Our Five Ring Circus: 13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 13 Reasons Why

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 13 Reasons Why

13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 13 Reasons Why

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Netflix. I am a member of the #StreamTeam and receive service and promotional products in exchange for monthly posts. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Have you ever watched a show or a movie that was so intense that it made you feel painfully uncomfortable, but you just couldn't stop watching? For me, that show was 13 Reasons Why. And despite the controversy, I think it's extremely important for parents who have kids of all ages to watch this show. Please let me explain...

Perhaps you read the book. Perhaps you watched the show. Or perhaps you read all the controversy surrounding this Netflix show, and you decided to skip it altogether. But I am urging you to watch. And if you have a child over the age of 15, watch it WITH them. 

13 Reasons Why is about a teenager named Hannah Baker, who took her own life. Before doing so, she recorded tapes giving the 13 reasons why she committed suicide, and they made their way to each person who pushed her over the edge.

13 Reasons Why on Netflix #StreamTeam

A big thing people have against the show is Hannah's lack of personal responsibility in taking her own life, but I don't think that is the show's intention. The show's intention is to show that every action, whether it be positive or negative, has an impact on another person's life.

Today, my oldest son, Dylan, celebrated his half birthday. When this post goes live he will be closer to his teenage years than he is to age 12. I did not watch this show with him, because it is not intended for a child his age. After watching the show, I am 100% terrified about the teenage years ahead of us, and 100% certain that I will be watching this with him in a few years, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for either one of us.


13 Reasons Why is the topic of so much discussion because experts feel that it glamorizes suicide. But this is a TV production. ANYTHING on TV is glamorized or exaggerated in some way. Parents have to take responsibility for what their children are watching, and this show is not intended for a younger audience in any way, shape or form. 

I'm not taking a firm stance on either side. I will say, without going into detail, that I know people who took their own lives and it's incredibly painful for the families. I have trouble understanding the reasons why a person would do such a selfish thing, but that's because I'm not depressed and I can't put myself in their shoes. But I can't say with absolute certainty that one of my own children wouldn't do it. NO parent can say that.

There are definitely points I agree with made by experts, but overall this show is a must watch if you have kids. Thanks to the immense talent of the cast, this show forces you to take notice of issues that are a very real part of teenage lives these days, and at times, it's often painful to watch. But that pain is necessary. That's the point. You're supposed to FEEL. You're supposed to think. And you're supposed to learn something from watching it.

13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 

13 Reasons Why

1 - Every teenager has a secret.

Think about it. When you were a teenager, you kept secrets. I was a responsible teenager at the top of my class, and *I* had secrets.

In 13 Reasons Why, every teenager had a secret, from the good kids to the troublemakers. Some secrets were small, while others were life altering.

I guarantee that if you have a teenager, they are keeping a secret from you. That's completely normal, but it's up to parents to encourage their children to confide in them before it's too late. Building that trust, and listening with a non-judgmental ear, is so important! It's definitely something that needs to start when they are very young!

2 - No child or parent is exempt.

Everybody seems to think "It will never happen to me." But it can and it does. Nobody is exempt. The "exceptional" teens are every bit at risk as the troubled teens.

Anything can happen to anybody. And just to put a personal spin on it that's completely unrelated to the show, but gets the point across, I didn't think I could ever have a child with Down syndrome. My risk was so low. But I could and I did. I became a statistic.

3 - Parents need to listen - REALLY listen - to their children.

Think about all the times you half listen to your child. I'm definitely guilty of it! But in order to earn their trust and make them realize just how important they are, we need to listen to our kids. We need to encourage conversation and focus on them - and only them - when they talk.

In 13 Reasons Why, there was a scene that really hit me hard. Hannah was trying to talk to her parents about going to a party. She didn't really want to go and was hoping they would talk her out of it. But instead of listening to her, they continued with their conversation over top of her words and her mom ended the scene by snapping, "Go or don't go..." Hannah ended up going to the party and it only contributed to the path of destruction.

I've been there. I've done that to my own kids. But watching that scene as an outsider made me realize that now, more than ever, I need to really listen to my kids when they are trying to tell me something. Because even if it doesn't seem important to me, it is to them.

4 - Teenagers have to deal with some incredibly serious issues these days that we never had to deal with.

It's definitely true! The issues that today's teenager's have to face are much more serious than many of the issues we faced as teenagers. Their world revolves around an online presence that we simply didn't have back then and cyber-bullying happens constantly. There is no filter online, and kids can be incredibly mean. Now we have to protect our kids from real world dangers AND online dangers.

Drug use, rape and bullying were always serious issues, but in addition to the online aspect of parenting, we also fear violence at school (school shootings). And if the last few scenes of 13 Reasons Why were any indication, that's exactly what's going to happen in the second season.

