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PupnTaco's avatar

Parents who've raised teenagers: what was your biggest challenge?

Asked by PupnTaco (13885points) September 13th, 2008 from iPhone

And how did you get through it?

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20 Answers

cheebdragon's avatar

Im a parent, but my kid is only 2 so I can’t say from experience…....
but I was a teen a few years ago and I think that the biggest issue with me, was drug use and doing stupid things that could have killed me.

augustlan's avatar

I’ll let you know…when and if I survive it.

susanc's avatar

My hardest challenge was finding them sexually attractive. I contained myself and
the eldest told me this last winter that he knew I saw his beauty and that he felt completely safe. So it worked out okay. p.s. these kids weren’t my own bio-children.

cheebdragon's avatar


augustlan's avatar

Stepmom issues…

PupnTaco's avatar

Uh… thanks for your honesty, I think.

galileogirl's avatar

augustian: When and if SHE would survive or if I would kill her. There was the night when I completely lost it, packed her bags and called her father to come and get her. When he wasn’t home I considered checking her in to the nearest motel. Fortunately she finally shut up and went to bed and I regained my composure by morning.

hearkat's avatar

My son is 17, I am a single mother… so there have been many challenges!!

Fortunately, he and I have always communicated well and maintained a close relationship. Early on, I realized that letting go would be best done progressively, so I raised him to be very self-sufficient and allowed him to earn responsibilities along the way.

I knew from my own experiences that once he hit 14, he’d be making his own decisions, regardless of anything I do or say. So I worked to ensure that by the time he grew bigger than I am, that he’d learned to accept the consequences of his actions. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound if cure.

So he takes reasonably good care of himself, although I wish I could get him to drive more cautiously. He goes to school and work, and is pretty good at saving his money, but never really applied himself academically. He’s been with his girlfriend for nearly 2 years (and her mother loves and trusts him), although they bicker a lot.

My biggest challenge now is his frustration and fear over not knowing what to do next. He hasn’t found a field of interest to focus on, and that upsets him. Our current game plan is for him to attend community college after High School, so he can get the core courses out of the way and also explore other classes to see what might click for him. That is what I wound up doing… I was nearly 23 before I ever heard of Audiology, and I feel it is my true vocation. So I tell him to be patient, but what teenage boy is?

He does have a bit of a temper, and that has always been a challenge, because once the switch is flipped, it is so hard getting him to calm down. He’s managed to lengthen his fuse some, but I still worry about him getting into a situation bigger than he can handle.

He has admitted to me that as much as he sees that he is more mature and independent than his peers, he is nervous about being on his own. Because of several circumstances, he and I will likely have different residences within a year. As busy as he has been with work, school, and his social life, we are already like ships in the night; but he admits that he likes knowing that I am here for him.

Are you a parent of a teenager (or soon to be teen)? What are your concerns? Your question was very open-ended, so I don’t know how helpful my response has been… :-/

sarapnsc's avatar


wundayatta's avatar

In a few months, we’ll have our first teen. We’ve been warned over and over again about what happens to girls when they become teens. Something about them not talking to us any more, and thinking we’re worse than dirt.

Then again, I’ve heard others say this happens with a portion of teens, but by far the majority are not nearly such problems. I’m sure things are more difficult for single parents, though.

What I remember about being a teenager is that it was the worst time of my life. I was lonely, and I felt my parents didn’t understand me, and couldn’t understand me. I think I was right about their capabilities. They came from a different time and had different experiences, which left them ill-prepared to help me through things like a recession, job hunting in a recession, and depression (which they didn’t believe in).

My feeling is that as a parent, you need to always be ready to learn from your kids, even if they are teens. Their world is different from ours, at least to some degree, if not significantly different. We need to be less judgemental (as hard as that may be), so that we can open our ears (and hearts) and try to understand what our children’s lives are like.

If we don’t hear them as they want to be heard, we can’t help them, I think. We may highly disapprove of their choices, and we can express that, but carefully, I think. First listen, and then if they want to hear us, tell them our opinions, but as information. We make our choices for reasons, and they need to know our reasons for our advice, and they need to feel respected in their decision-making ability (whether we agree with their choices or not).

Respect is different from wisdom. We can respect them without agreeing with them. I believe that if they feel that, the lines of communication will open up, and we will have fewer problems. But they have to feel they can discuss their aspirations with us without judgement, or they will not show us their hearts, and we can’t help them.

PupnTaco's avatar

@hearkat: my kids are 23, 16, & 14. Our 23-year old took us through hell but is doing fine now. In fact, more than fine; he’s great.

