You Can Be a Good Parent and Still Have a Troubled Kid

Our society has some strong stereotypes about the “type of parent” who raises a teen who is a troublemaker. Our culture implies that kind of kid must belong to a parent who doesn’t care or doesn’t spend enough time with their kid or is abusive or doesn’t make their child feel loved or is too permissive. And, the idea makes sense to our logical minds. We like to categorize everything into black and white, cause and effect. But is it true?

While it’s true that parents who are negligent or abusive or permissive or absent are putting their children at risk for troubling behavior, it is not a definitive. There are numerous examples that disprove our quick judgments. 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? You can absolutely be a bad parent and still end up with a good kid, and you can absolutely be a good parent and still end up with a troubled teen.

Good parenting does not guarantee good 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 is trying to do “all the right things.” 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 not necessarily true. 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, of which we are likely unaware.

Teens become troubled for a number of reasons. There is no one cause. When a teen starts making poor choices, parents tend to feel embarrassed, blame themselves, and second guess every parenting decision they ever made. It is a very humbling experience.

Parents must remember that teenagers are responsible for their own actions. While parents are responsible for guiding, disciplining and loving their child, that does not mean that all of the blame falls on the parents’ shoulders. They must drop the guilt and be kind to themselves. 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 handle the mistakes in life that matter. Parents have a golden opportunity to help teens figure out what to do when they inevitably make those poor choices.

A parent cannot be measured by the result of their children’s lives, whether good or bad! Truly great parents are not the ones that have successful, well-behaved teens. 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, who try to learn from their mistakes, and who seek professional help for the family when their teen veers off course.

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