Respectful parenting begets respectful teens

Guest post by Idzie Desmarais
photo by Alessandra Celauro used by CC license
photo by Alessandra Celauro used by CC license

There seems to be the almost universal belief among North American parents. I’m sure this is a phenomena found elsewhere as well, but I’m just talking about what I’ve personally seen. Kids, whether these are theoretical future children or actual kids, will hate, or, at the very least, dislike their parents. Teenagers hate their parents: everyone knows that.

My mother has told me that when my sister and I were small, she used to say to my father that he had to take over primary parental duties once we hit our teen years. She’s told me that she loved being a parent, and loved spending time with us right from the get-go. However, being surrounded by warnings of “wait until they become teenagers!” led her to think that would change when we got older.

I suppose it’s actually a very reasonable belief that your teens will dislike you: after all, most teens I have known do dislike their parents! What isn’t true is that dislike is inevitable.

The dreaded teenage years came in my family, and — likely to my parents’ surprise — nothing horrible happened. I mean, problems came up in day-to-day life, for sure. Looking back, I actually think that, in terms of parent-child relationships and issues over “discipline” stuff, the teen years were (and are, as my sister is still a teen) smoother than when we were younger. I attribute this to the fact that it was a constant progress over the years from more traditional parenting to more respectful parenting.

When the subject of “teenage rebellion” comes up now, my mother is fond of saying “Why would you rebel, since there wasn’t really anything to rebel against?” I think there is an important distinction to be made here: some parents proudly brag about how their teens aren’t “rebellious,” and what they really mean is that their children are obedient to their parents’ wishes (or, possibly more likely, are simply very good at hiding the aspects of their life that their parents would disapprove of). While I’ve never been very big into alcohol or drugs, I definitely drank long before the legal drinking age (though admittedly the whole culture in my home province of Quebec is very different from the rest of North America, in that virtually everyone drinks at least some amount from the time they hit their teens, with their parents’ knowledge). My sister, who turns 18 (legal drinking age in Quebec) this summer, has been going to bars since she was 15 or 16, with my parents’ knowledge (again, very common practice in Montreal).

Being a respectful parent doesn’t mean agreeing with or approving of everything your teen does: it just means accepting and not attempting to control what they do.

Both my sister and I have been openly anti-state, anti-hierarchy, and anti-authority for years. I’ve dyed my hair unusual colours, shaved the sides of my head, and worn clothes throughout my teen years that plenty of parents I know would have disapproved of. Sometimes we stay out late into the night. We’ve been known to participate in Pagan religious rituals. We swear frequently. We hang out with people who are big into drugs. If all those things were listed entirely out of context, it would probably sound like we were the people that many parents warn their kids about (then again, for all I know, parents have warned their kids about us).

So why do we get along so well with our parents? It’s pretty simple: control. Or, more accurately, the lack of control. Being a respectful parent doesn’t mean agreeing with or approving of everything your teen does: it just means accepting and not attempting to control what they do. Thus a parent that’s strongly anti-drugs of all types might share all their opinions on the issue with their teens, give them information on why they believe what they do, etc. Yet despite that, they wouldn’t ground, punish, or shame their teen if they came home high. In a mutually respectful relationship, teens are far more likely to genuinely take their parents opinions into account when deciding what they want to do, but teens are still their own complete and autonomous people, and will make the choices they deem best for themselves in the end.

Chelsea having fun at the reception

Parents in general, from the most to least mainstream out there, all seem to frequently express a wish that their children communicate with them and be honest with them. Yet what the more authoritarian and punitive parents seem oblivious to is that no one is going to be honest with someone else if they know that by being honest, they’re opening themselves up to being yelled at, punished, shamed, or treated with anything less than respect. Those parents also don’t seem to realize that good communication has to work both ways: parents can’t expect their children to spill all the secrets of their lives, all their important thoughts and deeds, to someone who thinks their own personal life is none of their kid’s business.

I want to make it clear that I don’t, and didn’t when I was still in my teens (having just turned 20 a couple of months ago, I still have trouble remembering I’m no longer a teen!), tell my parents everything. I’m my own person, with my own life, and some things stay private. Sometimes because it’s something very personal, or a secret not mine to share, and sometimes it’s because I know it would worry or upset them to know something. Yes, occasionally I keep things (and have kept things in the past) I know my parents would disapprove of away from them, not because of any fear that I would “get in trouble” or anything like that, but simply because I don’t want them upset or worried about things they ultimately have no control over.

