Strengthen Your Sense of Self

When you are confident about your parenting, you are able to make good decisions and stand by them.

An important part of learning to manage your emotions is to maintain a clear sense of self. A sense of self could be defined as an awareness and confidence in your values, beliefs, and practices. We focus here on having a clear sense of self as a parent.

When you are confident about your parenting, you are able to make good decisions and stand by them, even when a teen is pressuring you to agree to something that’s against your better judgment.

The story of Elise and her daughter Amber (mentioned in the article “Managing Your Own Emotions”) illustrates a common pattern in families. Amber pushed to get what she wanted and criticized her mom. Elise’s confidence in her parenting began to slip. Because of this, she changed her mind and gave in to her daughter’s pressure. By so doing, Elise allowed her doubts about herself as a parent to guide her behavior. In fact, her doubts were powerful enough to override a decision she and her husband had made previously, a decision that was based on solid parenting principles.

Take a few minutes to think of any instances where you might have backed down or changed your opinion against your better judgment because your teen pressured you to do so. What thoughts and emotions led you to change your mind?

How can you increase your confidence by strengthening your sense of self? Below we will show four ways.

1. Recognize that you are defined by your actions, not your children’s.

“After more than a year of dealing with our son’s issues with drugs, I felt like such a failure as a mother. One day, I was attending a required class for parents whose teens were in legal trouble due to drugs. As I took my seat and looked around the room, I found myself growing more and more uncomfortable. The embarrassment remained with me through the entire session as I wondered what others thought of me.

Then something happened that changed me. As I was walking out of the class, I had the following thought, “If I make this about me, I’ll never be able to help him (my son).” From that moment on, I started to see things differently. Instead of focusing on my feelings of being a failure as a mother, I began to have a sincere desire to support and love him. The less I thought about myself, the more my feelings of being a failure slipped away. This change of perception allowed me to see my son differently. I no longer blamed him for my feelings of failure. Not only did I see him differently, but I treated him differently because I didn’t need to change him in order to feel good about myself.

I became more patient, more understanding, and more loving toward him. Our relationship changed and as a result, he began to change as well. It is now one year later and he is free of drugs, for which I am extremely grateful. But I am equally grateful for my own discovery which freed me from my own bondage.”

As you move forward, choosing to follow solid parenting principles, you can trust that you are doing your best to invite your children to make good choices. Someone once said, “The outcome of parenting isn’t children, it’s parents.” In other words, your actions as a parent determine only one thing, the type of parent you are. What your children become is ultimately a function of their own choices and is only influenced (not determined) by your parenting. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your children will choose to act in ways that are contrary to what you have taught them. Though frustrating, this is a part of normal adolescent development.

Unfortunately, in their efforts to sidestep this reality, some parents go beyond teaching, setting expectations and holding their children accountable. They use pressure to try to control their teen’s decisions, an approach that may have some initial success but almost always backfires in the end. This style of parenting is often driven by the following belief: “If my teen makes mistakes or poor choices it makes me a bad parent.” To such parents we extend the following invitation: Remove the ‘happiness thermometer’ out of your teen and put it in yourself.

As one parent cleverly put it, “I don’t get credit for their good choices, I’m sure as heck not going to take credit for their bad ones!”

We acknowledge that parents of a struggling teen often feel looked down upon by some in their extended families and social circles. They worry about gossip and loss of esteem in the eyes of others. These hurts can be real. One way to help heal them is to increasingly learn to derive our self-esteem and sense of worth from how congruent our actions are with our own values and beliefs, not from what others think of us. This is easier said than done, but it can be one of our ongoing goals through adulthood.

“Happiness does not depend on what happens outside of you, but on what happens inside of you. It is measured by the spirit with which you meet the problems of life.” – Harold B. Lee

One parent of a difficult teen said the most helpful thing she learned was to focus on herself. As she did things to make herself a better person/parent, she felt she was able to let go and allow her son to make choices for himself. Even when her son was making poor decisions she realized that they were his decisions and he had to be accountable to himself and not blame his mother. She commented that learning how to do that brought her a deep sense of relief.

2. Recognize that it’s not necessary for your children to be happy with you all the time.

When it comes to decision-making, there tends to be two types of people. The first group tends to make decisions primarily based on what seems logical, trying to look at things from an objective perspective. The second group focuses more on what they feel is important to them and others involved; they will often try to understand how the other person would feel about the decision and how it would impact them.

