A guide for a true parenting fail

As we all know, children don’t come with instruction books. Some of us were raised in such a way that we want to emulate our childhood when we become parents. For others, well, let’s just say our parents were great examples of what not to do. Recently, a mother posted a letter to her teenage boys’ Facebook friends. Well, the friends who happen to be of the opposite sex. I’m not going to link to it because I don’t want her to enjoy any of the traffic. Suffice it to say, though, while the intent was good, it’s loaded with some great examples of just what to do if you want a parenting fail.

Parenting fail or is it?


She essentially begins by telling her sons’ female friends that some of them are, well, just too darn slutty in their photos they post. Some of them apparently like to take selfies while wrapped in a towel fresh after their shower. Others have had the nerve to be apparently preparing for bed and are thus shamelessly braless (but fully clothed). Meanwhile, all of the photos accompanying her post were of her boys while they were practically naked, brazenly showing off their tanned physiques while flexing the muscles that only exist in their hormone-clouded minds.

Sometimes as parents we are giant hypocrites, and our children catch every single situation. When your mother tells you about the evils of smoking while flicking the ashes from her lit cigarette, the message is thoroughly lost.

Trust is the base of all healthy relationships. If my actions don’t match my words, I diminish my trustworthiness in my child’s eyes. Mutual respect and trust are two-way streets.

Control freaks

This blogger’s family has a unique practice of regularly sitting down with their children and going through their social media accounts together. Any of their Facebook friends who have a photo that produces panic for dear, sensitive mommy is blocked. You see she wants her boys to grow up with pure and virtuous thoughts, and you harlots are just mucking that up. Because we all know that teenage boys have no sexual thoughts at all unless some hussy friend from school puts up a photo of her body wrapped in a towel. Underneath the lush terry cloth fabric, we know her bare breasts heave with each breath, her silky skin shuddering in seductive anticipation.

And braless! Mon dieu! “My children have seen the outline of the nipple of death!” They are scarred for life you daughter of Satan! How dare you!

There are so many things wrong with this picture, I’m not even sure where to begin. As far as I’m concerned, my main role as a parent is to raise my child with the tools he will need to be successful in life. To arrive at this, I am constantly showing him life skills. We have an open communication line. There is no banned topic, no forbidden question.

Yes, sometimes that is VERY uncomfortable for me, but I think a big parenting fail is when our kids don’t feel they can come to us for a rational, honest answer to their questions. Control freak parents are the reason I’ve had 14-year-old boys ask me if it’s true a girl can’t get pregnant while she’s on her period. Among other things.

It’s also why at 19 and living at college they have no clue how to do their own laundry or how to cook something that doesn’t come prepackaged.

You think you’re protecting them, but you are handicapping them in the worst way. You give them no opportunities to make significant decisions while they’re young and have the nerve to complain about their choices when they’re 23. Honey, that’s YOUR fault.

I would much rather give my son the room to scrape his knees and make mistakes while the ramifications are still relatively small and quickly healed in the grand scheme than to wait until he’s legally an adult and the choices can have much more dire consequences.

So, please, ground the helicopter and knock that crap off!

Parenting fail, the perfect storm


I know this may shock some of you, but kids are people, too. Unless they’ve given you a reason to distrust them, they deserve some privacy. Be the parent they can feel comfortable coming to, and you won’t have to worry about what they’re trying to hide. Their Facebook account is their account. I’m not going to tell my kid what he should or shouldn’t say on Facebook. I will, however, try to instill in him an understanding that what he says may definitely come back to bite him on the rump. I will encourage him to be respectful to others and to treat people the way he would like to be treated. That serves him better in the long run than me deciding who can and can’t be his friend.

I found out my stepson was reading erotic stories on the Internet not because I monitored him or had special software but because he was dumb enough to print it out and leave it where it could be easily found. The discomfort of knowing that I had found it, knowing that I knew what he was reading, and what he was doing while reading, and my followup question of: “Do you have any questions about what you read?” was more than enough.

We all know they’re going to go looking for it. I never told him not to do it again. Instead, we discussed the potential pitfalls of pornography (unrealistic expectations, body image, addiction, etc.) and Internet safety.

I can’t say I was thrilled when a child in my home came to me with problems related to . . . inadequate lubrication while “taking care of business,” but I’m glad the relationship was such that he felt he could come to me. If he’ll come to me with that, there’s a good chance he’ll come to me about the bigger issues.

That’s worth its weight in gold.

Avoiding reality

Guess what uppity parent, your teenage child is going to be thinking about sex no matter how much you wish they weren’t. Some of those kids who post provocative photos on their social media accounts actually wear much less at school. Stop trying to control their or your child’s every moment. Rather than trying to manage what photos they may see on a friend’s page, how about you discuss with them things like Internet safety, the potential permanence of what we put online, self respect, and even perhaps how we can help our friends possibly make different choices.

And talk about sex. Yes, put on your big boy/girl pants and stop acting like it’s some freaking secret. When you treat a topic like it’s a huge deal, you push them away and shut them up. Want your kids to make smart decisions about sex? Talk about it! Make them squirm (kids don’t like this discussion any more than you do). And do your best attempt at winning an Oscar by acting like you’re just as calm as if you were discussing the finer sides of Honey ‘n Nut Cheerios versus the original flavor.

Start this one when they’re little. No, I’m not suggesting you explain to a 3-year-old about intercourse, but start by calling parts by their actual names. It isn’t a willy, it’s a penis. If you can’t even call genitalia by their proper name now, how on earth will you address the changes your kids will be experiencing once puberty arrives?

Since we can’t control the choices others make, how about teaching our children how to deal with those situations? Rather than forcing her young men to block those girls, this mother could instead discuss her feelings about this girl’s actions and chat with her boys about it, including how to handle feelings that will naturally come. If you feel this girl is worth more, than how about talking to your kids about how they can support someone else’s feelings of self worth?

Parenting fail, independence

Perpetuating negative behaviors and thoughts

This mother’s response was so incredibly misogynistic that I was stunned. Her attitudes play straight into groups like, oh I don’t know, perhaps the Taliban? Seriously! It’s okay for her to post almost nude photos of her sons, but how dare these girls show any sultriness. It really isn’t that much more of a leap to go from her narrow-minded view to that of cultures that teach that it’s a woman’s fault if she gets raped because of what she wore. If your kids look at a picture of someone and feel . . . excited, it isn’t their fault. Blame biology. That’s the real ruthless b**ch.

How about taking it a little further and teaching your children they’re responsible for their own thoughts and actions. What a concept!

This applies to things other than temptations, too. For example, I never say to Tigger “You’re making me angry.” He isn’t responsible for my emotions or how I choose to respond. Instead I might say, “I’m mad at this behavior.” Something as simple as that supports personal accountability from the time he was little.

We have got to get away from this culture that shames girls and women for doing, being, feeling, and wanting the same things as men. It’s so pervasive it’s disgusting. A man who has sex with a lot of different people is a stud, yet a woman who does the same is a slut. What? A guy can wear a shirt so tight I can check his pulse from across the room, but if a woman does that she’s a whore.

I’m not advocating immodesty. I’m rejecting the unequal standards that are applied between the sexes.


Too many parents act like they are never wrong. If you believe your child is never smarter, wiser, or better than you, you’re a complete idiot. I learn from my son all the time. And sometimes I’m *gasp* wrong. Sometimes I don’t act the way I’d like, and I yell rather than remain calm. Sometimes I even yell over something that is so insanely stupid I can’t even believe it.

Once that happens, I’m the first to say something. I apologize and explain that my behavior was inappropriate and how I could’ve handled the situation better. Once again it comes down to mutual respect. If I can’t treat him with respect, I have a hard time believing he owes it to me.

I don’t think any of us want to be guilty of a parenting fail. We all make mistakes. But please, treat your children like the people they are. Let them make mistakes. Encourage them to climb the monkey bars, to get filthy dirty while playing in the mud, and allow them to do things that may earn them bumps and bruises. Trust them until they give you a reason not to. Give them the same respect you want. Help them embrace their individual style of uniqueness.

Ultimately, give them a reason to emulate your best qualities rather than to rebel so they can discover their own individuality. You’ll all be better off in the long run.

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  1. Bravo Talon! This is a great piece of writing – so full of truths. You give a great reflection and understanding of human beings here! I’m a mom of an 8 yr old boy who hasn’t begun to use social media, but I can apply everything that you’ve said to his life / our lives together as he grows and learns how to navigate his wonderful journey of life. It makes me so sad that adults can’t treat children as human beings with their own minds. Thanks for the reminders to all of us who are trying to raise lovely people.