I’m incredibly grateful for the relationship I have with my parents, and that my parents are the people they are.

My (and my sister’s) relationship with my parents is really good. We talk to each other about everything: how we’ve been feeling, what we’ve been doing, interesting links online or news stories, what our friends are up to. We don’t stray away from subjects such as drug use and other illegal activity. I’ll cheerfully announce that a friend is taking up graffiti, and Emi will call to say she’s headed out to a bar after band practice, so expect her home late. I’ve never worried about coming home smelling like weed. Because of the relationship we have, my sister and I have never hesitated to get our parents help when we’re worried about a friend doing hard drugs, and we’d never hesitate to call instead of driving home with someone who’s drunk.

So in conclusion, here are my very inexpert opinions, based on my experiences, on what makes a good parent-teen bond: respect, honesty, communication, and a lack of coercion and control. I’m incredibly grateful for the relationship I have with my parents, and that my parents are the people they are.

Comments on Respectful parenting begets respectful teens

  1. This puts excellently a point I’m always making. I sigh every time I hear about parents preparing for warfare as soon as their child hits adolescence – it doesn’t have to be like that. Too many parents seem to choose to battle on ultimately insignificant things like music, clothes, hair styles – why? These don’t matter if the important stuff is going well, and if important things aren’t going well with a teen, well, they’re really not important then.

    I think parents need to enjoy teenagers – I’m looking forward to a time when I can engage with my children on a more equal level, and adolescence is that time. When teens say ‘You’re treating me like a child’, they often have a point. The correct response to ‘Mum, I want to go out with my friends on Saturday’ is not ‘No, you’ll get drunk and do something stupid’, it’s more along the lines of ‘OK, let me know what you’re doing and tell me if your plans change’ Who could resent such a light requirement? My siblings and I didn’t – we knew we were trusted not to do anything *too* stupid, so we respected that by not going nuts. Not that we were squeaky-clean do-gooders by any stretch of the imagination, but we all did well at school, had friends, and got on with our parents. Everything else really didn’t matter as long as those were in place.

  2. Being a recent rebellious teenager, I expected to really connect with this post, but I don’t agree with all of it. Specifically, the “Yet despite that, they wouldn’t ground, punish, or shame their teen if they came home high.” bit.

    Rules don’t equal to no respect for your child. My mother didn’t want me trying drugs, but respected my teenage disposition enough to let me hang out with my friends with whom I may or may not have been doing drugs with. I respected her enough not to come home high, shrugging and explaining “Kids will be kids.”

    I personally don’t think, as a parent, I can willfully condone any specific acts that can potentially get my child in trouble with the law. I do hope my future children will make mistakes and enjoy the thrill of rebellion as young adults. I also hope that my guidance will form a conscience in them that helps them make an appropriate decision when it comes to taking things too far.

    • I agree. It’s the parents’ home, the parents’ boundaries. I could not consciously allow my child to go out and engage in drug use, then not confront them about it when they arrive home. “Respect” doesn’t mean talking about it and discussing the consequences of illegal actions. And I’ve known far too many children go off the deep end while their parents “respectfully” ignore drug use even as seemingly innocuous as pot.

      • Oh wait, I do want to add in though that I agree with most of the rest of the article. Parents are there to support their children on their journey to adulthood, not mold them. Children need their own personal space to grow and express themselves, even when parents don’t always agree with their choices.

    • Yeah, this statement stands out so much it pretty much overshadows the rest of the piece. There’s a difference in being respectful and letting your child make choices you wouldn’t and not punishing your child when the do something that is illegal or harmful to themselves or using drugs. Not punishing them says you don’t care that they are breaking the law, or worse..that you don’t care they are poisoning their body. My children can tattoo themselves, dye themselves, pierce themselves, wear whatever they want, believe in whatever gods they want or not, follow whatever political leaders they want, etc etc. But I will not stand by and watch my children do something that could lead to their death.

      • I think part of the idea, though, is if said child is out and high and in a dangerous situation will they stay there rather than come home because they know they’ll be punished if they show up in their current state?

        Its a fine line to walk. Because of course you would rather they come home than sleep on a park bench, but at the same time, you don’t want to make it “okay” to be high in your home.

