Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture: 8 Things You HAVE to Keep in Perspective When Raising Teens

Back up, parents... you need to look at raising your teen through a MUCH wider lens

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture: 8 Things You HAVE to Keep in Perspective When Raising Teens

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting teenagers (and parenting, in general), it’s that raising our kids is a marathon NOT a sprint. 

You know that saying, “You can’t see the forest through the trees?” The same applies when we’re raising our teenagers. Sometimes, we’re so hyper or narrowly focused on certain behaviors of our kids – their lack of motivation or how they get snippy with us or how they’re, well… total slobs, at times – that we can’t see the big picture and we tend to feel as though we’re failing our kids OR that our kids may never grow up and learn to adult.

That’s why it so important for us to keep things in perspective, to look through a MUCH wider lens when we’re parenting our kids, and look for all the positive changes taking place right before our eyes (like how every single year they’re becoming more independent and capable). 

So, before you worry that your teen may never be responsible or fully capable or less of a slob, remember… don’t lose sight of the BIG picture. Here are 8 things you have to keep in perspective when raising teens.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture

8 Things You HAVE to Keep in Perspective When Raising Teens


1.  Your Teen is a Work in Progress

You know that boy of yours who’s struggling in school and avoids homework and studying like the plague? He might just surprise you in a few years. You know your daughter who couldn’t pick up a wet towel if her life depended on it and her room looks like a total disaster? She really might surprise you in a few years!

Who your teen is today is not who they’ll be in five years, three years, next year, or even six months from now. My daughter whose bedroom was always a mess became a neat freak when she went to college. (Seriously? All those years she actually DID know how to clean up after herself?) And, my son, who was slow out of the starting gate academically, now pulls A’s with ease. 

Don’t freak out if your teen is pokey developmentally, unmotivated, or can’t seem to pull an “A” no matter how hard they try. Support them, guide them, and equip them with the tools to improve, but don’t look at the situation as “concrete.” They are a pliable, ever-changing work in progress. 

2. Their Mistakes Mean They’re Learning, Trying and Growing

Whether their mistakes are accidental (like a fender bender) or blatant defiance of your authority or rules (purposely breaking curfew, for instance), take comfort in knowing every teen makes tons of mistakes on their journey to adulthood. As a parent, I’d be more concerned if my child was a perfect rule follower who never stepped out of the nine dots. 

They’re learning, they’re swimming away from the safety of the side of the pool and venturing where the water is deep – without you, and they’re trying to gain independence – even if it does mean testing you and your rules every now and then. 

3. They May Act Like They’re Not Listening… But They ARE

You tell your teen to clean their room and they roll their eyes. You remind them not to make plans this weekend because they have to help clean out the garage and they sigh heavily and whine. You try to talk to your teen and they act like they’re ignoring you. Yep… it’s all pretty typical and normal teen behavior.

But don’t get worked up, (unless they cross the line, of course), don’t take it personally, and don’t stop talking and instructing and reminding and guiding. They’re taking it all in. Your mom and dad lectures, your life lessons, and your guidance are all sinking in slowly along with the observations they’re making about how you act. They’re picking up on everything.

4. They’ll Likely Pull Away – But They WILL Be Back

I wish someone would do a scientific study on how long the average teen pulls away from their parents before they circle back again.

From experience, I’ve found a lot of teens start pulling away (which is typically heartwrenching for parents) around the age of (give or take) 13 and they circle back in late high school or in their young adult/college years when they start to develop a greater appreciation for their parents – the love they gave and the sacrifices they made. 

So, when your teen starts spending more time in their bedroom, when they choose friends over family, when they act like hanging with the family is nothing short of a chore, DON’T take it personally. Ride this one out, parents, knowing full well that they WILL be back in time. After they’ve learned a few lessons, after they’ve felt the gentle breeze of freedom under their wings, after their wings have become strong, they will return… give them time. 

5. They Are Their Own Person, Not a Reflection of You

You might find so much joy in seeing your son play soccer… the sport you loved as a child. You might burst with pride because your daughter agreed to try out for the cheerleading squad because you were a cheerleader when you were her age. Our kids’ desire to please us is powerful (even though it may not seem like it, at times). Nudge them enough and they’re likely to honor our wishes, but not without hidden resentment.

Our kids are their own person. This is their time. We had ours. Let’s let them decide what makes them happy, and how they want to spend their free time. Let’s not live vicariously through our kids. Let’s let them evolve into who they’re meant to be with our full support and love – we owe that to them. 

6. They’re Still Little on the Inside

This is so important… underneath that cloak of “I don’t need you, I got this,” underneath that grown-up-looking teen with a deep voice, big hands, and man-size feet is a child who still needs you. Your teen needs your acceptance, validation, support, guidance, and tons of love – every single day. Don’t deprive them of that simply because they “look” mature enough to handle life on their own. 

7. You Won’t Always Get it Right, Parents

Oh, parents, we’re going to get plenty wrong along the way. We’ll fly off the handle when we should have remained calm. We’ll make false assumptions about our kid’s whereabouts or whether they did something on purpose. We’ll question their motives, their friends, their motivation, and their decisions. We’ll lay our heads on our pillows at night and get mad at ourselves for mishandling a situation.

But please… don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re a work in progress just like your teen is. You’re learning as you go and figuring things out right alongside your teen. Thankfully, our kids are getting older and they are (for the most part) forgiving of our mistakes, just like we’re forgiving of theirs. It’s okay not to be perfect.

8. They Need You Today, Tomorrow, and Well Into Their Adult Years

Nothing will ever matter more to your teen than the love they feel from you. Nothing will give them more strength. Nothing will make them feel more empowered, safe, and capable.

No matter what, never deny your teen your love. Never base your love on their accomplishments, behavior, or decisions. 

Wrap your arms around the teen standing in front of you with all their wonderfully unique qualities and strengths. Let them know, unequivocally, that you’ve got their back, that they can always lean on you, and that you’ll always stand ready to support, love, guide, and be there for them… no matter what.

If you enjoyed, “Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture: 8 Things You HAVE to Keep in Perspective When Raising Teens,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy reading when raising teens!

What Teenagers Really Need From Their Parents

Raising Teenagers: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do

13 Unexpected Perks of Raising Teenagers

What’s YOUR best advice when raising teens? Add your thoughts in the comments section below!
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