There’s a reason parents of big kids shut down when their kids hit the teenage years.
There’s a reason moms stop talking to other parents at pick up lines and dads avoid people at all cost.
You know that phrase little kids, little problems. Big kids, bigger problems? It is so true.
And if you are lucky enough to raise a teenager that never drank or smoked or did drugs, if you are lucky enough to have a child who never was charged with a misdemeanor or snuck out of your house or cheated on a test, if you are lucky enough that you never felt like you were just a complete and utter failure as a parent because of the behavior of your kid despite your best efforts, consider it just that: lucky.
Because for most big kids who do something bad, it is usually not from bad parenting as much as the teen making a bad decision.
And we need to sit on that for a second.
Before we rush to judgment. Before we roll our eyes and start mentioning all the things we think those parents did wrong. Before we fill ourselves with righteous indignation. Before we say, “My kid would never do that.”
We need to remember that it could be our kid, and think about how we want people to treat us.
Sure, we need to be conscientious parents and raise our kids to the best of our abilities. But unless you have severely neglected, abused, or traumatized your child, we need to recognize that sometimes teenagers lose their way despite our best efforts.
Addiction can be genetic. Violence could be linked to a traumatic event not related to the parents. Stealing could be attention-seeking behavior. Lying is testing boundaries.
A bad attitude can be the result of depression, anxiety, or stress.
But also, teenagers are poor decision-makers, especially if they feel pressured, stressed, or are seeking attention from peers.
For example, while with one friend a teen may say no to alcohol, in another moment surrounded by peers they want to impress they could engage in binge drinking or experiment with drugs.
Rather than blaming the parents, we need to rally around families who need support instead of pushing them further underwater.
I still believe as parents we are the number one role models for our kids. I still believe that we can arm our children with information and boundaries so they grow up into productive adults. I still believe that the best chance our kids have of growing up kind and compassionate is to have a mother and father who are both kind and compassionate.
But I also believe that most of us are trying our best and parent with the best of intentions.
I speak from experience. Sometimes good kids just make bad decisions. Sometimes good kids have addictions. Sometimes good kids are hurting and don’t know how to express it. Sometimes good kids cave under pressure. Sometimes good kids want to impress their peers so they make a dumb mistake.
And oftentimes, these good kids come from families trying their best.
There is enough guilt when it comes to parenting. Did I do too much for them? Not enough? Did I give them too much freedom? Was I too overbearing? Many parents spend the rest of their lives wondering where they went wrong when raising their kids.
So, the next time your local rumor mill starts running about the bad behavior of a child coming from a “good” family, maybe resist the urge to spread the gossip to another friend.
Instead, maybe use it as a discussion springboard with your own child.
And if you are feeling extra generous, reach out to that parent who is most likely beating themselves up for their child’s behavior, the one who feels isolated, the one who is staying up all night examining every parenting decision she ever made.
They could use some support, too.