When Troubled Teens Happen to Good Parents
“A bad apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” This common cliché implies that bad parenting results in “bad” children. And, the idea makes sense to our logical minds. We like to categorize everything into black and white, cause and effect. The opposite cliché is that “great kids come from great parents.” But, is this idea always true?
The problem is that there are numerous examples that disprove these ideas. What about the great parents who have four children, three of whom are upstanding community members and one of whom is an addict? What about the man who overcame his difficult upbringing in an abusive home to become a successful businessman?
Certainly, good parenting improves a child’s chances of turning out “good.” When a teen does something wonderful for themselves or for others, praise is deserved for both the child and parent.
However, ultimately, good parenting does not guarantee great kids because children make choices that are outside of a parent’s ability to control. Children are not merely robots or computers – we cannot program them to do what we want. Teens have their own personality that may, or may not, mesh with their parents’ personalities. Misfortune may still call when a great parent has a personality that clashes with their teen’s personality in unfortunate ways. Teens think for themselves, and while a good parent does their best to guide them, the child decides his or her course.
When kids act out, it’s often the parents who get the blame. Society likes to judge the “cause” of the addict, the criminal, or the irresponsible. People are quick to offer their opinion, “If it was my kid, I would have…” These judgments are painful to the parents who hear them, and are not necessarily true. Teenagers today have more opportunities to make bad decisions than they did in years past. And, sometimes those bad decisions are just part of life’s journey – the lesson that person needs at that particular time. There are no “perfect” parents – no methods that guarantee success – because: (1) no one can perfectly parent their children, (2) different personalities respond to the same stimuli in different ways, and, perhaps most importantly, (3) there are other factors at work in a child’s life.
Teens become troubled for a number of reasons. There is no one cause. When this happens, parents must drop the guilt and be kind to themselves. Blame is pointless. Instead, parents should focus on learning new strategies for daily survival, finding solutions for helping their teen heal and getting them help, listening to their child, and showing their child that they still value and love them. Everyone makes mistakes; it is how we deal with the mistakes in life that matter. Parents have a golden opportunity to help teens figure out what to do when they inevitably make those mistakes.
A great parent cannot be measured by the result of their children’s lives. Great parents are people who strive to be healthy and loving, who try their best to guide their child in the right direction, who love their child no matter what, and who get outside, professional help for their child when their teen veers off course.
There are a lot of cliché’s out there, and many of them are true most of the time. But when it comes to parenting, there is only one truth that stands: no parent is perfect and no child is impossible to help.