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The Movie Quote That Made Me a Better Parent

My lovely daughters will be 18 and 20 in a few months, and if you were to ask me what my parenting philosophy is, I might say it comes down to three words I heard in a movie more than 10 years ago.

I wish I could say the quote is from some deep, angst-y art film where the main character looks over her shoulder as she's walking out the door and devastates the room with her parting words. Everyone cries at the truth of it and then by the time the credits roll they've become transformed into better humans.

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But no, this quote is from the Disney film "Freaky Friday" (the 2003 remake, not even the original starring Jodie Foster) where a mother and a daughter somehow exchange souls after an incident with a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant. The mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) is dropping her daughter (Lindsay Lohan) off at school, and right before she drives off she calls out to her, "Make good choices."

Make good choices.

The words are loaded and shorthand for a bigger message.

When you think about it, it's the simplest, smartest advice we can give to our kids. Doesn't almost everything they have done and will do in their lives revolve around the choices they make? What they gravitate toward on the playground as children to who they surround themselves with as they get older, it's all about the choices they make.

Make good choices.

I've been saying these three words to my girls ever since we watched the movie together a decade ago. I say it to them whenever they leave the house, whenever I leave and they stay or whenever I'm dropping them off. I say these words to them any time I need to give them a little advice when I'm short on time because the words are loaded and shorthand for a bigger message.

Think about what you're choosing to do. Think about why you're choosing to do it. Think about how your choices are going to affect you, and those around you. Choose wisely.

I don't just say the words to my girls, but to myself, too. I think it made me a better parent as I navigated through the difficult, unpredictable teenage years. There are so many components, so many influences that shape a teen's world and it would be impossible to prepare yourself and your kids for everything that's coming at you a mile a minute. The best thing you can do is to teach your kid to think on her feet and to try and make the best decision for the situation at hand.

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When I look at my beautiful daughters now, I'm immeasurably proud. They've grown into kind, smart, funny, talented young women—the sum of making a lot of good choices in their lives so far.

But the thing is, I feel like I need an addendum to my mantra.

I know that they have made and will make some bad choices along the way, too, and those choices have shaped who they are. I want them to own their choices and be at peace with the decisions they make. Because sometimes it's not as easy to tell the difference between the good and the bad like it is in the movies.

Make good choices. Love yourself and your life regardless.

And pay attention to movie dialogue—it might just give you words to live by.

Photograph by: Marsha Takeda Morrison

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