As a counselor of teens and young adults, this is a phrase I hear frequently. Most commonly, it’s said by parents in reference to their kids’ sexual choices, drinking or other behavior that might make a parent’s skin crawl to hear about. In addition, these behaviors can be high risk for parents to know about. If parents know difficult information, what do they do? Confronting these behaviors with teens can also be difficult. Parents might wonder if their teen will hurt themselves or become violent if consequences are given. I have often heard parents of teens who face depression and anxiety feel concerned that these emotional conditions will worsen if they give certain consequences to their child. There are no easy answers.
Each child and situation is different, but in general, I would like to encourage parents to be courageous and choose to know, rather than not know. If you don’t know about the choices your teen is making, someone else will hear about them. This person could be a positive influence like a youth pastor or trustworthy adult, but it also could be peers who are negative influences.
Choices made as a teenager have the potential to be life-altering. Unguided and unchecked teen decision-making can result in teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse or alcohol addictions. Less sever but equally corrosive are poor-quality friendships and romantic relationships, as well as skewed beliefs about what brings true contentment.
So be a brave parent and choose to know about the hard-to-stomach choices your teen might be making or considering making. My worldview says that you have been chosen to be the best parent for your child. You have the opportunity to teach your child the benefits of good choices and the pitfalls of poor ones. So don’t leave it up to others or to teen influence – be courageous, be involved, and teach them well.