That’s a really good question. In other words, does great parenting turn out great kids? Does doing our best guarantee the best results? Or is it all a crap shoot?
Here’s the bad news: Good parent does not always=good teens.
But here’s the good news. The following 3 points are ALL true and can guide us through the difficult times.
1. “Turn out great” is relative. A sassy, mean 10 year old you think is the devil incarnate may mellow out and be and easy adult. A rebellious teen may get their act together later in life (just needed a detour first) and become a fabulous parent themselves. If your child goes through a rough patch, hold on, love them, be firm but flexible, and chances are they will figure things out eventually. People generally do. Some just take longer than others.
It’s a trial to go through for sure, as a parent, but hang on until you get to the other side. Don’t ruin the relationship now just because the teen is acting like a terrorist. They may just be testing us to see, “Do you really love me despite my self loathing and discouragement?” They need us more than ever when they are acting out.
2. Raising children responsibly DOES increase the odds that the child will respond well. They will be less prone to rebellion, helplessness, addiction, or truancy. Stack the odds in your favor by being a good parent the best you can. We can make mistakes, but that’s a good thing. Owning our mistakes, apologizing to our kids, and making improvements shows them how to get through their own mistakes.
3. Remember that it’s often our own attitude that makes the difference. Do you love your teen, acne and all? Can you love them beyond anything else, and be especially kind during these years when the world is so unkind? Do you cherish them (eyes light up when they enter the room) and tell them they are welcome home every day and you love them? Or are you constantly annoyed and angry at them? They are SO perceptive and know if you care or not. If they don’t feel you care, they won’t care about being good.
In a parenting class I teach, a student reflected on questions I posed. Note how her parents’ response built on the trust they already had and kept communication open. She explains about the positive effect on her level of confidence and personal responsibility.
What is an example of how your parents responded to conflict during your teen years?
My parents were very authoritative* The best example of this was a night I was late for my curfew. I was out bowling with some friends in high school and knew that I was not going to make it home in time for my 11:30 curfew. Knowing this, I called my parents at about 11:15 and explained the situation. They simply asked who I was with and if I had a ride and let me come home after we finished our last round of bowling. I stayed with my friends and made it back home by 12. My parents explained to me the next day that because I was a responsible kid, making good choices, and called them to give them a heads up, they were more than happy to forgo their strict curfew for one night.
How did that affect your relationship at the time?
This situation was very beneficial to our relationship at the time. It showed the mutual trust in all of our relationships.
How does it continue to affect your current relationship?
This was the first time that the relationship I have with my parents was ever tested. Due to the mature relationship we built from the beginning, it has been very easy for me to continue to talk to, trust, and want my parents in my life. This one incident was the beginning of many more opportunities for us to communicate and trust each other. We continue to do so today.
How has it affected who you are, your competencies, self-esteem, and socio-emotional maturity?
Having my parents trust me like this helped me to be more mature in all of my decisions in the future. It was a great boost of self esteem that my parents trusted me and my friends to be responsible. I was able to continue that maturity level all throughout high school. While other kids were sneaking out and hiding things from their parents, I knew that I would be much better off being open and honest from the beginning. I hope to continue this style of parenting when I am a parent one day.
*An “authoritative” parent is one that is loving, responsive, sets boundaries, has reasonable expectations, and supports their child’s not-so-perfect efforts.
So let’s not pass along the “just wait until your child is a teen” (with eye rolling) warning to each other. What a terrible way to set us up for fearing these years. They aren’t to be endured, but to be enjoyed. Having just finished raising my 5th and final teen, I call honestly say they were amazing years. Adolescents are funny, kind, smart, and in desperate need of their parent’s attention and listening ear.
Our attitude matters. Rather than “eat our young” we need to sit down at eat with our young. Talk. Listen. Laugh. And have a long-term perspective that they will outgrow these years and you will outlive them. And you can look back on those fleeting moments with wonder and say, “Yes, that was all good.”