5 - Even if you think you are doing enough as a parent, you are NOT doing enough.

Please, parents, don't get comfortable with the thought that you are doing enough. Don't consider yourself a superior parent to others. Because when you hit that level of comfort, it means that you should probably up your game.

Raising kids is the ultimate challenge. You make mistakes and you learn lessons as you go. And you could always do MORE.

6 - So many parents are in denial.

I can't even tell you how many times I've heard, "My kid would NEVER do that."  Guess what? I adore my kids and think they are really great human beings, and my husband and I are very involved in their lives, but I don't doubt that they could do something that falls short of our standards. They are human beings, and they have their own minds.

Although we can hope we're setting a great example for our children, that doesn't always work out with every child. Unfortunately, too many parents fail to accept that fact. We need to continuously model good behavior, hold them responsible for their actions, teach them that some actions have consequences, and punish - and forgive them - when they fail.

7 - Don't always believe what you hear.

Rumors are incredibly destructive. It's important to teach our kids not to believe everything they hear and not to spread lies about another human being.  Trust, unless you are given proof.

We, as parents, need to do the same thing. Sadly, we often fail. It's hard for kids to realize that it's not okay to spread rumors, especially when they hear their parents gossiping about others.

8 - Beware the group mentality and herd thinking.

This is a huge problem for teenagers today. Peer pressure is tough to battle against and kids just want to be accepted, so they follow the herd. In turn, they stop thinking for themselves, and go along with what the group thinks.

In 13 Reasons Why, this was a very serious issue for the kids who were on those tapes. They came together as a group, and the group mentality caused a lot of tension. Not only that, but some of the kids were discouraged from doing what was right, and went along with it.

It's hard to find a balance, but it's important for teenagers to fit in, yet still think for themselves.

9 - Bullying can be seriously detrimental to children.

One of the most serious issues for kids of all ages is bullying. From the playground to the cafeteria to social media, it truly is everywhere. I've thought about it time and time again, but I'm not sure what the solution is.

Parents and other adults really need to step it up to encourage change. Parents need to teach their kids that it's not okay to bully, be aware of their child's actions, and punish if they are, indeed, caught bullying. And yet again, no kid is perfect, and parents who are in denial are a huge part of this problem.

10 - Every single action defines your future.

This is, perhaps, the main idea of the entire show. It shows the actions of each person who pushed Hannah over the edge along with the poor decisions Hannah made. Each time, if one thing was done just a bit differently, it would have had a much different result.

Kids need to realize that EVERY SINGLE ACTION needs to be thought out. Every single thing they do can have a positive or a negative effect on every person around them. Our actions can have a huge impact on another human being's life, so as responsible human beings, we MUST think before we act.

11 - Parents need to be 100% involved in their child's life and be aware.

This one is so important. It's hard to find that balance between giving our children independence and being involved in their lives. Too much independence is a bad thing, as is being in their face at all times. But parents must be involved from infancy to childhood to the the teenage years and beyond.

As parents, we can't afford to be selfish. When you make the decision to become a parent, you have to sacrifice yourself a bit from the time your child is born until the time they become an adult. Raising good human beings means you have to know who your child really is. You have to be involved in their lives, listen to them, and show how much you love them each and every day.

12 - Sometimes scenes need to be painfully graphic to get the point across.

Two scenes in the movie got a lot of attention. I heard so many people complain about how the scenes didn't have to be so graphic, but I disagree. And this is coming from a person who can't handle watching any bloody or violent scene.

I won't ruin the show by talking about one of the scenes, but since everybody knows the show is about a girl who takes her own life, I will mention that scene in particular.

I have NEVER watched an onscreen suicide that was more real and painful as the one in 13 Reasons Why. It was so painful to watch and so graphic, that the tears spilled down my cheeks and it took my breath away. That was the entire point of that scene. The graphic nature FORCED viewers to feel the same sense of loneliness and desperation that Hannah felt as they watched her take her own life. And for those few incredibly painful, emotional minutes, you felt as if you were right there with her and knew you couldn't do anything to change the outcome.

Suicide is a very real thing and it can happen to anyone...even the people we least expect. 13 Reasons Why brought attention to an issue that so many people are afraid to talk about. Even if it is controversial for being too graphic, it got the point across, it made people think and it encouraged discussion. That's a powerful thing.

13 - Just be KIND to everyone.

That's all. It's such a simple concept. Just be nice to everyone you meet. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone followed through with this simple action. Be nice, accept others for who they are, stop judging and love fiercely. Kindness truly is contagious and teaching kids to be kind begins in the home. As a parent, it's your responsibility to teach kindness.