        • I always liked to think of parenting as kind of a wink and a nod. One side of me wants to encourage them to try new things, even if they go against the rules. I did, and it taught me about boundaries. I was okay with smoking pot, but would I take acid? Nah. I didn’t like pot that much, anyways. I hate the taste of alcohol, but I enjoy getting drunk with friends. And now I know I don’t like being drunk in public.

          I don’t want my children to stay out of the house if they’re intoxicated, but it’s unacceptable to display it in front of me. And if my rules make them stay at their friend’s house instead, it’s okay. I trusted them to be with that friend in the first place.

          • Er, I tried to edit the above post, but it didn’t go through. This is what I meant to say:

            I always liked to think of parenting as kind of a wink and a nod. One side of me wants to encourage them to try new things, even if they go against the rules. I did, and it taught me about limitations. I was okay with smoking pot, but would I take acid? Nah. I didn’t like pot that much, anyways. I hate the taste of alcohol, but I enjoy getting drunk with friends. And now I know I don’t like being drunk in public.

            On the other hand, I feel my children need to know that laws, however unfair they seem, are laws, and there are consequences. They are far worse, though, if you’re caught by law enforcement, so rather than wandering the streets drunk or high, come home and risk being caught by me.

  3. I agree with you, as a 35 yo mom of 2 teenagers (17 and 13) and 4 more to follow (12, 10, 9 and 4). I was *very* rebellious as a teenager. I got very high marks in school, received a full scholarship to attend a prestigious art school in France. Yet my parents treated me like I was smoking crack and having sex with anything that looked at me. They controlled me to the extent that my mom bought all my clothes as a teenager, and I ended up saving my lunch money to use at thrift stores. (I ended up with awesome outfits that way though – some of which my 17yo wears now).
    On the other hand, my 2 teenage daughters now have nothing to rebel against. I care deeply about what they do/feel/experience, but they need to learn it through their eyes and feelings. I can talk to them, but they won’t KNOW. I became the mom I wish I’d had, and my children’s friends agree. We may not have the nicest houses/cars/things out of all the kids friends, but our house ends up being the gathering spot because they know that as long as they treat everyone here with respect that they will receive the same. I have to believe that my children, as they grow older, have the knowledge they need to get along in the world, or I’ve failed at my job. If I treat them like they need controlling, not only will our homelife be unhappy, but they will be more likely to make huge mistakes (as I did, getting pregnant at 17) that can change the course of their lives, simply because they would be reacting to the control, instead of thinking things through, because they are in control. They know I have the final say. But they also know that I seldom choose to exercise it, choosing instead to believe that they know themselves and what’s best for them.

    • I teach middle schoolers and that was my first lesson as a new teacher six years ago – don’t take anything they do (or DON’T do in the terms of homework and studying) personally. And then just let the natural consequences take over…

      • Man so true. I used to be a high school teacher and some of the crap my students would pull would piss me off so bad. I eventually learned not to take their nonsense personally and it definitely helped me enjoy teaching more.

  4. There are some teens that won’t fit into the category of respectful, regardless of parenting. A large enough number of adolescents go through a period in their lives so overpowered by hormones that they aren’t capable of making sane choices.

    I’ve just turned 21, and although my parents did their best to be respectful of the fact that I too had judgement and a brain, there are some things I wanted to do that I would seriously question now that I’m not in that place anymore. Between the ages of 15 and 17, I was essentially a horny idiot incapable of making sound life choices. When I look back on it, I am glad that there were times when my parents did not allow me to do what I wanted.

    I sincerely believe that most teens have more sense than they are generally given credit for, and agree with the assertion that parents should give up a certain degree of control. That said, I think it’s a parent’s job to recognize the moments when their daughter/son is just plain crazy (be it hormonal or truly psychiatric in nature).

    • You said your parents stopped you from doing crazy stuff. If you had true control of yourself, they probably wouldn’t have had to since you would have been accustomed to setting limits for yourself. It is the children who are always controlled that have the most trouble controlling themselves!

      • I’ve always been given practically free rein over my life – my point was not that I wasn’t in control of myself intellectually, but that my surging adolescent hormones were overpowering my usually good judgement. This has nothing to do with my parents.