Both groups have their strengths and challenges. Those that tend to place value in how their decisions will affect others can easily become overly concerned with what others think and feel about them. For parents, this can create emotional stress.

In the story of Elise and her daughter mentioned above, Elise and her husband had made a decision they felt good about. However, when her daughter began to complain about the decision, Elise began to feel conflicted and question the decision they had made. As pressure from her daughter increased, she likely began to experience some of the following thoughts: “If my daughter is so upset, maybe we didn’t make the right decision.” “What kind of mom am I if my daughter hates me?” “I just want her to be happy with me.” As you can see, these thoughts undermined Elise’s confidence and eventually led her to retract the joint decision that she and Amber’s father had made.

Will Elise’s decision to give in to her daughter increase or decrease the odds that her daughter will be happy with her in the future?

How will Elise’s decision affect her relationship with her husband?

What other thoughts could Elise have had that would have made it easier for her not to give in to her daughter?

There is not a good parent on this planet who has not experienced a child who is unhappy with them. Ironically, the first time your toddler says, “I hate you,” it’s most likely because you have simply told them they can’t do something they want to do. In that moment, it would be good if every parent would say in their head, “That means I must be doing something right.”

Although an unhappy toddler is not pleasant, an unhappy teenager can be even more unpleasant. And though a toddler may say, “I hate you,” one moment and then ten minutes later be giving you hugs, a teenager tends to hold onto their emotions for longer. So if you are in the unfortunate circumstances of having a teenager who did not learn as a toddler to accept “no” for an answer or to handle their frustrations, you will need to help them learn this lesson now. The good news is that it’s still a lesson they can learn; the bad news is that it comes at a higher price.

3. Realize that mistakes don’t make you a bad parent.

Some parents can easily find themselves feeling guilty for something that they may have done wrong or failed to do in the past. Teens who have guilt-prone parents tend to see this tendency and try to use it to their advantage in an unhealthy way.

One teen and her mother had developed this pattern in their relationship. There were many factors that led to this dynamic, including the teen having experienced some abuse early in her life. Her mother felt guilty for not protecting her, and as her daughter grew her mother often attempted to help her by rescuing her from any challenges she might have to face and by purchasing elaborate gifts when her daughter seemed to be down. She generally tried to make up for her daughter’s past by becoming lenient and overindulgent.

By the time the teen was in high school she exhibited behaviors that were dangerous, and began to actively demand things of her mother (a car, no curfew, etc.) putting her demands in the context that if she didn’t have everything she wanted, her mother would be guilty of not making life good for her. She said things like “None of my friends have curfews. If you make me come home by midnight it will ruin my social life.” Or, after a difficult event at school, or the right boy not asking the teen out, the teen would turn to her mother with statements like, “If you’d bought me the right outfit, he would have asked me to go with him!” or, “If you’d just bought me a car, I wouldn’t have to ever be late to school.” For the most part, this tactic worked for the teen and built a culture between them of expensive things being purchased to “make up” for what the girl felt were injustices.

The parents made the difficult decision to send their daughter to treatment. While at treatment, this interpersonal dynamic continued. The mother, missing her daughter and feeling guilty for having had to send her to treatment, would send elaborate packages.

When the teen completed her program and returned home, her parents were pleased to have her back, pleased with the changes she’d made. Yet, since there is almost a gravitational pull to fall into old coping mechanisms, very quickly their teen began once again to try to use her guilt-prone mother to her advantage. She began by telling her mother how much she’d missed her while in treatment, and began to bemoan all she’d missed because her mother had “sent her away.” She began to demand things again and blame her mother for difficulties in her life. It was a struggle for her mother. Initially she wanted to fall into the old pattern of wanting to rescue her daughter from challenges, and try to make up for all the things she’d supposedly deprived her daughter of by sending her to treatment. The teen saw this, and used it well, being direct enough to say the phrase, “You owe me for having sent me away.”

With the help of their coach, the mother began to overcome this deeply ingrained pattern. Awareness of this dynamic was the first step. The second was learning to recognize that her daughter needed to confront these challenges on her own to learn and grow. It was difficult and surprising for the daughter when her parents began to hold her accountable, began to build a different relationship with her that was based on their love and caring and hopes for her future instead of rescuing her and buying her “things.” There was a process for the mother of letting go of guilt, acknowledging the mistakes she might have made, apologizing when necessary (including an apology to her daughter for having indulged her so much), and then moving forward with direction and purpose.