16 & 14 are tag-teaming us now with alternating problems like staying out all night when they were supposed to be home, drinking, straight Fs in school, getting in fights, trips to the ER, smoking pot, taking pills, lying, stealing…

Mom & Dad are still together, always have been. There’s no abuse of any kind in the house. We’re not religious nuts, holding them to unrealistic expectations. One of us has always been home to look after them.

They’re both in counseling for their individual issues. But I don’t know if I can handle four more years of this, I’m exhausted.

augustlan's avatar

PnT, oh God. Mine are 14, almost 13, and 11. You have just described my worst fears! My 14 year old is a really good kid, but does seem to hate me and/or think I’m an idiot about half the time. I hear that this it completely normal stage for girls, but man it drives me crazy. However, if that’s the worst I have to deal with, I just might survive it.

gimmedat's avatar

I, too am in the throws of teenage years. My daughter is 15, and I have to say, she is about the most awesome person I believe I have ever met. She is compassionate, smart, funny, has a level head, and is totally CRAPTOSE intolerant. I really can’t take a whole lot of credit for the kind of kid she is, she has just always been much older than she is. I think that part of who she is comes from her dad and I always being honest with her, telling her (and demonstrating) that she can tell us anything, that no problem is ever too big to not have a solution. My husband and I are pretty young to have a teenager (I was pregnant at 17) and I think that has been a huge advantage. Our lives were so completely different than the one we’ve made for her, and believe it or not, she really is pretty much appreciative of what she is, what we are, and where our lives are going! I love that!

hearkat's avatar

@PnT: It sounds like you have more than 4 years of it… once they’re 18 you might not have full legal obligations, but parental responsibility and unconditional love don’t have time limits.

I wish I could offer you advice, but I can’t. You say your eldest is doing much better now… he is your most valuable source of information. He might be able to provide insight into what the younger two are going through, and perhaps even serve as a bridge between them and you parents.

My heart goes out to your kids, you and your wife (I know she also Fluthers, but I forget her name). I hope that TOGETHER you all will find a way to communicate and work through these issues.

Darwin's avatar

My 16-year-old daughter is sometimes a bit frustrating but by and large she is a great kid. She communicates pretty well, gets As, is in varsity sports, doesn’t date because she feels school needs to come first (as she puts it “there aren’t any boys fast enough and smart enpugh to keep up with me”), and has the specific goal of becoming a pediatrician.

My 14-year-old son is hell on earth, but then he is bipolar, ADHD, and Oppositional-Defiant. We say he is bilingual in English and Anglo-Saxon, since so much of his conversation consists of swear words. He hasn’t been arrested yet but that may come.

My stepson, who is now 39, was also hell on earth. He did get arrested but we stuck to our rule that we don’t go bail but we will get him an attorney. Once he moved out it was easier to tolerate his bad behavior. As far as I know he hasn’t been arrested since he was about 30 and hasn’t even gotten a DUI. He still hasn’t figured out the difference between $10 an hour for 40 hours a week and $5 an hour for 80 hours a week and has never taken up our offer to refund any money he spends on getting his GED. But he is self-reliant now.

Kar's avatar

The biggest problems with had with my stepson, who is now 42 and doing great, were bad mouthing, getting in trouble at school for acting out, taking drugs, getting drunk, staying out all night – all the usual teen nightmare stuff – same with my oldest daughter, but at 29 she is doing quite well. My youngest daughter was a breeze, and of course she’s the one who moved across the country!
My daughter used to slam doors, curse and scream at us, and daily tell us how much she hated us – two sisters, different as night and day.
All of them turned out fine, with a few bumbs along the way.

wundayatta's avatar

What Kar said reminded me that in my generation (younger end of baby boomers), there were a lot of “druggies” in high school. Many of them were bored to tears because high school was so lacking in challenge. Once they got to college, they did well, and ended up having successful careers. So many people I knew did drugs to various degrees. They were all pretty interesting people.

So, getting into trouble in high school is not necessarily the end of the road. People can get past these things.

galileogirl's avatar

As a teacher, I can tell you there seems to be a distinct mid-teen turning point. Some of the most feckless, “what, me worry?”, vacant-eyed 15 yo’s turn into bright, sharp, well-informed 17 yo’s. The trick seems to be getting through without becoming a parent, becoming addicted or getting a criminal history. No matter how hard it is to parent the little darlings, they have a very good chance of metamorphizing into human beings.

YARNLADY's avatar

My biggest challenge was to get them to accept responsibility for their own problems. They would leave food out, and refuse to help with the chores without a lot of nagging and complaining. They were resentful and wanted to be out from under the rules.

I was so lucky because none of them ever got involved in drugs or drinking or staying out. They were all computer geeks and still are.

I raised two sons and helped raise three grandsons, so far.

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