Shannan Younger: Parents, Know Your Mandate

My daughter is just months away from becoming a teenager. She is counting down the days to 13 and chomping at the bit for freedom and independence. While I give her as much as I can, I still have rules and expectations for my (still) 12 year old. Some days, that makes her not a particularly big fan of mine. Not. At. All.

Recently, my husband and I were reviewing what had been a rockier evening than most in our house, and I started to second-guess a few of our parenting decisions.

Then I stopped. I remembered what football coach Lou Holtz often says in his motivational speeches: Know Your Mandate.

When I thought about whether what I had done as a mom matched my mandate, I felt okay about my actions and decisions. Actually, I felt more than okay. I felt downright confident that I was doing the right thing.

Here’s what I believe my mandate is as a parent:

– Keep my child safe;

– Do what I can to keep my child healthy;

– Display love and affection for the child;

– Make sure the child is educated; and

– Teach the child to be respectful and responsible.

I also know what my mandate does not include:

– I am not my child’s friend;

– I am not my child’s sole entertainment committee; and

– I am not responsible for my child’s happiness.

I feel pretty confident in saying that all of those fall under the umbrella of parenthood. I’m sure there are more, and everyone may see their mandate somewhat differently, but in the hierarchy of needs, these are at the top for me. And that means that there will be some rough nights, and some awkward or difficult, but hugely important, ongoing conversations.

Many of those responsibilities in my mandate overlap, as making safe and responsible decisions often first requires education and information. Knowledge is power. That is true of so many circumstances, including knowing exactly why kids and alcohol don’t mix.

I’m very grateful that Ask, Listen, Learn provides both the facts that I need to arm my child and the tips for parents on how to have these important discussions with my child. My hope is that the combination will empower her to make good choices.

As she totters on the edge of the teen years, she’s making more of her own choices. When I’m dropping her off, I’m known to say as she exits the car, “Make good choices.” For that to happen, I need to provide her with the facts and figures to do so, as well as make sure she’s very clear on where I stand. That means starting to talk early, and talking often, about the dangers of underage drinking. It means covering various scenarios and ensuring that she understands the why behind my belief that kids and alcohol don’t mix.

Lou Holtz may not have meant to give parenting advice, but his recommendation is solid in all circumstances, even those involving upset tweens and teens. Knowing what your mandate is, and what your ultimate goals are, make it easier to stay the course. Not easy, but easier.

Shannan Younger, creator of Mom Factually and contributor on Tween Us at ChicagoNow.
Shannan Younger is a writer living with her husband and tween daughter in the suburbs of Chicago. She writes about parenting adventures on the blog Mom Factually and on Tween Us at ChicagoNow. She also writes at Chicago Parent and her work has been featured by the BBC, the Chicago Tribune and the Family Online Safety Institute. Her works has also appeared on Mamapedia, The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Mamalode. She was honored to have essays included in the anthologies The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship and My Other Ex and is a proud alum of the Listen to Your Mother. She is a native of Ohio who received her undergraduate and law degrees from Notre Dame.
 *The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*