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  2. My parents just let me get on with it and never placed any restrictions on me. I was never told I couldn’t do something, be something, or wear something. I don’t know if it’s because of that or not, but I was basically the perfect child – I was top of my class throughout the whole of school, I was the first person in my family to go to university, I never acted up. If I had a little more guidance I think we might be less distant now and I might feel less restless – but I am grateful for knowing then and knowing now that they have no desire to mould me into something and are happy for me to just live my life as I see fit.

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  3. Free range parenting. I find this post amusing, satisfying, and intelligent! I was more or less raised with that same mothers values for a while and once I got a little freedom I took it and ran….very far. Give the kids some freedom to choose. Their choices usually surprise us.

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    • I’ve seen that with many people. The ones who are forced into the tight little boxes often go quite wild once they’re finally let free.

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  4. Great article, Talon – and I think not only valid for families between parents and children. You address a lot of issues that should be talked about between partners and even friends as well. Thanks!

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  5. I read the blog and I cringed at the slut shaming of these teenage girls. I agree a teen girl should not be taking, let alone sharing on the internet such provocative pictures of their bodies in a towel. There is still a big difference between expressing concern for poor choices and their consequences(which is what that is) AND labeling them a slutty slut who is looking to pervert the virgin minds of their helpless teen boys. Maybe it’s me but shaming these girls and blocking them is just going to perpetuate the most likely cause of these postings, self confidence and worth. Rather, if these girls had someone to further stress or reinforce to them the concept that they are beautiful and worthy of attention without revealing to the world wide web their uncovered breast, maybe they’d stop or at least give it a second thought.
    As to the boys, I agree with you Talon. Boys are going to have thoughts, feelings, desires regardless. Making the boys feel shamed because they see these images and have natural reactions probably causes more damage than letting them see the images in the first place. Wanting to protect your child is one thing but at some point, especially in the teen years, the boys have to learn to make well informed decisions. Ignoring or blocking these things will not stop them from happening. It is either going to create an adult who has great shame in dealing with this topic, an adult who overcompensates and ‘goes wild’ in rebellion, or an adult who can not handle making well informed decisions because they’ve never had the practical experience to do so.

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    • So very true! I’ve worked with enough teens and young adults to see what happens to many of them who were raised by overprotective or warden-like parents. It isn’t pretty.

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  6. You make excellent points, and I agree with them all. However, when it comes to social media I want to be part of my daughter’s online life, not because I don’t trust her, but because I think it’s the best way to help her learn. I have no plans to make decisions for her. I have no plans to invade her privacy. But my girl is a lovely, sociable, open, and trusting child, and the Internet being the 12-headed monster it is and she being a kid, after all, I want to be involved. I hope it’s something we can have fun with together. <3

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    • I have no problem with being part of that life. It’s when parents extensively monitor their social media like this mother and decide who their kids can and can’t be Facebook friends with based solely on their photos that I take issue. There’s one thing to be included and be a part of what’s going on, and it’s quite another to treat your child like they’re a monitored inmate when they’ve done nothing to earn that treatment.

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  7. Couldn’t agree with you more, Talon. I remember there was a quote floating around that said something like: “We tell our girls how to not-get-raped instead of telling boys not to rape” and it’s SO pervasive in our culture, the idea that women and girls are the ones responsible for the feelings, thoughts and actions of men. I find the very idea SO insulting. I also think the mindset (that this woman seems to have) is equally insulting to men in general. The idea that if a man sees a woman naked… or wrapped in a towel… or catches a glimpse of her boob… is such an all-powerful experience to these feeble-minded men – that the image can’t be (in her words) “unseen”… and the woman in question will be forever viewed (by the male in question) as a sexual object… or in a sexual way. Wow. I think MEN should be hacked off at that insinuation. My husband sees me naked every day, and… (shock!) doesn’t need to keep averting his eyes from my image lest he be sucked into overwhelming sexual thoughts. Anyway…. I’d rant longer, but I have a dinner date with my hubby. Thanks for the rant. I resonate!!

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    • Your so funny Heather.

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    • Thank you! It is highly insulting. And the mentality I think has deeper effects. There is all this talk about equal rights, women being paid the same as men for the same job, etc., but then I see this stuff and think No wonder! As long as women are seen only for the power of their sexuality, how can we expect them to receive better treatment.

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  8. “Underneath the lush terry cloth fabric, we know her bare breasts heave with each breath, her silky skin shuddering in seductive anticipation.”

