I think it's the recipe that's the problem.
Thankfully, we found a recipe that actually worked for us! It's on the blog, Itsalwaysautumn.com. If you click on the name of the blog, it should take you to the blog post that has a download link for a fun printable version of the recipe for kids. I compared it to the recipe on the back of the bag and the only difference is the distribution between brown and white sugar.
There are a couple of other things that I think help make a successful cookie.
1) I don't soften butter unless a recipe specifically says so. All of my cookie recipes, minus one, just call for butter.
2) Cream the butter and sugars together until there NO lumps.
3) I use half size bun pan cookie sheets for my cookie sheets with half of sheet of parchment. Every few years, I order a box from Webstaurantstore.com.
The quilon parchment paper can withstand temps up to 425, which is fine for every cookie I make and biscuits. A box usually costs about $35-$40 for 1000 sheets (which can be torn in half to cover 2 bun pans). I usually divide the box up among a few friends. It does take me several years to go through a box (3-4 yr), but the cost savings is worth it because 1 roll of Reynolds parchment paper is equivalent to 30 pieces (or 15 full size pieces). A roll of Reynolds paper cost about $4.50 at Target the last time I checked. So, 100 sheets from the box cost the same as 15 sheets from the roll.
4) Use a kitchenaid mixer. It makes cookie making so much easier! Kohl's is the best place to get one around Christmas time--combining coupons can make them a much less daunting purchase.