        My opinion is this: parents as a rule have more life experience than teens, and if their life experience tells them that their hormonal 16 year old daughter shouldn’t spend the night at her boyfriend’s house because they know that when she gets carried away with things she forgets the details (in this instance that would be condoms), then they should reserve the right to deny her the sleepover.

  5. Great post. Truly a great post! I am somewhat a new mother. I have a two year old son and a baby on the way. . . I really think about the different ways I could handle different situations that will come up in both of their lives. It all boils down to CONTROL.
    There’s a balance somewhere that I hope to figure out so that my children turn out as open-minded and “good” as possible!

  6. I’m not in entire agreement here.

    I couldn’t care less if my child wants to dye their hair crazy colors, wear unusual clothes, or participate in Pagan (I find the author’s point on this a little offensive, btw. Pagans are not over-sexed, over-zealous people commiserating in taboo acts, and I feel the author was hinting they are). I’m a tried and true Rennie/hippie, so I have never followed the mainstream. Even with drinking, I am a firm believer it is best to teach your child how drink, rather than them learn on their own. Drinking, like food, is a luxury, and should be appreciated.

    As for the drugs: I’m sorry, but no. I have no problem teaching her about drugs 101 (some drugs aren’t so bad, so will destroy you). Crack does not equal marijuana, and I don’t want my daughter hanging with crack addicts. Why? Because I did, and I was sucked into some weird stuff. I got lucky, but I’m not stupid enough to risk my daughter’s life just because I’m afraid of “controlling” her.

    She’s my daughter, I’m her mother, not her friend. She’ll have lots of friends, but it takes balls to be a mom.

    • “So in conclusion, here are my very inexpert opinions, based on my experiences, on what makes a good parent-teen bond: respect, honesty, communication, and a lack of coercion and control. I’m incredibly grateful for the relationship I have with my parents, and that my parents are the people they are.”

      The author here admits that her views are just her views.

      To be totally honest I find parenting teenagers tips from someone barely out of their teens a little bit, well, not quite right. I’d have had a ton of ideas and suggestions too, at that age, roughly 90% of which have been revised now that I’m in my mid-30s and *the parent of a teenager*.

      (Most of my immediate post-teenage years advice would have been along the lines of “If you had let me do whatever I want I would have liked you.” which to my mind now doesn’t really cut it. There are far more subtleties and things to balance out than this oversimplified equation suggests.)

  7. This is a large part of the parenting philosophy at my house. We have two rules for our daughters: Be respectful & be responsible. That covers all manner of sins, so to speak, but that is the simplest way we could help them understand what we value. Lying is disrespectful & irresponsible so if you hook school or plan to break curfew you get in less (or potentially zero) trouble if you’re honest. We know where they are & that they’re safe. They have to live with the consequences (being tired the next day, getting poor grades, etc), not us. Also we follow those rules. The only arguments we’ve ever had have been because one of us (you know the infallible grownups) violated (sometimes unintentionally) on of the golden rules. We keep our disagreements respectful; there is no shouting, name calling, threats, or ultimatums. And if our girls are in trouble with us it is discussed not simply handed down like an iron curtain. When we are wrong about something (get this), we apologize. And furthermore we encourage our children to speak up if they feel we are being unfair, contradictory or otherwise “wrong”. Our communication is open & though they’ve been warned they might not like what they find if they snoop (we know they snoop – everybody is curious about the lives / stuff of others) we don’t hide things. We talk openly about sex & drugs & drinking. We frame conversations about love & relationships to include the potential for same sex partners & open relationships. We encourage them to follow their passions (currently anime/art/Japanese culture & writing/photography/trashy novels). We are the scary liberal parents of the neighborhood & proud of it.

  8. This may work for some kids but not for most. And certainly it wouldn’t have worked for me. I was a generally good kid (good grades, etc.) but like many teenagers I lacked the foresight to make responsible decisions. I was a hornball. I wanted to impress my friends. And so I did dumb, often dangerous things. Until mama put down her foot. And it’s a good thing she did. I didn’t need another friend. I had enough friends. I needed a parent. And her control was the good, subtle kind. Not all control is coercive. She let us know when we disappointed her and that is a powerful thing. Because we loved her and she loved us. She respected us and loved us and showed it by setting limits when it came to potentially dangerous or life-altering decisions. I didn’t always like it at the time (although I certainly never thought I hated her!) but I was so much better off in the long run. There is a vast divide between coercion and boundaries.