13 Lessons Every Parent Should Learn From Watching 13 Reasons Why - Netflix #StreamTeam

Read It: Thirteen Reasons Why

Watch It: 13 Reasons Why on Netflix

Weigh In:  Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Did you read the book? Did you watch 13 Reasons Why? Did you watch the show with your teenagers? I value everybody's opinion, even if it doesn't match my own, and I want to hear your thoughts.


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  1. You couldn't have said it any better. I watched the show and it got me so worried for when my girls get older. I fear them being in both categories. The popular kids who pick on others or the ones who get picked on. I hope we never have to deal with this stuff. Those two scenes are crazy and were hard to watch, but the show was really good. They are making a season two to show where some of the kids went (ie Alex). These are great points you make and definitely things I will do as my kids get older.

    1. I'm really interested to see what happens with Alex, and especially what the kid with all the guns has in mind. But yes, I pray every day that we don't have to deal with anything serious. Raising kids is tough!

  2. This is a great post and way to look at the show. I read the book and started the show but all I find myself feeling is disapproval and annoyance at Hannah. The things that happen to her happen to a lot of kids, why did she take it so hard? Of course, it all piled up on her, and she could have used a lot more parental support. I also feel bad for the kids she blames - they are all just kids, you know? But your advice here is perfect for the parents who need to be responsible for these kids!

    1. I felt the same way about Hannah for most of the show. Other than a few moments, I couldn't understand why she did it. It was definitely a realization that all she really needed was support. It was an eye opener for me, though.

  3. Stefanie, this post needs to go viral!! I have been reading up on 13 Reasons as much as I can because I am trying to debate whether or not to watch it, and this review that you just did was absolutely incredible. You have 100% convinced me that I need to watch it no matter how hard it's going to be. The thought of my child taking their own life is completely unfathomable. As a matter of fact, I don't think that anything could ever be worse than that. This was a great read and it really makes me think about a lot of things. Thank you so much for posting.

    1. Awww, thank you, Lindsay! I definitely think you should watch it. Just keep in mind that it is for entertainment, but the issues that the cast is dealing with are very real.

  4. Oh wow, what a great review. I've never even heard of this show, but now I'm considering watching it. I do avoid graphic violence--I'm sensitive, have an overactive imagination, and suicide has impacted my life. I don't even like violence that "serves a purpose" and will never see the movie The Passion. But I'd still consider this show...maybe skipping over the worst scenes. I love your perspective and the lessons you're taking away from the show!

    1. That's exactly how I am, too. I did watch that scene from behind my pillow, but it was definitely a wake up call!

  5. What a great review! I have heard a lot about this show but haven't watched it.

    1. Thank you, Heather! I definitely think it's worth watching, despite the controversy!

  6. I have read the book - but it's been years. It's definitely an important story. It's why the author has been touring, talking about bullying for years. I've watched the beginning of the show - I still need to finish it. I have heard the controversy but I think this show and this topic is important. It needs to be shown and talked about.

    1. I completely agree with you. The more people talk, the more will listen!

  7. I haven't watched the show yet, but plan to. And after reading this it's a must. I'm with you on all of these things, including being scared for my children in the teenage years. I hope this post goes viral because it definitely needs to.

    1. I am SO terrified, Jess! Dylan's in 6th grade and I started noticing things over the past year. I honestly can't imagine it getting harder!

  8. I actually stuck this in my que the other day but have yet to watch it. Now I am even more curious! Thanks for the review.

    1. Just keep in mind that it IS for entertainment. That being said, it focuses on a lot of topics that are unfortunately very relevant today!

  9. The best quote I ever heard for parenting is to listen to everything now (mine are little) so they want to tell you everything later. We can't only listen to the big stuff, because to them, when they're little, it's ALL BIG! That made a huge impact on how I interact with my toddler. I can't imagine what the world will be like when she is a teenager....

    1. That really is a great quote! It's so easy to tune them out (and I do at times), but since watching the show I've been making an effort to really listen to what they have to say!

  10. I absolutely love this! I am not a parent but I'm barely past my teens and some of these issues created huge riffs between my parents and I. Such GREAT advice!

    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Elizabeth! It helps to hear thoughts from a person who went through that stage somewhat recently!

  11. I just finished watching this today and it terrifies me for my girls. I try so hard to teach them about kindness and loving others. Thank you so much for this post. My girls are far from their teenage years, yet it will be here before I know it.

  12. Number 11 and number 13 YESSSS!

  13. Yes to all of this! You put it in precise words of why people need to watch this! I agree, I think the suicide itself needed to be shown, I think if they had not shown it, this whole thing would have been glamorized suicide like people have been saying. Like you said, if your kids watch it, you HAVE to watch it with them and you have to talk about it. I think it will open the lines of communication with your kids. I'm so scared of my kids being older and what that entails, how fast social media changes, it's overwhelming sometimes.


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