The One Phrase All Parents Need To Start Saying Right Now

Several years ago, I joined some other parents to watch our sons play a lacrosse game. We were so busy chatting that we didn’t notice that we’d chosen seats in the midst of the other team’s parents. As we continued talking to each other, one of the parents noticed that we “didn’t belong.”

“Hey everybody, it looks like the enemy is among us,” he said to the crowd.

His comment seemed a bit aggressive as if we were there to spy on the opposing team’s parents. Perhaps his comment came out in a more adversarial tone then he’d intended but now, all eyes were upon us. As I was trying to come up with some snappy comeback, my friend kindly said, “No, we’re not enemies.”

And then she said, “We’re parents just like you – trying to doing our best raising teenage sons.”

My friend’s statement shut down any further confrontation better than any snarky comment I would have blurted out. The change in the atmosphere around us instantly calmed. Someone nodded and chuckled in acknowledgement.

Another parent asked, “So which ones are your sons?”

Parents are all alike in that they are trying to do their best

And soon we had a group of new friends laughing, talking and sharing crazy teenage boy stories. We were rooting for each other’s sons and when the game ended, we lingered as we said our heartfelt goodbyes. In a world where so many are taking sides, voicing strong opinions and divisiveness is rampant, aren’t we all the same at the most basic levels? As parents we can vastly disagree about the way we raise our children, often on opposing teams, and sometimes, we have a hard time seeing another parent’s point of view.

But, no matter what side we’re on, we are all parents trying to do our best.

We are all trying to survive all the ups and downs of raising children who are old enough to have their own opinions, their own beliefs and they aren’t afraid to voice them. They’re living in adult bodies without the benefit of fully developed frontal lobes thus making them willing to take risks that make us shiver and keep us up at night.

Yes, we’re just like you.

Like you, we’ve worried about the relationship they’re in, the decisions they make, the challenges they face, their fragile (and sometimes over inflated) egos, their futures, their lives.

We have laughed at their crazy antics, their self-deprecating sense of humor, and their loving imitations of us when we’re mad. We’ve cheered at a million games, meets and performances – we’re their biggest fans. We’ve disciplined, taken privileges and tried to instill values.

We’re just like you.

We are trying to raise our teenage sons to be good people in the world.

We’ve seen them through victories and heart breaks and we’ll root for your children, too, as we root for ours. We’re trying to raise “gentlemen” in a not so gentle world. I still remember talking to the mom of my son’s high school girlfriend one afternoon when she causally said, “He’s raised the bar high for her.”

I must have given her a quizzical look so she went on to say, “He treats her so well – he’s kind, does thoughtful things for her and is such a gentleman. She knows what it’s like to be treated well so she won’t let future boyfriends treat her poorly because he has raised the bar high.”

Though I’d never thought about it that way, she was right: this relationship wasn’t going to last forever (it didn’t) but all our relationships form who we are and what we want in future relationships.

As a girl, I didn’t always choose guys who “set the bar high,” I was overjoyed to think that she will walk through the world with her head held high not settling for anything less than being treated well. We’d certainly instilled this behavior at home but when your children walk out that door, who knows how they show up in the world.

To hear about him from her point of view meant so much to me. 

I thanked her and said, “That is the highest compliment you could have ever given him. Thank you so much for sharing that with me.”

I relayed this story to my son who appreciated her comments but I think it will be years (maybe when he has his own children) before he’ll fully understand the magnitude. I’d like to think all his intentions and gestures were honorable but at that age it would be perfectly normal if they were also a bit self-serving.

Who really knows…but I know this he does treat people well and enjoys doing thoughtful things and that’s all that really matters. And if this girl who is now a woman has made good choices about who she dates because her self-worth was fostered as a teenage girl then all the better!

We all know our children face obstacles we never had to endure. Relentless trappings of social media: parties they missed, the ex who posts humiliating comments or god forbid, photos. Mistakes they’ve made that are forever captured for the world (including colleges and employers) to see.

The constant contact through their phones – texting and talking; the readily available information – unfiltered, unabridged and unrated. And, the pressure to be perfect – to get the highest grades so they get into the perfect college so they can have the perfect job so they can live the perfect life

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect!

Wow, it’s no wonder they are anxious, have breakdowns and fits of anger – when did their lives start depending on making and executing every decision perfectly?

Sometimes they just need to be boys running on a field, playing pickup hoop, goofing off with their friends, listening to music, reading quietly, laughing at stupid videos, and letting off steam when nothing is urgent or life impacting.

So, we may meet as opponents but we’re parents, just like you, trying to do our best raising teenage sons.


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About Tracy Hargen

Through her writing and work as a mental health advocate, Tracy Hargen shows people the importance of talking openly about difficult issues and getting help. Her family’s very personal journey with depression can be found on CBS This Morning. Look for her work on Grown and Flown and in the book Grown and Flown: How To Support Your Teen, Stay Close As A Family and Raise Independent Adults.

Read more posts by Tracy

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