If a child does bad things, are the parents bad parents?

Me, Myself... as Mommy.


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If I were seeking parenting advice, Kathie Lee Gifford would be No. 1 on my list. She is as enlightened as His Holiness, the Dali Lama — if he had a perfectly manicured foot hanging from his mouth and a cocktail glued to his hand.

Recently, Gifford made some controversial comments in Family Circle magazine regarding drug-addicted teenagers and their parents’ failure.

“I’m not a perfect mom, but my kids haven’t been arrested, in rehab or kicked out of school, so I must be doing something right.”

Jeffrey Dahmer’s mom probably thought she was doing a pretty good job until the cops found the bodies hidden in his house.

If you’d asked me three years ago, I might have agreed with Kathie, believing parents with kids battling addiction, living behind bars, or storing a scrapbook of their offspring’s mug shots, were failures.

Then I had my own children, children who even at age 3 ignore warnings or direct proof that negative consequences are in store, just to exercise their independence.

I imagine when my Scarlett hits her late teens, she will disregard my advice even if I’m passed out on the floor, blue in the face. As much as we like to believe it, we cannot control our children.

I hope during this precious time when I can control what she watches, whom she plays with, what she wears — and even sometimes how she reacts to situations — I’ve given her the mental tools to choose a direction that keeps her healthy and safe. It’s up to her if she’s going to use those tools.

Think of those parents who are trying to hold on to a kid who is addicted, all the times they wish they’d done something differently, talked more, become more involved, when maybe nothing could have been done to change that path.

Addiction knows no boundaries; it hits the poor, rich, educated, even strict Mormon parents who lead one of Utah’s most right-wing lobbies — Gayle Ruzicka.

I’m of the belief that addiction is very much a mental disease, which actually changes brain structure and function. So how can we blame parents for a disease they have as much control over as diabetes or cancer?

It’s the age-old debate of what constitutes a good parent.

It’s impossible to say what’s right and wrong — each child needs different rules, discipline and lifestyle. My grandfather, who is a doctor of psychology, always tells me that the second you believe you’re sane, that’s when you’ve had a break from reality.

It’s the same with parenting. If you start patting yourself on the back and wearing the label of “perfect parent,” that’s when you suck.

When are your children’s decisions no longer a reflection of you?

A wise woman said to me while having this discussion: If you don’t have to take the blame for your children’s failures, you also can’t take the credit for their successes.

I guess if we follow Gifford’s logic — that she’s a successful parent because her children followed the rules — does that mean she failed as a wife because her husband was caught cheating?

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