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Seven 'Fails' for Parents of Teens

Parenting a teen can be confusing. When your teen vulnerably lowers their guard to reveal world than when we were teens. Sometimes we mess up because they have us frazzled. But mostly, we fail because we are imperfect. Take heart. And take a moment to laugh, knowing you’re not doing half-bad as a parent if you avoid these fails. 

FAIL #1: Expect perfection. Parents of teens know gold medals and full ride Harvard scholarships are just around the corner. We understand when you set the bar way up there, the offspring rise every time.

‘Be all that you can be’ and ‘give it your all’ are soooo five minutes ago. Behind every successful trophy kid is a peerless parent, fiercely intolerant of errors and lapses in judgment. So don’t settle for less than flawless concerning your child’s personality, backstroke, complexion, class rank, volleyball serve, back handspring, IQ, cheese soufflé, French accent, haircut, handshake, and report card.

FAIL #2: Be friends with their friends. Of course their friends think you’re cool. After all, your child is simply a mini-version of you, right? What could possibly go wrong when their peers become yours?

FAIL #3: Analyze, analyze, analyze! You were an adolescent once. Hence, you are an expert on adolescence! Your child craves all the professional advice you can muster on matters of teen psycho-social behavior. When your teen vulnerably lowers their guard to reveal  their boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them, this is the precise moment your analysis should commence. Post your child’s heartbreak on social media. Text the ex yourself! Hire a live-in life coach for around-the-clock teen psychoanalysis.

FAIL #4: Get huggy in public. Your teen is always up for bear hugs and butterfly kisses. Don’t fall for that ‘really, I’m good’ act. My teen sons find it delightful when I surprise them by leaping onto their backs as they step through the door after school. They return the favor with polite expressions of gratitude and kiss me twice like the French do.

FAIL #5: Surprise your teen at work. What teen wouldn’t jump for joy at the sight of their parent entering the sub shop or café they work at? If your teen is lucky enough to lifeguard, consider enthusiastically approaching their cabana tower and generously offering to reapply their sunscreen. Draw attention to your child so they feel extra special. Or think poetry. If they work at a bakery, you could shout, “There be the son I love! My sandwich-maker. A gift from above!”

FAIL #6: Communicate on every commute. Your adolescent may be plugged into a mobile on that car ride, but their secret hope is to be plugged into the ones who gave them life.

Your teen lives for deep discussions of abstinence or about that article you read in The New Yorker about Emily Dickinson’s love life. They yearn for you to know where they stand sexually, politically, and existentially. So don’t tolerate lapses of peaceful silence.

FAIL #7: Believe them when they say they 'hate' you. Teens today live virtually stress-free lives so if they become upset with you and utter the h-word, they probably mean it sincerely. I mean, how likely is it they could be distressed about something else? No. They are pros at expressing emotion, so you can assume they truly despise you.

Note to parents: You’re not a failure!

Michele Ranard, M.Ed., loves to laugh even as she fails repeatedly with her teens. She also authors the popular online design sanctuary,


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