When You Realize Helping Your Teens Will Hurt Them in the Long Run

My daughter took some silly bands from our neighbor when she was in the first grade. She came home with her arm even more loaded than it was when she left the house, and I knew something was up.

Her eyes turned to saucers after I asked her if they were all hers or if her friend had given them to her. She looked down and didn’t answer my question which is what she used to do before she knew how to lie.

teen girl on phone
We all want our kids to be decent people. (Twenty20 @rmeghann

I made my daughter apologize to her friend

I made her go back over there to apologize and return them by herself. I told her it was the right thing to do as I wavered over telling her I’d go with her if she’d be more comfortable. Of course she’d be more comfortable if I was there. So would I.

But I hung back and I watched her until she got to their door and went inside. I had to physically hold myself from following her. I could see the back of her little brown bob as she walked across the lawn. My daughter was scared. I leaned against the window and cried because I wanted to do it for her so badly.

There was a part of me that felt like I was abandoning my daughter and it would have been easier if I had gone over there with her to ease some of this. But deep down, I knew if I did, I’d take over and do it for her. She wouldn’t get the message that righting your own wrong was something you had to do if you wanted to be a decent person.

It was so hard to make her apologize on her own

I want my daughter to be a decent person so I stayed back and let her handle it hoping the next time something like this happened, I wouldn’t feel like my heart was being peeled open.

But as I watch my teenagers grow up and continue to make mistakes as we all do, it hasn’t gotten much easier to be honest. We look at them and see adults so there is the expectation they should act like it at all times. And when they aren’t responsible, or treat someone in a way they shouldn’t, it’s still just as hard not to swoop in and help them out more than we know we should.

My oldest recently videotaped a fight at school then shared it on his SnapChat story. When the principal found out, she had to punish him of course. The students fighting were exposed to all of his online friends and he knew it was against school rules.

While he served his punishment and I took away his electronics, I also made him apologize to those kids. He didn’t want to do it, but he needed to do it. They never asked to have a video taken of them and have it splashed all over social media by a classmate. They were his friends and if he wanted their trust back he had to earn it.

I could tell he was embarrassed and was making every excuse he could think of to get out of not apologizing to them. It is much easier to carry on like something never happened.

There was a part of me that wanted to save my son some humiliation. I also didn’t want to fight with him about it any longer, but apparently he needed a lesson on how you treat others as well as how to respecting privacy.

I sat next to him as he called them to apologize. They accepted. And while he was so relieved it was over, I can only hope because I made him uncomfortable and didn’t let him get out of apologizing, it will be instilled in his mind and he won’t act like that again.

We don’t like to see our kids uncomfortable but sometimes we need to

We don’t want to see our kids uncomfortable– it makes us uncomfortable and can be heart-wrenching. But when we are able to look at the bigger picture and realize if we are to step in; if we are to take over; if we are to right their wrong, it will do more damage than good and isa small parenting win.

And hopefully most of the discomfort we feel from watching them do something hard, scary, or just something they don’t want to do, will be washed away when we think about the long game we’re preparing them for.

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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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