Why We Need to Realize Our Teens Act Differently When They Aren't Around Us

I've been in this parenting gig long enough to know my kids are going to act differently around certain people than they do in front of their mother, grandmother, or brothers and sisters.

Two teen girls in the background making fun of or bullying a third girl

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

I had a few unpleasant phone calls last week about my teenage kids. They were literally within an hour of each other and made me feel like I might as well throw in the towel as a parent because my diligence just swirled down the drain.

One involved the school calling me to let me in on an incident that one of my kids was involved in, and one involved some teenage friendship drama another one of my teens had been struggling with lately.

Neither of them was serious by any means but they still required a talk and small consequence to correct the behaviors. While no one got into trouble, I found myself in both instances wanting to say something: "No, that doesn't sound like my kid at all. You must have made a mistake."

Because honestly, I was caught off guard, and it really didn’t sound like my kids

The words sat on the tip of my tongue both times, but I didn't let them spill out. After taking two seconds to digest the situations I knew it was time to face the music because if I shut down the conversation and refused to listen, these small ordeals would manifest into something major for sure.

I've been in this parenting gig long enough to know my kids are going to act differently around certain people than they do in front of their mother, grandmother, or brothers and sisters.

I realize things like getting hurt by a friend or feeling left out and ostracized can be enough to propel anyone to say or do something they wouldn't say or do if they weren't caught up in it and everything was going well. As adults, we still struggle with situations like this.

I know all too well our kids aren't perfect and there are many opportunities to act out and a lot of times, even the "really good kids" test different behaviors and make mistakes that are more severe than they could ever imagine.

There is peer pressure, curiosity, hurt feelings, and other factors that play into their lives on a daily basis.

When I was a teenager, I certainly acted different according to the situation I was in and who I was with. It's part of discovering what kind of person you want to be.

And when our kids screw up, there needs to be a consequence to guide them down the right path—a consequence not only from the people their actions affected, but in the form of follow up from their parents.

Because if we don't, and constantly brush these behaviors off and think someone is just pointing their finger at our child and we refuse to believe they ever do anything wrong or act out, we are doing them a disservice.

In their minds, they will be entitled, they won't learn how to take responsibility for their actions and will grow up thinking we will bail them out of everything. And that problem will multiply quicker than we can say, "my child would never do that."

I know there are some cases where there's a mistake. But for the most part I think we all know there isn't a teacher or fellow parent who enjoys picking up the phone to have a difficult conversation to let you know your child was out of line.

We can give our teens consequences when they screw up, act disrespectfully, or treat a friend in a way they shouldn't, and still support them through it. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

We can let them know we are still there for them and they always have an opportunity to start fresh the next day and do better.

In my experience, as a teenager and as a parent to teenagers, it makes a huge difference when kids know adults are a united front and they keep each other in the know.

My kids aren't perfect, and I have no problem taking some responsibility for their mistakes, making them own up to their downfalls and making them right.

And I honestly believe because I've never said, "There's no way my kid did that," and my kids know I will dole out consequences if I catch wind of them acting like a jerk, I have a lot less of these conversations and it makes my teenagers more aware of how their actions affect others which will help them later in life.