How Our Teens Can Teach Us Gratitude

by deanna grubbs

This season’s holiday miracle is to have a grateful teenager.   To have a teenager be grateful is like trying to wrangle a toddler into the bathtub before bed.  Recognizing the futility in expecting my teen to be grateful, I switched gears and decided to be grateful for my teen.  WHAT?  Is it really possible to be grateful for having a teenager?  Well, yes.  It wasn’t easy, but I came up with a list of things parents of teens can be grateful for.  Here they are, in no particular order:

     Teens have one foot in, and one foot out, of the door. In a few short years, teenagers will be out of the house!  Remember when she was a baby just learning how to crawl and you couldn’t wait for her to walk?  You are so excited for her to have some independence, and free time for yourself. Then she learns how to walk, and you spend your free time chasing her around.  You delude yourself into thinking that as soon as she begins school you will finally have time for yourself.  But with school comes bake sales, homework, school projects, and soccer.  You become a chef, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and a chauffeur in your “free time.”   When that teenager is gone, you can, at long last, find ways to fill your free time.

    Worries aside, teen independence is something to celebrate. Sure, when your teenager is gone you are going to miss her.  You will miss all of the arguments, worrying, late nights, and constantly asking her to do things over and over again. Your teenager is in another world between adulthood and childhood.  She wants more responsibilities but she still wants you to make decisions for her. The impulse center of her brain is lit up like the Las Vegas strip but the reasoning part of her brain is dimmed like a December evening.  With this in mind, praise your teen any time she makes a good choice. Be grateful that she is independent and making decisions of her own. It is a time for you as a parent to reflect on what it was like to be a teenager.  It is a time for you to be grateful that you are no longer one!

     Teens keep you young.  She can update you on the coolest YouTube videos, music, the latest gadgets, and you will be able to brag to your friends and co-workers that you achieved 99% accuracy on Rock Band vocals.  Your teen can set you up with a Facebook account, so that your mother, who lives out-of-state, can finally have updated pictures of the kids. Your mother will thank you and you can thank your teenager for new skills.

     You are no longer a teen, thank heavens!  Walk into any teenager’s room and the smell can overwhelm you.  If you are like most parents, you immediately shut the door, afraid of that scurrying noise in the corner.  You can be grateful that as an adult your hygiene habits are years in the making and better than your teen’s. You can be grateful that you don’t have to fit into those skinny jeans that teens are wearing. You can be grateful when you look in the mirror and staring back at you is your normal reflection and not a weird landscape on some distant planet.

     Another licensed driver in the house is a good thing .  You might think it is hard to be grateful that your teen has a driver’s license.  You might be worried that she is out there on the road with other crazy drivers.  Then she tells you that she is going to a dance at school and it ends at midnight and you are grateful that you don’t have to get yourself up out of bed, drag on sweats and go pick her up.  Or maybe she has early morning practice for an extracurricular activity and you are grateful for one more hour of sleep.

     The cash vacuum gets a brief respite.  Your teenager may have carved out a few hours a week for a job.  She might be paying for a car, saving for college, or just wanting a few extra dollars for spending money.  In this economy it is nice to know that if your teenager wants to buy something special, you can just ask, “Can you afford that right now?” You can be grateful that this relieves you from the pressure of having to either come up with the extra money or saying no to your child.


     It’s the little things.  The gratefulness that really matters most is generated by the little things that your teenager does.  For example, sneaking up behind you and giving you a hug around your neck for no other reason than to be close to you. Or being in a car with her and a group of her friends, and she trusts you enough to serenade you when their favorite song comes on the radio.  Or when she has her heart broken for the first time and she specifically seeks you out to cry on your shoulder. When she was younger it was much easier for her to show you affection.  The older your teen is the harder it is, so when these small occurrences happen your heart rejoices.

     Many of us have children to carry on our hopes and dreams of the future.  A teenager wants to make her parents happy, but she has her own hopes and dreams and sometimes the two conflict.  If we are grateful for the good choices our teenager makes and the caring person she is, it will give her the confidence to move into the direction that will help her to soar. Be there for her when she falls, as you were when she was just learning how to walk. It is your final hurrah for teaching her to be a functioning adult in today’s society.  If you pay attention closely you can learn as much from your teenager as she is learning from you.  Maybe by being grateful for your teenager it will teach them to be grateful for you.  After all she does learn by example. 

Deanna Grubbs lives in Billings, is a mother to two teenagers and a school librarian.