  9. I really appreciate the author sharing her perspective. My perspective is a little different, but that’s okay. We’re separated by years and life experiences. I do stress out about whether my now 5 year old and I will be able to continue our close, loving relationship when she’s in her teens. I think I can incorporate some of these lessons into my own style; some of them we already do.

    I’m very curious about a point that some posters have alluded to: what would your parents do (hypothetically) if you got arrested for something? Say it was a drug-related thing. I’m curious what their reaction would be.

  10. Well, I don’t see it as MY home. As a mother of three boys, I house all of us and OUR home is just that. It’s ours. Everyone lives here, participates in keeping it up, and makes sure everyone is valued. Why should I treat them as less or smaller beings than myself? I don’t throw rules around like I’m in charge. I make suggestions when warranted and it’s up to the kids to make the choices they need to make. I don’t punish them if they don’t do it MY way because sometimes…and I know this is hard to believe…but sometimes, I’m not always right, or didn’t know how to do it another way. Gasp! What if my kids want to do or try something frowned upon by society? OK! Please be safe and call if you’ll need a ride so I can pick you up. No questions asked. Funny thing is, they’ve always had my complete trust and they’ve never drank, used drugs, or anything else and they have always had my full “permission” to do so. They do what feels right to them and I have no doubt they’ll continue to make good (for them) choices in life. Also, we’re great friends and their friends all seem to like me, thier MOM (gasp) too! I’ve been their mom for more than 20 yrs now and anyone who knows my kids, know they F*ing ROCK! 🙂

  11. I appreciate the author’s viewpoint, but I disagree in some places…
    As other have stated, rules and boundaries are not always coercion and disrespect. If I have a child it is my obligation as a parent (having made the conscious act to conceive and deliver) to care for the wellbeing of that child until they are of legal age (and beyond). That means I’ll be the rule maker and executor if it means my children are safe and not engaging in unlawful things. Does that mean the same thing as stifling who they are? Absolutely not. My children can have all the personality, desires, interests, etc…but they will not engage in action that is harmful for them without consequences. Am I a bad person for making these rules? No – rules are for the best interest of the child in that particular household….I can have a happy, loving, respectful home…but that means respect from me to the child, and also the child to me.

  12. Growing up in the ultra liberal Bay Area, I had a ton of friends who’s parents felt very strongly that things like rules were constrictive, and guilt was something that they never wanted their kids to feel. They basically raised little psychopaths that had no respect for any authority and had no empathy for other people. Perhaps the answer is to fined the happy medium, no “Mommy Dearest”, and no “Best Friend”.

  13. Oh boy, LOTS of things I could address that were brought up in the comments here (I’m the author of this post)!

    Firstly, this post was originally published on my blog: And has been edited (by the editors of Offbeat Mama, not me) from the original. I’m not really sure if it would be read differently in it’s original form, but there it is nonetheless if anyone wants to check out the un-edited version (it’s a bit longer).

    I’m pretty tired, so this might not be the best time for me to decide to respond to some of the things brought up in the comments, but I’m going to try to address a few of them anyway.

    Firstly, I disagree that you can respectfully have rules for your teens. Enforcing rules, to me, is just not a respectful behavior, no matter how you swing it. But no matter your opinion on that, I think an important point is that teenagers (or at least the ones I’ve known) usually react to rules by breaking them behind their parents backs: the more rules, the more likely teens are to break them, and feel no guilt in doing so. Basically? I don’t think rules for teens even work, whether or not you think they’re “respectful rules”!

    I also feel like the whole issue of legality is one that sets me appart from many commenters here. I don’t believe laws are moral, or reflect good values, or however you want to put it, just because they’re laws. I believe actions should be evaluated by the individual, and the choice that seems best to them (for both themselves and others) should be made on those grounds. Legality is obviously an important consideration in terms of evaluating risk, but I don’t think it holds any moral weight.

    At least one commenter brought up the point that it doesn’t seem very respectful for a teen to come home high when their parents are anti-drugs/uncomfortable with drug use, and I think that’s a good point. However, I feel like I kind of addressed that with this bit of the article: “In a mutually respectful relationship, teens are far more likely to genuinely take their parents opinions into account when deciding what they want to do.”