Most parents experience some feelings of guilt as they realize mistakes they have made. When guilt inspires us to do better, it can be healthy. When it leaves us feeling undeserving of respect, it can significantly interfere with our ability to parent.

One mother realized that she had spent most of her time and energy on her youngest son, not giving much attention to her oldest son who seemed to be doing well. To her dismay, she found some marijuana with a pipe in her older son’s truck. The more she thought about it, the more guilty she felt believing that it was her lack of attention towards him that led to the drug use. As she talked to her coach, she was able to work through the guilt she was feeling. As a result, she felt better prepared to talk with her oldest son in a confident manner. Had she not managed her emotions first, she may have sent messages allowing him to think she was responsible for the drug use.

Remember, don’t let a past parenting mistake leave you feeling like you can’t change how you do things today. For example, if you over-indulged your oldest child with money and gifts, don’t feel you have to make the same mistake with your second child just to keep things even. Although your second child won’t see it this way at first, he will be the one getting more. In short, your children will not be well served if you abandon good parenting principles because you feel guilty.

Knowing that you have made a mistake as a parent can also create fear that your actions have set in motion significant problems, for example fear that your teen won’t graduate and go to college, fear that he will do something reckless and get hurt, or fear that he will never learn to be responsible. This fear can lead you to go to the other extreme to become too permissive if you have previously been controlling, too rigid if you have been overly flexible in the past, etc. Think how dangerous it is to overcorrect in order to rectify your course while driving a car. Similarly, this type of overcorrecting in parenting is usually reactive and can be even more problematic than the first mistake. The best way to correct a mistake is to learn a better way and then apply it with consistency. Over time, this will create the best chance that your teen will respond favorably to your changes in parenting.

Yes, all parents make mistakes and these mistakes do influence our children. But, as with most endeavors, true failure as a parent is only possible if you give up. Each moment presents new opportunities for doing things differently. If you have identified past mistakes, begin today to do things differently. Choosing to forgive yourself for past mistakes is essential to being able to look forward. Those who grow up on the farm quickly learn that it is impossible to plow a straight line if you are always looking back.

4. Learn and apply solid parenting principles.

Confidence comes from living by tried and true parenting principles that have been shown to contribute to positive outcomes in children. When parents don’t have a clear sense of values and beliefs to guide them, their teens are more easily able to pressure them into decisions that aren’t really wise. As a result, teens gain more power in the family than what is good for them to have.

The Parenting Principles offered in this library are a great way to begin building confidence as a parent. Remember that as you work to apply these principles, you will inevitably make mistakes. When this happens, correct your mistakes and move forward. In addition, your teen will likely push back in hopes that you will give up. In such moments, put your trust in the principles, move forward, and give them time to work.

One family had developed a pattern where the parents would give in to their son when he complained after not getting his way. For example, the family had planned a trip to the beach but the teen wanted to go snow skiing instead. After the teen sulked and threw a fit, the parents gave in to their son’s demands and went skiing. As they learned the parenting principles they came to a better understanding of the importance of clear expectations and rules, parental unity, and the power that they had as agents of change in their son’s life. Initially, the son’s behavior worsened as they learned to hold to their boundaries, but with time things improved. They developed a better sense of what type of parents they wanted to be and as a result were able to parent with confidence.

Ask Yourself:

In the past, what criteria have you used to evaluate yourself as a parent? What criteria would you like to use in the future?

Are there mistakes in your past you could let go of?

What parenting principles can you grab hold of in your efforts to move forward instead of looking back?

Sources:  1) The information on decision-making and personalities comes from the authors of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. For more information, visit

In this article

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Dr. Tim Thayne Presents:

How Parents Can Put A Stop To Their Teen's Self Destructive Behaviors WITHOUT Conflict Or Walking On Eggshells

Mike Christian

Back-End Developer & DevOps​

Mike is one of those brilliant, self-taught, back end developers that you always hear about. As a youth he could trust that “My mother would love me no matter what . . .” When he isn’t cranking out new code, Mike keeps up on the newest technologies and every Tuesday and Thursday nights he trains SpeedSoft with his team.

Rafael Pampoch

Web Developer

Rafael has his degree in Marketing and Advertising and years of experience with our dev team. As a teen he could trust that “The most important thing in life is love, and the most valuable things are our family and friends.” When he isn’t working on making the website and mobile versions of Trustyy seamless and functional, he unwinds by exploring nature. His favorite activities are climbing mountains, camping, going to the beach, swimming, playing the harmonica and always learning new things.

