What would you do differently?

Parenting educator Michael Grose wrote a blog post this week called ‘If I had my time again‘. His kids are now in their 20s, and he was thinking about what he’d do differently if he could go back in time.

What would you do differently?

What would you do differently if you could do it again?
Photo by libertygrace0/Flickr

He mentions two things.

“If I’d known then what I know now about the adverse effects of alcohol on the developing adolescent brain, I would definitely have taken a harder line on underage drinking.”


“I’d take time out each year to reflect on my parenting practice. I always seemed to be in a rush as a parent, and I didn’t give myself some time out to think about what I was doing. REFLECTION is an essential part of the improvement process for parents. You could say it’s the secret ingredient to becoming a better parent.”

I do think about parenting, a lot. Kids challenge you, and you have to be prepared to justify your beliefs or actions, and even rewrite them at times. My daughter, with her questioning and challenging, means I have to be really on my game and understand why I say and do what I do. It’s a fairly rigorous process of testing your parenting practice that actually makes you a better parent – you won’t be allowed to just set and forget.

I always enjoy talking with other parents about how they navigate tricky issues and what they’ve discovered over the years that I might be able to learn from.

In the spirit of Michael’s blog post, I asked my readers of older teenagers what they would do differently if they were starting out again with a 13-year-old. This is what they said:

“I would say be tough, and always follow through with what you say, just as with younger children.” – Karen

“Probably paid a little more attention. Eldest is a really good kid who sometimes flies under the radar with her problems because she doesn’t make a fuss. Also, I would have got maths tutoring in year 5/6 – would have made high school homework a lot less stressful!” – Janine

“Understand better that their problems – though small to us – are HUGE to them. Take time to listen more and have more D and Ms. I do this now, but wish I had started  two years ago. Teens are incredible individuals with so much to offer, if we just take the time to appreciate and understand them. Sometimes they don’t know the words to describe how they feel. I am just glad I learnt this and made changes now. I often have big D and Ms with Miss 15 when we go on walks together or in the car. They are some of my favorite chats.” – Lisa-Marie

“Car chats are great, there is no escape for either party. I agree about the D and Ms but why are they always in the dead of night! Listening is probably the more important part; really try to hear them out. They don’t always want or even need advice, just someone to ‘vent’ to.” – Helen

“Read the book ‘How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk’.” – Bernadette

“Say no more often! Am starting out again with a boy this time, so much easier – he is less social, yet happy to connect through online gaming and chooses his friends carefully. I would also recommend reading ‘Queen Bees and Wannabees’ (the movie ‘Mean Girls’ was based on this) teaching you how to empower your teen to be resilient and resistant to peer pressure … and lots more.” – Elisa

“Always have your mumtenna (the antenna we always have but sometimes don’t tune into) on full alert and ready to receive. If you ‘feel’ something is not right, dig further. In my experience with miss 16 and son 18, girls appear to have more intense social issues to discuss, and boys are greater risk takers who perhaps talk less.” – Michelle

For those of you who have the teen years ahead, I hope these words are illuminating. And if you do have teens already, they might prompt that reflection that Michael Grose recommends.

 What would you do differently?



  1. There is so much involved in being a parent. Like you said, kids challenge you and you have to be willing to justify why you are making the decisions you are (and sometimes if they are presenting a valid argument be prepared to adjust your decisions). I think Lisa-Marie is right when she says you need to recognise their problems are huge to them and keeping the lines of communication open is vital, even if you are disagreeing with each make sure you keep on talking!
    Janine Fitzpatrick recently posted..It’s Silver To Port MacquarieMy Profile

    • I know a lot of people say don’t get in the ring with them, and I do agree, but that’s about arguing and getting into a fight with them. I think it is valuable to allow them to have their say and you may choose to adjust your decision based on their thoughts/feedback, but ultimately the decision lies with you, the parent. I’ve noticed lately if my teen is angry with me because of a decision I’ve made, if I just stay friendly, cheery and loving she can’t give me the cold shoulder for long.

  2. Already I know what i’d do differently if I had my time again – I’d have had myuself set up before I had children so that instead of my darling having to fit into my life, i could have fitted more into hers. As for the teens I’m sure i’ll have regrets but i’m already bracing myself …
    bachelormum recently posted..The alchemy of motherhoodMy Profile

    • I’m sure you’re doing a great job, and life doesn’t always come neatly wrapped with a bow on top, does it? Your darling girl will remember a mum who worked hard to make a life for her, and you will be a wonderful role model.

  3. The main thing I would do differently is be more available, listen more. My marriage broke up when my eldest was 13 (youngest was 11) and I immersed myself in my work as a coping mechanism, when I should have focused more on my kids and their pain. I felt I had to work more, earn more, I put my efforts into increasing my earning capacity to provide for them into the future, when I should have just been there in the now.
    Mum of Adult Kids recently posted..Steal the MagnoliasMy Profile

    • A break up is such a difficult period and it is so hard to balance your own needs with those of your children. This is invaluable advice for a lot of people, I’m sure. Thank you MoAK for sharing.

  4. I love this post, and the advices below! When I was a teenage my parents accepted me to do almost everything what I would like to. Of course, I had a great time, but I couldn’t go to college because of my grades. Now I got my degree two years ago, but I had to work really-really hard to get it. It would be better to have controll, when I needed.
    Lily recently posted..Decorating a cake:)My Profile

    • Hi Lily, that’s a really interesting twist – hearing about it from the perspective of the teenager! And it backs-up the actions of those parents who are trying to firmly guide their teenagers. Thanks for your insights.

  5. I’m not sure there is much I would do over as 13 was the age my eldest son started to really become who he is today. It hasn’t been an easy road but if it wasn’t for those more difficult times, we wouldn’t have the relationship we have today. I just hope I think the same for all the others when they are 17. 😀
    carmen recently posted..Things I know nowMy Profile

  6. Oh, these comments are great!
    Love the one about having your “mumtenna” on full alert.
    Also think I need to get a hold of that book, “How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk”
    Grace recently posted..FYBF – The Whip It! VlogMy Profile

  7. Just yesterday I was thinking about something’s I need to get better at, and the reason I don’t do them now, is honestly cause I’m tired. It occurs to me, that in a number of years, me being tired now, is not going to cut it, and I’ve going to have missed out on some valuable time and lessons.

    This post could not have come at a better time. Thankyou.
    Jess recently posted..I Think I Need a Kindle….My Profile

    • Oh Jess, parenting is so exhausting at times. Don’t beat yourself up. Also, I think that having conversations with your kids actually gets easier as they become teenagers because they are more grown up – teens get adult concepts and the conversations become really enjoyable and often invigorating.

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