    I could say many more things, but as I said, I’m tired, and I’m not sure I’m putting things as well as I would were I less tired, so I think I’m going to leave it at that, for now…

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply. Good call on getting some rest, because I know it can be easy to get defensive or whatever when you’re tired. Cool head and all…

      FWIW, I was raised by a very strict religious mother and an atheist father who put up with it. I had a LOT of rules as a kid, and I was nearly perfect in terms of not breaking those rules. I didn’t chafe against them too much. After I got out of the family home and left the religion, I did have a major rebellion against those rules and did a lot of the things they told me not to do. I survived it, but I don’t know whether I’d say that I’d have done better or worse to have experienced those things as a teen. On the one hand, you’ve got a more secure setting in the family home (mostly) so there’s something of a safety net there. On the other hand, I was more emotionally ready for the experiences I had in my early twenties than I would have been in my teens.

      I think the bottom line is that we all acknowledge our differences and accept that nothing is 100% perfect 100% of the time.

      • Not so much a matter of keeping a cool head: more a matter of actually managing to put down in words what I’m trying to say! 😛

        Yeah, I’m not so happy with what I (tiredly) said about rule-breaking: I definitely stand by my statement that the more rules there are the more likely I think teens are to break them. I know plenty of the most wild teens I came across in my teen years seemed to be from a strictly controlled religious background, as you seem to be familiar with, as well as non-religious but very controlling households. But I think what I failed to do in my first comment on this was to recognize individuality. Some people are more inclined to follow rules. Some have no interest in say, drinking at all, and won’t whether their parents approve of them doing so or not. That’s me to a large extent: I’m not a big party-er, was even less of one through most of my teen years, and I doubt that would have been different in my teens had there been more control.

        Also, as you did, plenty of people put up with strict rules in their teens, and save the rebelling for a bit later in life (had I grown up in a different household, that’s quite possibly where I would be right now! ;-P).

        I think the point I was, and am, really trying to get at is that many, I believe most, people living under the strict control of others WILL break free of that, sometime, somehow.

        Again, I speak from my experiences, my view of the world, the place I grew up and the people I knew (and know), but I definitely believe this to be true!

    • From the point of view of a teacher who works with at-risk teens, I can tell you that most of my student come from very permissive households where the parents don’t want to enforce rules for fear of alienating their kids and having them not want to come home. From what I’ve seen – and I don’t have my own teen yet, but I definitely work with many – if parents have done their job BEFORE the teens years creating a safe, tolerant home and a family dynamic that stresses openness and trust, teens will EXPECT to get in trouble for certain things, and even though they may still do them, they’ll still come home and face the music.

      Kids need, and deep down WANT, limits and boundaries, because these things show that we care about them. The LAST message I want to send to my students (and eventually my son) is “I am more concerned with being your friend than with your safety and wellbeing.” In my opinion, it’s a huge disrespect to teens NOT to have rules, because it demonstrates that you don’t care.

  14. I’m now eighteen, and I think I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with my mother. She does enforce rules, but she never said ‘you can’t do this, because i said so,’ but more ‘I’d really feel better if you didn’t do this,’. Which sounds kind of like emotional blackmail, but I don’t feel it really was.
    I’ve always been a very ‘good girl’. I had my desperately trying to fit in stage when I was 12 or so, and that mostly involved clothes, learning to swear, and hanging out with girls who didn’t like me but I really wished they would. Then I realised that was stupid, and embraced goth. Then I realised I looked stupid, and embraced myself, instead 😉 (disclaimer: not all goth is stupid. My 12 year old incarnation of it, however, was.)
    My mother has always accepted that she can’t control me, I think. She’s fairly laid back. She’ll tell me if she doesn’t really like something I’m doing, like my bright ass pink hair, for instance. But she lives with it, because it’s a) just hair, b) MY hair, so it’s my decision.
    My father, on the other hand…well, I think we have a much better relationship because he’s hardly ever home. His visits home were always miserable. The house was never clean enough. I didn’t do enough exercise/homework/something. Mum was just plain fail. This was partly because my parents should never have been married, but Dad is also a very, very uptight individual.
    Finally, as far as drugs, alcohol, and sex – I never did any of those. Never wanted to. This might be because I was never popular. Never went to parties or anything like that. My idea of a fun time was to have my friends over and make a weird film involving us jumping off the boat in the yard making strange noises. (I don’t know either – I just remember that snippet, and that it was fun.) Then having marshmallows. I get drunk/high off friendship. I don’t need alcohol or pot. Or sleep deprivation. XD My boyfriend insists I once said that the cold metal tentacles were reaching out for me when I was REALLY tired.
    I guess I just wanted to chip in with my point of view, being quite different from the poster, but still around the same age. I think what really helped me, though, was the realisation that I’m me. That’s it. I just need to be cool with who I am, and everyone else needs to accept that. I have friends who still haven’t quite worked that out. I always thought it was a simple thing, but apparently it’s not.
    TL;DR version: I ranted. The end. XD