    Crikey! Have you considered writing Harlequin romance books? You just might have a new writing endeavor in your future 😉

    LOVE your rant – very well put and brings up some excellent points for all parents to consider.

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    • LOL! I actually do write erotic stories under a pen name. But probably not the stuff you’d like to read. 😉

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  9. I say kudos to her. While I did read that particular blog – I don’t know what kind of discussions were going on in their home, how open and honest the communication is, is there a dad involved, if what mom says goes, if there is any parental restriction, are these random pictures or of females these boys know. I totally agree with her on the inappropriateness of asses sticking out to next week, shower fresh wrapped in a towel picture, etc. Too bad their parents aren’t as open with them. You make good points, but apparently my parenting style is more to her way. All in the interpretation. As for her nearly naked boys – didn’t do anything for me.

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    • LOL! I’m glad the photos of her boys didn’t do anything for you considering they’re all minors. 😉

      I don’t see why a photo of someone wrapped in a towel is a big deal. You see more of someone’s body when they’re in a bathing suit. Again, I’m not attacking being against immodesty, but it was a major double standard, AND I resent the notion that those girls should be blamed for implanting anything but “pure and virtuous thoughts” in her boys’ mind.

      The photos are from friends of the boys, not just random photos.

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      • Then I do agree even more so with the mother. Girls posting selfies of themselves in a towel, immodest clothing, even bra and panties, are offering themselves. I’d go a tiny different direction. I’d print the pictures out and invite the girls over to talk about them with my boys. If they still think that was the best way to show themselves, then I’d invite them and t heir parents over for dinner and have a talk about it. Prude? No. Maybe. Don’t care. Its not helicoptering, censoring, invasion of privacy. You can only do so much with your kids. Instilling morals, ethics, decency, and reputation is part of it. I will admit when my daughter went from 1 piece speedo suit (she was on the swim team) to a 2 piece, and was buying matching bras and panties, and tighter shirts – I was dismayed – but, don’t laugh, she was in college by then (18) and eventually married the young man she was dating at the time. She was mortified when I had a talk with her about spending all her free time at her boyfriends house while the parents were away – there was nothing they could do there that they couldn’t do anywhere else, yes I know. But others know and reputations get ruined from ..hmmmm..what are they doing over there without the parents around. I know it doesn’t stop anyone – didn’t me and I was pregnant at my high school graduation – she had her first baby at 31. I’d like to think that her mother/father put a little bug in her ear to be careful and think…his did too. But that is life in my Pollyanna world. I so enjoy your perspectives and the freedom to agree to disagree. Will be fun to see what comes up as Tigger grows. What a gift you have given that not so little anymore boy.

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        • As I’ve said, I have no problem with encouraging modesty. But I have a problem with it being one-sided. I have a problem with acting like all members of the male gender are so weak-minded that the slightest hint of cleavage will throw us into such disarray that all other brain function will cease.

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  10. While I may not be a parent, I wholeheartedly stand by you in everything you touched upon here. Treating your child as a person (not an adult person, but a person nonetheless) and having open and sometimes uncomfortable conversations makes for a better relationship and a better more well-rounded, well-trusted, child. That will eventually yield a better, more well-rounded adult in the future.

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    • Most definitely! It grates my nerves when I see parents treat their kids like property or like they’re completely clueless, untrustworthy brats when they’ve done nothing to earn that treatment.

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  11. Welp. As usual, I am on the fence here, in territory somewhere in the middle, like always. I am certainly no prude, and I have discussed sex with my kids, but there are places to draw lines. I don’t like to hear them cuss. Just don’t like that. I never whipped anybody, but they knew when they were in trouble and they would not have dared say a curse word in front of me, their dad, or their adult relatives. What they did in private, well, I don’t know about that, but I can tell you there was no cussing at our house. Manners. It’s manners. That’s all I cared about. I wanted them to behave well so they would never be uncomfortable in any setting.

    I love the way you are raising Stevie! Don’t get me wrong. But there’s some vast territory between your opinion and the opinion of that blogger. I would have torn my kid’s butt UP if she had ever posted pictures like some I see from a 13-year-old. But there is more neutral territory up there.

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    • I feel like there’s a space between overbearing parent and using something as a good teaching moment. One of the things I strongly disagreed with about her post was putting the blame on the girls for how it might affect her boys and forcing them to block their friend because she posted a photo their mom didn’t approve of. Meanwhile she posted photos of her kids half naked.

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