When kids act out, their parents often get blamed.
Before becoming a parent, I used to have several scenarios that I surmised denoted bad parenting. A toddler pitching a fit in public, another picking fights with his playmates, a teen girl talking back at her mom, and teens who always get in trouble; All these I, in my naiveté, concluded were the direct results of bad parenting.
Then my kids came along, and they’ve done everything on that list, and then some. Does that make me a bad father?
Questioning Your Parenting Skills
Being the father of a troubled teen made me question everything I knew about parenting.
Why was my son always rebelling, acting out and getting into all kinds of trouble both at home and at school? Wasn’t I doing enough as a father? What was I doing wrong?
These thoughts plagued me. I thought I was doing a really lame job as a dad. The fact that my son was diagnosed with a behavioral disorder only made things worse. Guilt became my constant companion, and I struggled with thinking of all the ways I’d let him down. Maybe if I’d done something different he wouldn’t have turned out the way he did.
This is a common thing that parents of struggling teens go through. The more your kids misbehave and act out, the more you feel like a failure. We’ve all been conditioned to draw a straight line between our kids’ behavior and our competence as fathers and parents. If our teens struggle and lose their way, then it means that we’ve somehow failed in our roles.
But that’s not necessarily true.
You’re Not a Bad Parent
The truth is, parenting is hard. You’re not always going to get it right, and it doesn’t make you a failure if you don’t.
Good parenting doesn’t provide any surety your teens will make good choices. You’re not a bad father if your son becomes a father at 16 or your daughter starts drinking and using drugs. Of course, if you were a neglectful parent and didn’t teach them right from wrong, you need to shoulder the blame.
However, as teens age, they begin to make their own choices, and some of those won’t be the right ones. Sometimes they struggle with mental health issues or behavioral disorders that influence their actions, and neither you nor your teen is at fault. Other times, perfectly decent parents can end up producing toxic kids—it happens, and you’re not to blame.
Having difficult struggling teens doesn’t mean you’ve completely screwed up and should have your parenting card revoked. It simply means you’re the parent of teens who are going through a rough patch. It means you’re a caring, loving parent who is trying to be a good father in difficult circumstances. It means you actually care about what happens to them—if you didn’t you wouldn’t be worrying yourself sick about it.
So maybe cut yourself some slack and shut down the voices in your head that are proclaiming you a failure. Find your teens the help they need, give them your love and support and remember to take care of yourself too.
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