Daughters of teen moms are three times more likely to become teenage mothers themselves.1
Have you noticed this phenomenon and ever wondered why it happened? Well I certainly have! As a matter of fact, this statistic has always baffled me.
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why a teen girl would repeat the behavior that has often times caused her to grow up struggling unnecessarily. Yet, I’ve met teen mom after teen mom who has said the same thing,
I can’t believe I'm getting ready to do to my child, the same thing my mother did to me.”
Be a Teacher, NOT a Hypocrite!
After conducting parent workshops and talking to mothers who had themselves been teen moms, I finally understood how and why the above statistic could've come to be.
Often times, the mothers who were the most hesitant to take a firm stand with their daughters about the importance of abstaining from sex were teen moms themselves. Though they didn’t want their daughters to repeat their choices, they felt their hands were tied. They believed it was hypocritical to tell their daughters not do what they had done.
In order to relieve them of that burden, I always told them:
“When you tell your child, ‘Don’t do as I do!’ that’s a HYPOCRITE.”
“When you tell your child, ‘Don’t do as I did!’ that’s a TEACHER!”
What if you allowed all of your past mistakes to handicap you from educating your children about making good choices in those areas?
You have every right to advise your child to not make the same poor choices you made. If you don’t, you're preventing them from learning from your mistakes, making it more likely that they'll repeat them.
I’m not sure why we have this mentality when it comes to sex, but we wouldn’t dare think this way when it comes to other poor decisions. I doubt that a caring father who is sitting in prison as a result of selling drugs would even hesitate to tell his son not to sell drugs. Instead, he would likely do everything in his power to try to prevent his son from ending up in prison. Yet when it comes to sex, parents often take a different stance.
How to Say, “Don’t Do as I Did!”
Even if your child does initially think it’s hypocritical for you to tell him/her to do something you didn’t do, a simple explanation may be all it takes for him/her to get it. I certainly do my part to help students in my classes understand why their parents may not want them to do what they did, and students seem to get it:
What you said about parents who tell their kids to not do things they did when they were younger are teachers, not hypocrites, hit home with me. My mom got pregnant with me when she was 20, and never married my dad. She always told me to remain abstinent, and while I have always planned on doing that anyway, I didn’t have much respect for her in that regard, since I thought she was being very hypocritical. Now I see that she was just trying to keep me from making the same mistakes she did.”~High School Student
Mothers who were teen parents are often hesitant to categorize their choice as a “mistake,” for fear that their children will walk away feeling unloved and unwanted. There's a way to have the conversation without making your child feel either of these.
For instance, a mother who was a teen mom could say to her child,
I love you more than life itself and am grateful that you are a part of my life. I just wish that I could have given birth to you when I was older and better able to give you everything that you deserved. The reason I don’t want you to have sex as a teen is because I would never want you to go through the struggles that I went though trying to raise you as a teen mom. When I was having sex as a teenager, I wasn’t thinking about the impact my choice could have on your life. I want you to make better choices than I made so your children won’t have to pay for your choice the way you have had to pay for mine.”
Until this type of honest conversation happens, the statistic at the beginning of this post probably won't change.
But the above advice isn’t just for mothers who were teen moms. Any parent who was sexually active as a teen has every right to advise his/her child to not make the same poor choices he/she made, whether a pregnancy resulted from the teen sex or not. As a matter of fact, in this post from a couple of years ago, I share a success story about a father who had been sexually active prior to marriage and was able to motivate his son to abstain.
1. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy