If a parent of a one-year-old said, “Well, he doesn’t know how to walk yet and he just turned one! I guess he’ll never learn how to walk!” we’d think that was silly, right? If a child is in diapers at age three, it doesn’t mean she’ll be in diapers through elementary school. This is obvious to us with young kids, but something shifts when we enter the teenage years.
As kids get older, it seems that their choices and behaviors carry more weight. Maybe it’s because they’re approaching adulthood and we worry that they’re not ready, or maybe it’s because we expect them to be more mature and we get disappointed when they make bad choices. Whatever the reason, we need to be careful to avoid taking a single behavior and turning it into something bigger than it is.
If your teenager fails a test, that doesn’t mean she will never go to college. If your teenager gets in a fight, that doesn’t mean he’ll end up in prison.
In the thick of it, it can certainly seem like these small things are the biggest deal in the world. And we’re not saying that small things aren’t important, particularly when they pile up on top of each other. If there is a trend that doesn’t look promising, it should be addressed. But when a teenager messes up, we should avoid catastrophizing. Avoid thinking that this is the beginning of the end, that the world is over. Sometimes it’s just a small thing. We know this with young kids, and we know this with ourselves and our peers. So let’s remember it with teenagers too!