Afton Wilde


Afton’s experience is in marketing and bookkeeping.  As a teen she could trust that with her parents “Feeding the horses and milking the cow each day before school–not after–was a must.”  When she isn’t busy with keeping Trustyy’s lights on, you’ll usually find her baking up a new treat or working on a sewing project.

Nicoli Cristini

Marketing Assistant

Nicoli has a degree in Multimedia Production.  She has worked with our team of developers for three years.  She learned to trust her own parents when they taught her “Things won’t come easy and that working hard will bring me great blessings!”  When she isn’t putting together beautiful marketing pieces for the Trustyy App she likes to take pictures, play the guitar, piano, and drums, and meet up with her family to laugh over the silly things they did as kids.

Adriano Rodrigues

Mobile Developer

Adriano is certified in Analysis and Systems Development.  In his family he could trust the fact that “One difficult experience teaches me that failure is not the end, but rather an opportunity for growth and learning.”  When he is away from his work in making sure the Trustyy App buttons and bells and whistles are working properly, he likes to go to the gym, to the beach to surf, on walks with his dog, or go out with his girlfriend.

Lucas Baumgart

Product Designer

Lucas’s work experience is in User Experience, Interface Design and Product Management. As a teen he could trust that “In my home honesty was highly valued and lying was not tolerated.”  When he isn’t at work making sure the Trustyy App is easy on the eyes, Lucas likes hiking, gaming, going out for dinner, and spending time with family.

Cadu Olivera

Front End Developer

Cadu has his education in Analysis and System Development.  While growing up he could always trust that “My parents would be there to support from playing soccer at the park to learning to ride a bike.”   When he isn’t making sure things are easily navigated for our Trustyy App users, he likes to play beach soccer and enjoy music of any type, but specifically rock, country, R&B, and pop.

Mike Curi

Back End Developer

Mike is one of those brilliant, self-taught, back-end developers that you always hear about. As a youth he could trust that “My mother would love me no matter what.” When he isn’t cranking out new code, Mike keeps up on the newest technologies and every Tuesday and Thursday nights he trains SpeedSoft with his team. 

Roxanne Thayne

Co-Founder/Chief Marketing Officer

Roxanne received her bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education.  She has worked in publishing and marketing for the past 14 years.  In her family Roxanne says she could trust that “Her grammar and posture would be consistently corrected, to help her to become a lady.”  When she isn’t busy writing and beautifying things for the Trustyy App, you can find her reading biographies, practicing yoga, or gathering the family to talk business, celebrate wins or just plain hang out.

Sidney Rodrigues

Co-Founder/Chief Technology Officer

Sidney has a bachelor’s degree in Web Development and has worked in technology for 16 years, building apps for the last 10 years. Growing up he could trust that “It was always expected that I would fix anything related to technology.”  When he isn’t managing the development of the Trustyy App, you will find him spending time with his wife and kids. He loves to make Brazillian BBQ with his family.

Jim Lee

Co-Founder/Chief Product Officer

Jim has a degree in Design and over 25 years of experience creating SaaS products and managing talented product and development teams.  In his years at home as the oldest of five he could trust that “Each child got a weekly ‘night-up’ where we got to stay up late with a parent and do anything we wanted with them.”  When he isn’t looking 10 miles down the road for what will come next on the Trustyy App, you will find Jim canyoneering, doing photography, watercolor painting, or keeping up on the latest gadgets and technologies.

Eric Turner

Co-Founder/Chief Operations Officer

Eric earned his degree in Communications, Public Relations and Advertising, then added on an MBA.  He says he could trust that “His parents were honest people who kept their commitments–especially to their kids.”  When Eric isn’t keeping everyone at Trustyy on task, he is an outdoor enthusiast, year around, rain or shine, cold or hot, with biking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Tim Thayne

Founder | Chief Executive Officer

Tim earned masters and doctoral degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy, and has 30 years of experience working with families.  While growing up Tim says he could trust that “My mother would love me no matter what, and that my dad would require that I respect my mother.”  When he isn’t busy guiding the vision for the Trustyy App, you can find Tim working around the house and yard, taking care of his sheep, dogs and horses, or enjoying a game of Corn Hole with the family.