Does Good Parenting=Good Teens?

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.

Wear it proudly. Say it often.

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. 

Overly strict parents=Sneaky Teens

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.

Don’t eat your young, eat WITH your young

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.”

Cellphone and Saddles


My son sent me a text last week and I answered, “Great” and quickly pushed the SEND button. Then I saw that the auto-correct changed my one-word response to “Breast.” Not exactly the word or meaning I wanted to send to my 24-year-old son.

Texting. You gotta love it.

True to my rebellious, non-conformist nature, I fought against owning a cell phone. I’m one of those “old fashioned” mothers who believes in the tried-and-true traditions of speaking to people face to face, or at least on the phone, if necessary. You know…the measure of a true two-way conversation. I also adhere to research outcomes that show a connection between attuning our brains to face-to-face social contact and better physical and emotional health.

When my oldest daughter was in high school, cell phones were transforming from a “want” to a “need” among teenagers.  She was really distraught that we didn’t jump on this newest technology trend. She’d argue, “What will I do when I need to ask my friends to go to the movies/store/party with me?” The answer was so obvious to me I almost couldn’t believe I was conversing with a rational person: “Walk up to them and say, ‘Do you want to go to the movies/store/party with me?'”

No, it seems we have to text the question now. Any question. Any thought that comes into our mind. Any nonsensical, acronymic idea. The demise of the English language will slowly disintegrate as we all LOL.

Let me share something that illustrates our “evolution” of vocabulary. I was the judge for the 2012 Utah state high schools poetry contest. One entry written by Joey King received 2nd place. Vote on which love poem you’d like to receive and then ask yourself, why?

The Evolution of Love Poems

                Neanderthal, Germany

Two figures on a cave wall

Not quite touching

Between them, a fire


A hundred leagues I traveled wearing the skin of a lion

Having the strength of eight oxen and the body of a god.

Then why this sadness deep within?


When will I be conquered?

I, who have torn down the Celtic gods,

And strewn salt in Carthage’s wounded womb;

I, who have beaten Sparta and made its bronze

Ring like a bell? I, who have sailed an army

Down the Nile and torn apart the pyramids

brick by brick? When will I be conquered?

When you open your pale white hand.

Medieval Europe

I know myself am common born,

Low and base and mean,

But when I hear thee call me love

I think myself a king.

Victorian England

Roses are red violets are lilac,

You hold my heart in your hand like Shylock.

The New World

Before they tear the beating hearts from their victims’

Chests, the savages give them a poisoned wine

To deaden the pain. You give me nothing.

20th Century

Entrenched in my love for you

I have forgotten to feel the edge of your letter

In my pocket. Your scent is long gone.

I feel blown to bits.

Ten Seconds Ago

Do U ❤ me?

Check yes or no.


Texting is a wonderful, terrible thing. It is wonderful. I do love many aspects of it and have embraced my cell phone (well, given it a lukewarm hug) in many ways. But…

I have university students who cannot write a paper without using texting punctuation, as if they wrote it on their phone and forwarded it to me! Parents have the ugly duty of teaching their children the realities of sexting and other promiscuous perils that come with phone use. My daughter said she has a friend who has banned herself from Twitter because she has become a “Tweetaholic.” Who hasn’t been in a room with a teenager holding a phone and while you are trying to have a conversation, you watch them answer unrelenting texts, play games or surf the web?

How far will it go? I feel parents are riding a willful horse; technology is taking us all for a ride and many don’t have the reigns firmly in hand. I know I don’t. I’m still struggling and have been saddle-sore now for many years.

Talking With Teens and Flying Lessons

Sea Gulls

How many times have you heard this (or some variation)? “Have fun with your kids while they are young. One day they will be teenagers.” Is this a phase to be endured? Should we lock them up when at 14 and let them out when they are 21? Many parents dread and fear this stage of life–raising teenagers.

I’ve raised four adolescents (well, the fourth turns 17 this month so she’s on the downhill) and I have to say that this can be some of the most rewarding, exciting, fun times in your parenting. These kids have and appreciate a sophisticated sense of humor. You can share so many things (music, movies, gourmet food, literature and learning, travel, etc.). You get to know their friends and be a part of great activities. And you really get a glimpse of who they will be as adults. It’s awesome, really. Our job is to start letting go through those teenager years so they can become those responsible adults.

Kind of like birds, nests and learning how to fly. We’ve had ample opportunities since birth to feather the nest by teaching, training, modeling, reinforcing, praising and encouraging the values, behaviors and ideals we’d like our children to espouse. During the gradual letting-go years, it’s time for us to watch our baby birds grow up, exercise their wings and start to fly. Parents need to help their children gain emotional, physical, spiritual and social readiness to stand on their own and make mature decision we can be proud of when we aren’t there anymore.

One way we do this is through talking. When I say “talking,” I mean the parents should do less of the talking and more of the listening. Especially in the teen years. I admit…I’m a talker. I really need to work on letting my teenagers do more talking and me, the listening. We need to ask more of the open-ended “Wh” questions: Who…What…When…Where… We need to find when our teenagers are most emotionally available to open up to conversations. Some like talking in the car (turn off your cell phones, car radios and televisions!); some like to be taken out to lunch or shopping (girls especially, right?); some like to do something physical together (walking, hiking, biking, playing sports, etc); some open up late at night. When we get this right, it can be amazing.

I talked with my (soon-to-be) 17-year-old, Rachel, a few days ago and did it right by preparing her for that discussion. I told her ahead of time that at a certain time when she was free, I wanted to go over some goals in her life. Of course she rolled her eyes and resisted. But I persisted in a friendly and casual tone. We began by going over what was important to her and what God wanted her to do with her life (taking the “mom” part out of it). We discussed various standards for her life.

We were in the middle of discussing how to take care of our bodies and she rattled off all the correct answers. It was what she had been taught by her parents and other leaders. But what was important in that moment was to have Rachel find out what Rachel thought. So I asked, “Why do you believe what you’ve just said is true?” She quickly responded, “Because I only have one body and I don’t want to be stupid with it. If I ruin it with drug addiction or something else, it’s not like I can trade it in for another one. It’s all I’ve got.”

Wow. There’s no way in all the lessons on morality in the world that someone could distill truth better than what just came out of my daughter’s mouth. Best of all, she said it to herself. And believed it. She showed me a glimpse of that incredible, mature, independent-thinking adult she is becoming. I couldn’t have been more happy or more proud.

I think she’s ready to fly.