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Be a Parent not a Friend: I call bullsh!t on this!

How much does our media and society like to reinforce the ‘petulant teen’, the ‘surly back answering teen’, the ‘rebellious teen’; the ‘lazy, socially inept screen-loving teen’? The message is loud an clear to parents “BE WARE of the TEEN STAGE!” The messages we have hammered to us would have us all believe that our children are going to be too hard to handle, they will lie and do things without our permission, and give us just cause to not trust them. They become creatures we have to fear, fight and control – for their own good. What a crock of shit.

Let me explain what I mean.

A ‘good parent’ of a teen it seems is one that is encouraged to do everything we can to keep our teens safe from all the dangers out there.

Yes, that is the mandate of all parents – to keep our kids safe, but there are options in the way we do this. One is driven by fear and control, (derived from love mainly), and the other through education, support and trust. A parent of teens needs to hold the space for their teen, a concept that is often misunderstood.

You can be a prison, with high walls, barbed wire, strict rules and one-way (your way) communication. No space. No room for growth. No opportunity to learn or explore. No safe space to make mistakes. Not a space to encourage trust and communication. You are the parent. You know best. Your rules are solid. It seems this is the style of parenting teens that we being encouraged to do to keep our teens safe from all the dangers out there! Yes they will be safe from the dangers outside, but what damage are you causing in the process?

One of the best metaphors for what I feel the role of a parent of teens was from Lisa Damour, in her book Untangled. To paraphrase, we are the sides of a swimming pool. At first our teens may cling to the sides and nervously splash about in the shallows, not far from our reach if we need to pull them out of danger. But as they get more confident and adventurous they venture further away from us into deeper water. They will more often than not come back to tell us how much fun they are having, what they have learnt, and also to seek comfort and consolidation after they swallowed some water and were scared for a second there. We are there for them. They know that. There is no need for either parent or teen to panic because there is trust and protection. We need to be OK with them growing their strength in swimming so they can be confident adults.

Those memes and articles that circulate saying: “I am not your friend, I am your mom”, I feel simply miss the point. Yes their messages are meant to mean well, but the concept that ‘good parenting’ is all about rules and regulations. “I will stalk you, lecture you, drive you crazy, hunt you down when you need to be home, I will be your worst nightmare – because I am your parent and I love you” What the hell kinda love is that! Just think about what these memes and articles are actually saying. Protecting someone you love is a natural instinct, but as parents our roles are not to ‘keep’ them. That is the sure way of losing them.

A friend is, by definition, someone you can trust, rely on, talk to, have fun with, laugh with, enjoy life with, and know will have your back at all times. I don’t know about you, but that is the sort of parent I am happy to be.

For an extended exploration of this topic, please click here

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