By Barbara Alvarez
Remembering the Early Years
|Photo used under CC License from Anthony Catalano|
Mom, dad, you think back to when your teens were little, wide-eyed and round-cheeked. Not only were your children cute, they actually respected you. Well, most of the time, they did. When you told them, “No, you can’t play until after you take your nap,” while they weren’t happy, they obeyed you.
Now, their heights rival your own. Your son’s voice is deep and loud. Your daughter’s voice can carry. And when you tell them they can’t go to that party, disorder reigns. They slam doors. As they argue, their arms wave in the air as they emphasize their points. Then, one day, one of your kids threatens to go to the party regardless.
You Were so Close
|Photo used under CC License from J.K. Califf|
Thinking back to when your kids were little, you remember that, when you made an unpopular decision, sure there were tears. They stomped from room to room, trying to get you to change your mind. But, knowing that you were their parents, they ultimately gave in. That night, they cuddled with you, sharing popcorn as you all watched a movie.
Now, of course, they share the living room with you, but not much else takes place. They slump in their seats, texting their friends and scowling, letting you know that you’ve ruined their lives. Where did all that respect go? It’s still there. Your kids are fulfilling their developmental scripts by rebelling and separating from you. But you can’t let threats and promises make you cave in. You’re their parents, not their grown-up friends.
Be Parents, Not Authoritarians
|Photo used under CC License from Kristen C.|
That said, it’s time for you to remember that you’re doing the right thing. Your children “think” they know all about that big world outside your home. They believe they can handle anything – that they are invincible, immortal. But they aren’t.
When they argue that they can “handle” a potential life-threatening situation, such as being in the car with a drunk driver, they need to know that they, the driver, nor other drivers out there, can predict what will happen. You know what could happen. Because of your experience and knowledge, it is up to you to make the decisions and, in reestablishing respect, communicating your decision and the reasons behind that decision, to your children. You’ll have to do this many times between today and the day they turn 18, move out or go to college. Stand firm and be a loving, respectful parent!
Establishing Healthy Communication
“But, why can’t I go? All the kids will be there!” You: Because. I said. That is all. Go to your room, end of discussion.” Is this communication? No, it isn’t. Your children deserve more than, “Because I said.” They want and need to know the whys and wherefores. Let’s try this again.
“But why can’t I go? All the kids will be there!” You: Not “all” the kids will be there. Dollars to donuts, other parents will refuse to allow their kids to go to a party with no parental supervision. We’re responsible for your safety, health and security. From what I know of your friend and his parents, they allow his friends to drink. That’s illegal. Your friends, his friends, his parents – and you – could all be charged with crimes. I love you too much to allow you to get into a situation like that. No. You’re not going. If your friend’s parents were more parents and less “friends,” maybe our decision would be different.”
|Photo Under CC License from Katy|
Now, look at the differences. You stated exactly why you’re refusing to give your kids permission to go to that party. You explained consequences. You put the responsibility for your decision on their friend’s lazy parents’ shoulders, which is where it belongs. Finally and most importantly, you expressed your love for your kids. Sure, they’re angry and they won’t hear that in the heat of the moment.
But tomorrow morning, when they turn on the television and hear that 60+ kids, including your friend, were taken to jail for underage drinking, they’ll realize you were right. When they hear that their friend’s “cool parents” were jailed and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, that will hit home with them.
Don’t ease up. Be your children’s parents. Some day down the road, they will thank you for your tenacity. And most of all – they will respect you for it.