Teenagers! Should we parent or befriend them?
I watched last week’s episode of “Blackish” which was so hilarious and yet so realistic. It addressed the age old question of parenting teens, do we parent them or befriend them? In the episode dad decides to impose a curfew and all kinds of rules on his teenage daughter and her siblings because he caught her driving whilst under age. Mom on the other hand is dying to be her friend and decides that helping her outwit her dad, will get her in her daughter’s good books.
Eventually, dad realizes that his wife and daughter have conspired against him, and mom explains that his rules are unrealistic and too over the top. The ending though is the funniest part, when mom realizes her daughter has been driving her car without permission. She decides she wants to be the parent after all, rather than her friend.
I asked myself that same question several times, even as I raised my teens. Is it better to parent them, or to loosen the strings a little bit and be friends with them?
1. Parent your teens
Most parenting experts agree that it’s better to be the parent, during this most critical stage of development, rather than focusing on being friends with them. Don’t compromise your beliefs, or your parenting skills for your teen to like you. Teenagers crave boundaries, even if they act like they don’t. Be the parent. Set reasonable rules and expectations which you can actually discuss with your teen so you are both on the same page. Be consistent, and follow through with what you say you’ll do. They need this from you. The friendship will come later.
2. Present a United Front.
In the episode of Blackish, mom was making faces even as dad was laying down the law. This is not helpful. Right away you’ve given your teens ammunition to use against both of you. Teens are very perceptive and can be manipulative. Don’t give them the power to do this. Don’t create excessive and outrageous rules. We all know what happens when we are given too many rules to follow. We break them. Because each parent grows up in a different home they usually have their own idea about what constitutes effective discipline. The key is to discuss your ideas of discipline openly, be willing to compromise and agree before you present the rules to your teens. In many families, like mine, one parent is perceived as more approachable than the other, and this is okay, so long as the teens know that you will not be keeping their “secrets or other clandestine activities” from the other parent. They must perceive both parents as a team.
“The best rule for social media is the Golden Rule.” J Loren Norris
3. Get informed about Technology
Whether we like it or not, knowledge about technology has now become part of effective parenting. Always teach your teens that if you can’t say something in front of someone, then don’t put it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram either. Teens should learn to treat people the way they would like to be treated. Parents need to keep abreast with what their teens are doing on the various social media sites. I’m not talking about sneaking or hacking into your child’s social media accounts. Be honest with them and let them know you are checking up on them. There is no secrecy. They should know you are monitoring their activity on the social media sites, just as you do in school etc. There are effective tools like Teensafe to help you do just that. Most teens are actually okay with this once you are honest with them about it. A good parent wants to know if their child is a victim of cyberbullying or if their child cyber bullies others. Remember, even if teens have all the technological skills you still need to parent them and teach them internet and social media etiquette.
4. Parent with Love
Don’t create an atmosphere of fear. Your child’s home is the one place that they should feel safe . Teach your children that you love and respect them first of all by loving the other parent and treating each other with mutual respect. You are your teen’s first role models and what you do counts. Respect your teens and learn to listen to them. Show them you love them. Have conversations with them. Don’t talk down to them. They will communicate with you more if they believe you actually care. “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Folghum. Parent them with love and teach them to love themselves.
5. Trust God and let them go
That is one of the hardest things we ever have to do as parents. Yes, we do have to parent our teens but not hover over them and stifle their creativity. Allow them some room to think for themselves. That is part of effective parenting. One day, our teens will have to learn to live without us, and we should allow them to develop coping skills and strength of character while they are still under our care. We will eventually have to trust God that we have done our best and let them go. And the rest is up to him.
During the teenage years, as much as we are tempted to become the “fun parent”, or “the friend” we should always put effective parenting first. Remember teenagers want and need boundaries. They want consistency and they need you, the parent, to be an effective role model for them to follow. Be the parent now, when they need parenting the most. One day you’ll wake up to a great, respectful, loving friend for life, when your teen eventually becomes a well-rounded adult.
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” Jane D. Hull.