  15. This article has encourage me to write a letter to my 32 year old self (12 years from now, when my 1 year old will be the age that I was when I started to sneak out, wear short skirts, and kiss boys). My husband and I have talked a lot about how we want our daughter to feel free to talk to us about her experiences, and feel safe knowing that we’ll always come pick her up, regardless of the situation. I’m a pretty young mom (22) so I’m afraid that once I have a teenager I’ll forgot what kind of mom I want to be! I’m closer to the age of a teenager now, so even though I’ll have more experience and wisdom (maybe?) when she’s a teen, I wont be able to remember as well what it is like to be a teen!

    I think teenagers will do whatever they want if they really want to do it. Yes, this can be potentially dangerous, but I think being in control of your own life is important for growing into a enlightened human being. I just want my daughter to know that I will always be there for her. Of course there will be consequences to all of her decisions, but she wont ever have to go through it alone or with shame.

    I hope we get along as much then as we do now : )

  16. My parents separated when I was young and I grew up going between their two households and their two very different parenting styles. One was 100% authoritarian: you do things my way or else. The other was fairly permissive and joked about the times I came home almost unable to remember who they were from the stuff I’d been doing. It was a shitty situation on both ends. I resented the controlling parent to the point where I avoided going there at all costs, and I felt like the permissive parent didn’t care if I came home or not. I think there has to be a balance… talking to your kids from a young age about the fact that you love them and respect that they want to try things out, but that it is your first job to make sure they are safe and loved. This doesn’t mean equating unsafe or undesirable behavior to a “bad kid” or “screw up” but it also doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to dangerous or morally wrong behavior (I refrain from saying illegal because there are plenty of things that are legal and wrong and plenty of things that are okay and illegal in my opinion.) And if you set up some kind of expectation with your kids that certain actions will have certain consequences, then they can decide what risks they want to take and if they are willing to face the consequences. Parents are not the police of their kids’ every action, but they aren’t passive observers of their kids’ actions, either.

    • Yes, this! I had one parent grow up in a controlling and religious household and the other grow up with so many siblings that my grandparents never knew where most of them were or what they were doing, since they were just trying to make a living and keep them all fed and clothed. I have always said that their experiences on opposite ends of the spectrum led to a really good middle ground in their parenting style that I always appreciated, even as a teen. Yes, there were boundaries and expectations, but there was also always open communication. They never said, “because I said so,” but would explain why they were uncomfortable with me doing something (and I respected their opinions enough to take them into consideration). It went both ways, though. If I wanted to do something they were uncomfortable with I would explain to them why I wanted to do it and also what measures I was taking to make sure I was being safe or responsible (and often times I could win them over with those discussions, too). I think this is a big part of why I’ve always had a close relationship with them.

      Now 35 weeks pregnant with my first kiddo, I hope I can have a similarly honest, open, and respectful relationship with my own child!

  17. Even as adults, we live in a society that has and enforces rules (both legal and social), so not introducing your children to this concept is doing them a great disservice in my opinion. I was raised in an environment where there were no hard and fast “rules” (written down or spelled out, I mean) but I was certainly aware that there were behaviors that were unacceptable. I was aware of this because I was raised in a respectful home where being mindful of other’s feelings was very important (as in, you don’t come home drunk in the wee hours of the morning because you know your mom will be sick with worry about you). It’s not about guilt or control. Teaching children about the effects of their actions is SO important, and I would much rather raise a child capable of empathy and respect than one who feels “free do as they please” regardless of how it makes others feel. Those people are generally regarded as jerks, and I’ve known a few in my lifetime (both teenagers and adults).

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