EVERY Teen is Capable of Making an Epic Mistake – We Need to Remember That, Parents

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: EVERY Teen is Capable of Making an Epic Mistake – We Need to Remember That, Parents

Co-written By: Marybeth Bock & Nancy Reynolds

We’ve all heard the saying, “To err is human.”

Well, when you’re a teenager trying to figure out who you are, who you want to be, and how the heck to adult, there can be a whole lot of “erring” going on.

Our kids’ teen years are a time when a lot of parents (or, maybe it’s safe to say most parents) are completely blindsided and humbled by what their once agreeable, rule-following child can do.

EVERY Teen is Capable of Making an Epic Mistake – We Need to Remember That, Parents


Maybe you got a call from the middle school principal or the high school coach letting you know that your teen has been skipping class or stirring up trouble at practice. Maybe another parent approached you in the grocery store parking lot to “give you the lowdown” on what’s been happening at her house when your teen comes over. Or, maybe it’s something that really sends your worry into overdrive like your teen got caught smoking weed at the high school football game or got arrested for a DUI. 

If you’re like a lot of parents (myself included), the first thoughts that go through your mind are:

“How could my kid do something that stupid?” 

“For crying out loud… haven’t they been listening to anything I’ve been telling them?”

“How could they not know better?”

Oh, I know it can be heartbreaking!

But parents, I’m here to tell you that when that unwelcome, baffling, nerve-wracking call comes in alerting you to the fact that the kid you thought was perfect (or, at the very least a pretty darn good kid) clearly isn’t perfect and perhaps not the “good” kid you thought they were, you’re NOT alone. 

Just because your teen made a mistake (small OR epic), doesn’t mean you’re failing as a parent. It means your teen is growing up, figuring things out, and perhaps stumbling a bit along the way like MOST teens do. Your teen’s behavior isn’t your parenting report card.

Of course, how we parent our kids impacts how our kids behave, to some degree. But we can be the best of parents – involved and present in our kids’ lives, committed to teaching and guiding them with love, patience, understanding, and reasonable consequences, and dedicated to giving them what they need to become capable, independent adults  – and they can STILL mess up royally. 

So, before you second-guess yourself convinced you’re getting this parenting gig all wrong or you lose sleep wondering if your teen is ever going to get through their teenage years in one piece, here me out… there’s not a SINGLE teenager on this planet who isn’t capable of making an epic mistake. 

All teenagers make mistakes. Read that again, parents… ALL teenagers make mistakes. It comes with the territory of “teenagering.”

Keep this in mind also… your teen and you will get through this – whatever it is. Everything is “figureoutable.” 

The bottom line is, teenagers are prone to making mistakes for several reasons. So, the next time your teen messes up small time OR big time, keep these factors in mind:

Their Brain is Under Construction

I know you’ve heard or read about this before but it’s worth repeating… your teen’s brain is still undergoing significant development, particularly in areas related to decision-making, impulse control, and risk assessment. In fact, it’s under major construction – and we all know how messy and chaotic construction sites can be. 

So, when your teen falls prey to peer pressure, makes a snap decision without thinking it through, or does something dangerous or straight-up stupid, (despite your endless lectures), quite often, you can thank their young brain for that. 

Peer Pressure is a Powerful Force

Think back to when you were a teenager hanging out with your friends. Did they talk you into things you probably shouldn’t have done? Did you make (not so smart) decisions simply for the sake of fitting in with the crowd or being accepted?

Well, your teen isn’t any different. Just like you were growing up, your teen is highly influenced by their friends which means they’re bound to “follow the crowd,” at times.

Above All… They Want Independence

They need you, but they don’t want you calling the shots. They love you, but they wish you’d back off a bit. They listen to you, at times, but when they have the urge to spread their wings of independence, they just might toss aside your logical advice. It’s ALL so normal. 

Try not to stress too much, parents. Your teen is amidst the healthy process of establishing independence from you and asserting their autonomy. They’re so eager to start making their own decisions and individuate that oftentimes they make decisions without fully considering the consequences. 

Emotions are Running High

When you’re a teenager going through major hormonal shifts, everything feels BIGGER. Did they get into a fight with their best friend? It might feel like the end of the world. Did they walk in the door after school with tons of homework? They might rant for an hour. Did you say “no” to something they want to do? They might think you’re the worst parent in the world and tell you they hate you.

It’s all too common for teens to struggle with regulating their emotions, which can trigger them to do and say things that might even confuse them! Remember, just because your teen looks all grown up with their big feet and deep voice doesn’t mean they’re grown up on the inside. 

Social Media Adds Fuel to the Fire

Did your teen engage in a ridiculous (or perhaps dangerous) TikTok challenge? Did they enter into an undesirable chat room out of sheer curiosity? Did they create a fake Instagram account, get on Tinder (pegged as the “hook-up” app), or order (what seemed like) harmless “prescription” drugs on the dark web? 

Social media and technology expose our “curious kids” to a whole new world of temptations, peer pressure, cyberbullying, and online risks that we never had to contend with.

These powerful influences can lure our (otherwise REALLY good kids) into situations that trigger them to make a crummy or even dangerous decision. (My best advice: Keep those lines of communication open with your teen and keep tabs on their online activity. The online world can be a dangerous place for a young teen.)

Are Our Teen’s Mistakes Really Essential?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that if we shield our kids from making mistakes and prevent them from learning the valuable outcome of the consequences of their mistakes, we’re robbing them of the ability to grow, to become wise, to develop maturity and resilience, and to gain important skills. 

Their mistakes are what allow them to realize there’s a better way and guide them toward more critical, methodical thinking. “Well, that wasn’t the best decision. What can I do differently next time to avoid that outcome?”

As parents, we have to recognize that while we play a significant role in shaping our teens’ values and decision-making skills, we can’t control every aspect of their lives – nor should we as they grow and mature. Our teenagers need to learn how to take ownership of their decisions and the consequences that follow.

When Your Teen Makes a Royal Mistake, Remember This…

Blaming yourself for every mistake your teen makes can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. It’s important to practice self-compassion and recognize that you’re doing the best you can in challenging circumstances and that your teen’s last mistake really IS their best lesson.

I know it can be embarrassing when your teen messes up, especially if word travels (which it tends to do). But in time you and your teen will look back and realize that their screw-up resulted in a lot of growth and learning. You may also find that, in many ways, it brought you closer together as you worked through the problem together.

We can’t take ownership of every mistake our kids make on their journey to adulthood.

But what we can do is stand beside them, focus on keeping the lines of communication open, partner with them when they do mess up so they learn from their mistake, and remind them that our love is steadfast no matter what mistake they might make.

About Marybeth Bock:

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “EVERY Teen is Capable of Making an Epic Mistake – We Need to Remember That, Parents,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy, too!

If You Want to Let Me Grow, Then You’ve Got to Let Me Go

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

My Daughter, Someday I Hope You Realize That I’ve Always Been On Your Side

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