Many parents worry because their teenager talks more to their friends than to them. Often many parents feel like a failure because their teenager is spending more time with friends than them. However, with the quarantine many teenagers have not been able to hang out with friends. They have maintained contact by texting, FaceTime, Zoom and gaming. Some parents have seen this as an opportunity to increase the amount of time they spend with their teenagers and as an opportunity to improve their relationship with their teenagers. This is an excellent idea. Unfortunately some parents who are concerned that their teen spending too much time with friends may result in their teen becoming involved with drugs or other issues. They feel they can use this extra time to pry into their lives and find out what their teenager is really doing. Unfortunately, this idea eliminates the opportunity of improving your relationship with your teenager. By improving your relationship with your teenager, you increase the probability that your teenager will open up to you if they are in trouble. Unfortunately many parents tell me they have decided they way to resolve this issue is that, “”I am going to be my teenager’s best friend” as a way prevent these problems or finding out about them. Unfortunately, many of these parents do not understand that it is normal developmentally for teens to spend more time with their friends.
The solution that you are going to be your teen’s best friend is wrong!! You do not want to be your teen’s friend. You need to be your teen’s parent. Your teen has enough friends. Your teen doesn’t need another friend, they need a parent. They need someone to educate them about life and how to make decisions.
Remember, as a parent it is your responsibility to help guide your teen to be successful as an adult and in life as a productive member of society. This means at times you will have to set firm boundaries, educate them about life and sometimes tell your teen no. It is important to remember being a parent is not a popularity contest. You must set appropriate limits for your teen which means at times they will be mad at you. It is okay if they are mad at you. This is part of the process a teenager experiences as they are maturing into an adult.
Despite what they say, most teens want and like boundaries. At times they can be very helpful to your teen. They may be faced with a great deal of peer pressure to do something that they do not want to do and they can use you as the excuse why they cannot do it. Some may say this is immature because the teen is using their parent as an excuse, but we put our teens in a very, very difficult world so I think they are allowed some extra help now and then.
Another reason why should you not be your teen’s friend because your word and rules will mean nothing to your teen, if you are their friend. A friend is defined as a close associate. In other words, teenagers see their friends as equals. Now think about what this implies, if you are equals, you are on the same level as your teen. Therefore, they think they know as much as you do and since you are equals they can choose to follow your rules or ignore them as they see fit.
I run into this problem daily in my office. A parent will say “we have always been best friends, I talk to my teen and their friends about everything and we have good times together hanging out. I don’t understand why they disregard my authority as their parent.”
The answer is simple: you eliminated your authority as the parent and made yourself an equal as a friend. If you want your teen to respect your authority as the parent, you must remain the parent and not be the friend.
Consider the decisions these teens have to make every day. They are faced with issues regarding alcohol, drugs, sex, gangs and decisions about careers in their future. Teens live in a very difficult and complex world today. They need parents to help set appropriate boundaries and guide them so they make the best choices for themselves and avoid a great deal of trouble. You can only do this as a parent. Remember, as a parent you are not in a popularity contest. You have a responsibility to help guide your teen. If you want to help them survive high school then be the parent and make the tough, unpopular decisions that are in your child’s best interest. This will help your teen to respect you and the rules you made earlier you can enforce. If you set yourself as friend and equal, your teen loses respect for you, your advice and your rules. You find yourself powerless and you leave your teen on their own to decide what is appropriate behavior.
This is a difficult time for you and your teenager, but if you maintain your role as parent and your teen maintains their role as child you both will survive high school easier. Of course there will be difficult moments, but nowhere near as difficult if you blur the relationship boundaries.
Dr Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their parents. He is well respected in the community. To learn more about his work or private practice, visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com. You can also visit his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3. You can also email him from this website, if you have questions.