There’s a reason why parents of big kids shut down when their kids hit the teenage years.
There’s a reason why moms stop talking to other parents at pickup lines and dads avoid people at all costs.
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, smoked, or did drugs, if you are lucky enough to have a child that never got arrested for a misdemeanor, snuck out, or cheated on a test, if you are lucky enough to never feel 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,
We need to remember that it could be our kid, and how do we want people to treat us (currently, it is my kid)?
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 an attention-seeking behavior. Lying is testing boundaries.
But also, teenagers are poor decision-makers if they feel pressured, stressed, or want attention from peers, so while with one friend, a teen may say no to alcohol, at a party with peers they want to impress, they may engage in binge drinking on a spur-of-the-moment request.
Rather than blaming the parents, we need to rally around families who need support instead of pushing them further underwater.
I still believe that, 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 can grow up into productive adults. I still believe we can teach our kids right from wrong.
But I also believe that most of us are trying our best and parenting 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 do something bad. Sometimes good kids choose the wrong friends.
And oftentimes, these good kids come from good parents.
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. This is always on my mind.
So, the next time your local rumor mill starts running with 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. The one scanning old pictures, remembering their child before their bad decisions; the one grieving the loss of their innocence.
They could use some support, too.
You get to choose.