Children View Their Parents as Role Models

High school and the teenage years are a very difficult time for a majority of teens and parents. This time of life has become even more difficult with the advancement of social networking, smart phones and computer technology not to mention the increase drugs that are available to teens. These drugs are designer drugs such as ecstasy and spice as well as prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Concerta.

Things are advancing and changing so fast that life is becoming overwhelming and confusing for teenagers and for parents too. Not to mention society in general. One thing that has not changed, is that parents are a child’s main role model. However, with the rapid changes in our society, a lot of parents have forgotten that they are their teenagers primary role model.

Since your child was born, s/he have been watching you and studying you regarding how to act and what actions are appropriate or inappropriate. They have been listening to what you have been saying to them about how to act as a responsible, decent members of society. I know many parents feel that once their child started middle school that their child stopped listening to them, but that is not true. They may act like they are not listening or that they don’t care about your opinion but they do.

I have teens come into my office all the time and complain that they feel like their parents do not care about what they do. Often teens make this assumption because they say their parents set no boundaries for them or they feel that the parent cares more about their careers than their children. At times parents do focus more on careers or stop setting limits because they feel that their child doesn’t listen to them. Parents often feel this way because their teen will say, “I don’t care what you think or I don’t care what you do”. However, they do care and often they say these things or act this way because they feel hurt.

Every child, no matter what they say, wants to know that they are important to you, that you care about what they say and you care about what they do. One major problem that I encounter with parents is that many parents do not practice what they preach. Yes you are an adult and you have a right to drink alcohol or engage in other adult behaviors, but you need to do so responsibly. If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Yes you are an adult but using marijuana is illegal no matter how old you are. Also watch how you speak to your teen and others. Do you do so in a respectful manner or are you rude to people?

The issue that really upsets teens are cellphones and social media. Teens complain all the time how their parents tell them they spend too much time texting or on Facebook. However, the teens point out when we are having dinner or watching television as a family, “my mom is texting.” Bottom line, teens know adults can do somethings such as drinking alcohol, but not texting at dinner. If you want your teen to respect the house rules, you have to respect them too.

A lot of parents will come in and tell me that their behavior doesn’t matter and that their child has no idea what they do so they can do what they want. The truth is, your behavior does matter and your children know what you are doing even if you think they do not know.

I have had eight year old children complain that “my mommy drinks too much wine”, or “my daddy smokes pot in the garage” or “my daddy talks mean to people”, or “my parents fight too much.”. When I try to talk to a teen about their behavior after they have said something like this, the teen responds if my parents can do it, why can’t I? This is difficult to argue with if the parents are using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol. Also the fact that eight year old children also make these comments demonstrate that if you want your teen to act respectful, then as a parent you need to model respectful behavior starting when they are born. Also children want to know that they are important to you and setting rules and enforcing rules communicate to your kids that you care about them.

The bottom line is that as a parent you have the most significant role in your child’s life. If you want your child to grow up to be a mature, responsible adult, then you have to act like a mature, responsible adult and you need to do so from the day they are born.

In this world where things are changing over night, children need to know they can rely on their parents to protect them and guide them. Again given how fast society is changing, this is not an easy job for a parent. The easiest way to sum it up is to remember to practice what you preach.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and parents. For more information about his work or his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

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