Teens Need to Live Their Own Lives, I Will Not Live Vicariously Through Them

I couldn’t wait to get out of my small hometown and go to college. I was ready for new adventures and new friends. I worked really hard at my part-time job because I liked having money to go out to eat with my friends and I liked having a luscious wardrobe.

young woman at red barn
My teens need to make their own lives. (Twenty20 @jacobandrews64)


I now live and am raising three teenagers in the same town I tried so hard to escape and I am happy. I followed my own path. I didn’t have parents who pressured me to go down a road which was not of my choosing, but theirs.

My teens have their own ideas about how they want to live their lives

Each of my kids, my beautiful kids who really aren’t kids anymore, have their own ideas about how they want to live their life. They have made that very clear each time they’ve quit a team sport or not signed up for a club I told them I thought they should.

My oldest, who is a junior in high school, has made it very clear that a 4-year traditional college will not be in his future anytime soon. And, that’s just fine with me.

When I had children, I admittedly thought they’d want to follow in my footsteps–graduate high school and go to college. I had hopes they’d stick to sports longer than I did. By high school, I’d had enough and realized I’d never be a star player so I gave up basketball and softball after playing for years and loving it. I have regrets about that.

I told myself I’d push them and encourage them and make them stick to things longer than I did because I felt like I had made mistakes and it would have made a difference in my life if I had taken a different path.

My teens need to take their own paths to adulthood

But my kids are not me and I am not here to live vicariously through them. I had my chance at being a teenager and living my life the way I wanted to. I had the freedom to quit something when I wanted to. I had to find my own way without being micromanaged and I’m giving that to them. I guarantee that if my parents had pushed me to keep playing I would have hated it, and kind of hated them for pushing me.

I’ve experienced my own mistakes and had regrets and adjusted my life accordingly. I’ve lived on my own terms and I will let my kids do the same.

I am not here to push them into doing something I wish I’d done when I was their age. It’s not my job to force them to stick with playing a musical instrument if they don’t want to. It’s my job to encourage, suggest, and tell them my story about how I look back and wish I’d stayed involved in the student council because maybe it would have built my confidence as a teenager.

But, that’s where it ends for me. After that, it’s time to back off and let them make their own decisions, even if they regret it later. After all, a little regret never hurt anyone, but forcing my kids to do something they clearly don’t want to do is harmful.

I know because I witnessed my child having a meltdown when he was nine because he was doing basketball and skiing during the same season. He was so tired after his ski team on a Friday night, playing basketball the next morning was too much and when I made him go anyway, he cried all day. He wanted to quit and I pushed him too hard and forced him to go to games and practises.

Not only did it ruin our day, and his entire season, over time my behavior ruined my child’s love for basketball.

After that winter, I decided that pushing my kids hard to do something simply because I regretted not having done it when I was their age, would not be something I’d make a habit of.

The bottom line is that I want my teens to be happy

I want happy kids. I want to give them the tools to make their decisions based on their life and their circumstances–not based on my regrets, thoughts, and memories from almost thirty years ago.

Things change through the decades. My kids need autonomy. What may have been good for me, might not be good for them and it’s my job to pay attention to what my kids are telling me. They are not here to do a do-over of my life. I am not here to push them to be better than other kids in academics or sports solely to boost my ego.

My beliefs may not always apply to my kids and that’s okay. My job is to love them; to support them; and remind them no matter what path they choose, it’s supposed to be theirs and theirs alone.

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A Mother’s Heart Has To Be Strong

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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