WT 027: Should I Be My Child's Parent or Friend?
Things start to change as your little children turn into pre-teens and teens. Sometimes we question our rules and stances. Other times, we have to be creative in how we spend time with them. Karen and Sunny talk all about the sometimes-difficult line of being your child's parent or friend today on Wire Talk.
Question 1: Now that my daughter is in high school, I find myself bending the rules with her way more than I ever thought I would. This includes missing her curfew a couple of times and being more sassy in her responses to me than she needs to be. We have had a great relationship her entire life, so I'm just trying to keep things conflict-free until she leaves for college next year. Is this okay? I think even asking this question tells me that I know it's not.
Karen's Answer: Sometimes when we “hear” ourselves answer a question, we instantly know the answer to our question. I think you have already already answered your own question. In my opinion we are not to be our child’s friend until they are out on their own. The later teen years are so important that you remain the parent and not a friend. Your child has lots of friends, but only one mom.
Who likes being the bad guy? But, if I allow my child to start running the show, even at 17, then I am not being wise. I believe that when we parent we are really shielding them from a lot of trouble. I used to tell my children, “blame it on me, tell your friends, I’m old fashioned and strict, I don’t care if they get mad at me.” Now, that my children are adults, they really appreciate me not being their friend when they were younger. We are great friends now.
Realize that being the parent is harder than being a friend, but in the end your child is better off. It almost takes more love to be the parent. Friendship will come, I promise! It’s worth the wait.
Question 2: I overhead my 12-year-old son on the phone telling his friend that his mom is "so annoying." I thought I would be able to brush something like that off but it really hurt my feelings. Is this something I should address with him?
Karen's Answer: I would not address it with him, it’s very normal. Maybe start to notice when you are getting on his nerves and then back off in that area. Taylor used to tell me he didn’t like me asking him the same questions all the time, it was annoying to him, so I took that to heart, and stopped. We have to listen to our children, listen when we like what we hear and when we don’t like what we hear. It’s all important.
I heard my child call me the B word one time. It did hurt my feelings, but honestly, I think they were just blowing off steam with a friend. Realize your child is growing up, and you have to adjust as well. As moms, a lot of the time, we still look at our child like they are in the toddler years, we coddle them, hover over them and honestly, they don’t like it. So, we need to give them their space and allow them to be more independent of us.
Just because your son said you were annoying, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. He does.
Question 3: I am trying to stand my ground with the decisions I make about what my daughter is and isn't allowed to do. However, every time I tell her no, she tells me "But everyone else's parents are letting them!" or "I'm the only one of my friends who isn't allow to do [fill in the blank]" -- while I trust my gut, I don't want my daughter to feel like she's always left out because of her mom. Even more, I know her friend's parents and I trust them. Should I budge a little or stand my ground?
Karen's Answer: It depends on what you are standing your ground on. But, as a general rule, I think you should stand your ground on safety issues, like not allowing your child to drive after curfew or with more teens in the car than the law allows. Stand your ground on boy/girl issues. Stand your ground on drinking/drugs and grades. Stand your ground on things that matter.
ALL my children said those statements to me. My response was:
I’m sorry you landed in the Stubbs family. I know we do things a little different, and I know it’s hard, but dad and I are not going to let you go to that party where we know there is drinking going on.
I know all your friends are spending the night together at someone’s house for prom, but dad and I do not feel that is a good idea to spend the night boys/girls all together. Even if you aren’t doing anything, we do not think that is a good idea.
Decide the areas that you don’t want to budge on and then decide what are the areas you will give a little on. I do think it’s a give and take at times. We didn’t allow the kids to sleep over for prom, but we always hosted breakfast at the house, for as many people as they wanted to invite, I’d cook, and they could stay until 2AM then the boys went home and the girls could stay.
You can stand your ground but also be creative so your child doesn’t feel completely left out. For instance, Kelsey could not date until she was 16. When homecoming rolled around her freshman year she was 15 and she wanted to go. We allowed her to invite 4 couples to the house and we catered in a meal, then drove the couples to the dance and then picked them up. She wasn’t dating, so we were happy, yet she was able to be a part, so she was happy.
Question 4: Karen, my children used to tell me everything growing up. But now that they are both in high school, I feel like I sometimes find out more about their life through what other parents tell me than through them. I know kids aren't supposed to share everything with their moms, but I miss the closeness. Do you have any advice for this?
Karen's Answer: I understand. It is hard, maybe find a way where they will open up to you without you asking them a ton of questions. Most teens will open up you just have to get creative and create a safe environment for them to open up. Girls are easier to me, take them shopping, nails done, or if they like outside, go on a hike to a new place. Abby and I would do these dance workouts together or watch a Netflix series. We would bond over silly things. Taylor and I would watch movies together. In the summer he would get up early and go run in the mornings, I went a few times with him just to have a common interest (and I hate to run). As your children get older you have to get creative.
Watch and observe what your teens love to do and try to get into their world.
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Thank you moms, have a great day!