changed now! We don’t know what to do!”

I listened. I nodded. I even agreed, with some of what they were saying. But when they asked me what I thought, I said, “I think he’s a pretty normal 15-year old kid, honestly.” That caught them by surprise.

“How?” the mother asked.

“Well, you’re not telling me anything I haven’t already seen or heard out of a typical teenager,” I replied. “If he were addicted to drugs or in legal trouble, we would have some stuff to wade through, but he’s not. He’s doing what normal teenagers do at his age. Of course, he needs to respect the 2 of you, and your word is law, but his behavior is normal. Not necessarily acceptable, but normal.”

They were very confused. As they glanced back and forth to one another I went on to share that in every child’s life, as they mature, there are 4 places (or voices) of influence. In no particular order (as lists go) there are parents, friends, culture, and other adults, like a coach, teacher, or small group leader.

From the age of 6 months to around 10 or 11 years old, the way those voices would rank might look like this:

  1. Parents.
  2. Other adults.
  3. Friends.
  4. Culture.

Parents have the strongest voice of influence in a child’s life through their toddler and elementary years, followed by other adults (like a little league coach, teacher or small group leader), then friends, and then the culture around them. That’s why, as a young child, they jump off the school bus, run into your arms, and pour the entire day’s events out to you over an afternoon snack. They don’t really care too much about the way they dress or even if so-and-so down the street wants to have a play date. They may be interested, but you are their world.

Then, as if a switch suddenly gets flipped, something begins to shift when they reach the age of 11 or 12. The voices of influence shuffle and the rankings begin to look a little more like this:

  1. Friends.
  2. Culture.
  3. Other adults.
  4. Parents.

Suddenly, from the age of 12 or 13, throughout their teen years, and even into the college years, friends become the top voice of influence. This is followed by culture, then other adults, and finally you, their parent. You are now in fourth place. This is precisely why you could look at your 15 or 16 year old and explain how the outfit they’re wearing doesn’t look very flattering, but if their friends like it, they will wear it, no questions asked. If you’ve been in this spot with your adolescent you know how frustrating this is.

Do you notice something about the rankings through their adolescent years? You may not have. After all, when you’re in the throws of raising a teenager, often times your world is overwhelming and defeating. However, there’s an extremely important, and life-changing truth about the second list above if you look closely. Do you see it? If not, don’t worry. I’ll tell you…

You’re still on the list!

You haven’t dropped off. You’re still a voice of influence in your child’s life during this season. You’re just not the loudest voice of influence. You’ve dropped a little but you’re still present. They’re still listening to you, and taking life cues from you, although it doesn’t seem like it at times. Their friends move into the #1 spot for a period, along with culture at #2. But you and other caring adults are still there. That’s why it’s important to allow other adults to speak into their lives.

To help you navigate the years when their friends and culture hold a lot of power, and your voice of influence is lower, you need the help of other adults. You need teachers, and coaches, and small group leaders in your teenager’s life. If they say the same stuff that you say to your child, but instead of rolling eyes, they get nodding heads and agreeing hearts, that’s a win! More importantly, that’s a partnership.

Here are 3 critical things you need to do when you drop to fourth place:

  • Don’t panic. Stay the course. Keep doing what you’re doing as their parent. Consistency pays off. If you can be okay with fourth place for this season of their life, you will eventually develop a great friendship with them into their adult years and you will return to #1.  
  • Don’t fight for #1. This is a huge mistake parents make. When they notice that friends and culture (or even other adults) begin to rank higher, they begin to fight for #1. They insist their son or daughter tells them everything. They demand to know “what’s going on.” Bad idea. You will push them farther away and you run the risk of dropping off the list altogether (sometimes, never to return). You have to be okay with a season of lower ranking. Remember- consistency and a steady-as-she-goes attitude pays off.
  • Give them space. Allow them to be a teenager and figure this thing called ‘life’ out. If they screw up, take the steps necessary to discipline and redirect, and by all means do not tolerate disrespectful or rude behavior. Set up healthy boundaries and emphasize the consequences if those boundaries are crossed, but give them adequate space to be themselves.

In 18 years of working with teenagers and families, I’ve watched this play out many times. I can tell you from an honest perspective that when you choose to be okay with fourth place the dividends pay out in large quantities, eventually. When you’re not okay with it, you end up back-tracking and it’s a long and frustrating process. Choose to be okay with fourth place during the adolescent years. You will find out later how much of a win this really is!

If you’re the parent of a teenager or perhaps used to be, have you found this to be true? What other insight would you offer?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.