Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting, Friend or Parent?

This is a great topic that is often discussed among parents. Trying to determine whether you can be both a friend and a parent to your child?
Idealistically, it seems easy, but in reality parenting should always come first. Debra Beck, author and Teen Mentor, recently wrote an article about this very subject.

Friend or Parent

It’s a fine line between friend and parent.
By Debra Beck

I remember this when my girls were teenagers, and it was coming up again with my partners boys. It’s tough for me to be their parent when they come to stay twice a year, so the best I can do is try to be a friend and still be view as a parent, where they respect me. I noticed that one of the twins started to do things that wasn’t showing respect, not listening to me when I’d ask him to do something, teasing a little to much, so I started to look at what was going on. The other twin was still treating with respect and I was treating him the same way I was treating the other.

My behavior with them was very casual, and fun, and they knew that they could talk to me for some reason. A lot of the time they would tell me things they wouldn’t tell their Dad, mostly because I didn’t react. I didn’t want our relationship to change, although I wasn’t enjoying the behavior of the one twin that wasn’t showing any respect. So, I decided to talk to him, tell him how I felt, that I liked our relationship, it was fun and I wanted to be able to maintain my relationship with him to have fun and I also wanted him to respect me. I told him the things that he was doing that was showing a lack of respect and ask him if he thought I was asking to much? He said “No”. I addressed this at the end of their stay so I won’t know if he was actually listening, or if it would have changed his behavior, I will have to see this winter.

I think we can have a relationship with our teens that is open and communicative, like a friendship, but with a strong parental umbrella. The parenting umbrella has to be there because if they have issues that only a parent can help them through, they have to have a strong parent to go to. I believe the friendship has to be there too because if it’s not there, there won’t be a comfort level to bring the big stuff to you.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to create a friendship with your kids where you are hanging out with them and their friends, and partying with them. You want to create a friendship where you are still the parent, not just a friend. Kids need their parents.

Kids also need parents who understand them and allow them to be teens, this is where the friendship comes in. Their friends understand them and allow them to be themselves. This is what we need to practice. Understanding doesn’t mean giving them permission to do what ever they want, it just means understanding what they are going through and being there to help them through it. If the friendship part is missing all together, they may never come to us with there big issues and we may never get the opportunity to help them through things.

My girls always knew they could talk to me about anything, now whether they did or not, who knows. I do know that they came to me with some pretty big issues. I wanted them to talk to me. I treated them like teenagers, and didn’t expect them to act like adults. They also had rules and consequences for braking those rules, but the rules weren’t rules expecting them to be adults. I didn’t set them up for failure. The part about the friendship that is so important is loving them and not judging them, so they can come to you when the need you, isn’t that what friends are for?

So, friend or parent? I say a perfect blending of both. Let me know your thoughts, and happy parenting.
Follow Debra Beck on Twitter at @DebraBeck