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Parent or Friend: Do I Have to Choose?

Parent or Friend: Do I Have to Choose?

The thought of being a parent can be overwhelming. Especially considering the teen years, it can be down right terrifying. I came across this blog post recently authored by Dr. Joanne Stern, and it sums up the delicate balance on the topic of being a friend or parent with your child.

Here is her post. The original post can be found here:


You shouldn’t be friends with your kids. What they need is a parent, not another friend. Right?

Wrong. That’s a parenting myth that needs to be debunked.

Actually, there’s no conflict between being a parent and a friend. And here’s why. A parent who is approachable, accessible and has their kids’ best interests at heart grows a close bond with them. We just call that a friendship. And you can set boundaries and have effective discipline- because your kids respect you enough to obey you.

But let me explain to you what I mean when I say you should be friends with your kids. Your friendship is a caliber higher and a layer deeper than those they have with their peers. It’s a caliber higher because you bring with you knowledge, experience, wisdom, and mature decision making ability. It’s a layer deeper because you don’t get jealous or competitive with your children and you never abandon or betray them.

Think for a moment about how you are with your kids when they’re young. You are their friend. You laugh, talk and play games with them and you enjoy each other immensely. And, of course, you still maintain discipline. Your kids benefit immensely from this friendship because it establishes a solid base of trust and respect between you. Why would you want to back away from or sever that close and positive relationship when they reach the pre-teen and teen years- times when they’re struggling with their growth into adulthood and meeting big challenges along the way? In fact, these are the times they need your support, your caring and your influence the most.

But, parenting is an art, not a science, and there are several ways you can get off track with them. Let me give you some tips to help you stay in balance.

1. You don’t want to become permissive. Effective parents set boundaries and permissive ones erase those boundaries. You don’t hang out with them on Saturday night giggling about their boyfriends, using their slang, dressing like they do and trying to be oh so hip and cool. You don’t share inappropriate and intimate details about our life with them just to try to get close to them. You don’t give in to them so they will like you. A parent who is also a friend keeps the boundaries crisp and clear, but you let them know-and feel-that you’re there with them for the long haul.

2. You don’t want to be distant and aloof. If you were, you wouldn’t get to know them and they wouldn’t get to know you. There would be minimal trust between you, and they wouldn’t share with you what’s happening in their lives, so you would lose your ability to influence and guide them. If you’re closed down with them, they’ll close down to you. If you don’t open up to them and promote mutual sharing, the communication between you will be tense and surface. Communication is a two way street-in any kind of relationship. And it’s the bedrock of a relationship. So if you decide to be distant, you have to give up on being close to your kids.

3. You don’t want to be controlling. When you control, kids tend to rebel. Instead of getting on the inside track with them, they will be out to disobey and get out from under your control. They might rebel openly and loudly by looking for ways to sneak, lie and cover up; to be un-cooperative, to be sullen and to talk back. Or they might rebel quietly by getting an eating disorder-because you simply cannot control what they put in their mouths or what they don’t. Control doesn’t feel like respect, and if you don’t respect them, you can’t expect your kids to respect you.

4. You don’t want to become a helicopter parent. When you hover over your kids making all their decisions for them, trying to prevent them from making a mistake or-God forbid-failing, you actually damage their self-esteem. They see your hovering as a message that you don’t trust them and that you don’t believe they can take care of themselves. The more you guide them in decision making, but allow them to make their own-in age appropriate ways-the more mature and wise they become in making good choices. And you want to teach them that failing is okay. It’s part of the human experience. You can ask them what decision they made that led to a bad outcome, how could they have handled it better, what they can do to recover and how you can help. And you can model for them how to deal with mistakes by admitting some of your own. Instead of making them feel belittled, berated, humiliated, put down or stupid, teach them that failure is a learning tool.

So what’s the best position to take? Being a parent who is a friend because that’s how you help your kids most and that’s how you get to be the one they talk to-and listen to-even during the tough times.

10 Disruptive Conversations

10 Disruptive Conversations

In this socially networked age there are no more mysteries. Few things, if any, are sacred. We seem to have lost our sense of consequence. I think it’s because everything has become relative. If you want to do something, you can quickly find someone in the social sphere that is doing it and ‘having fun’ with little or no perceived negative side effects. How do we, as parents, make progress in communication with our teen? How do we continue to develop or maintain a high level of trust with our teen to help guide them through the mine field of justification?

Disruptive convo

It’s possible that we’re hanging on to antiquated methods and advice. After a recent conversation with my friend, Paul, what he said rattled my proverbial cage. He spoke about how a recent NPR interview discussed the principle of disruptive conversations. Our conversations have to change. We need to be bold and direct in a way that cuts through the clutter of 24/7 media. To get you started I’ve listed 10 areas where I believe our conversations must change. The change needs to come by being direct and bold (with an attitude of love) with our teen.

1. Boundaries
Boundaries are for our protection. They’re not meant to steal opportunities, rather to ensure that our teens continue moving forward and not distracted by everything that’s happening around them.

2. Accountability
Accountability allows us, as parents, the opportunity to teach our teens discipline. Following through with what is expected of them or following through with what they said they would do are priceless lessons they’ll thank you for.

3. Purpose
Purpose brings hope. Knowing and always discussing the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ provides context and momentum. Life isn’t a series of BIG things. It’s often a string of small, seemingly insignificant things that equal something big. Keeping a clear picture of one’s purpose in front of them brings a solid reason why they’re doing what they’re doing.

4. Money
Let’s face it. We don’t want to support our teens forever. We’re raising them for independence. Having a solid basic understanding money is another tool they’ll thank you for later. If you need an easy starter check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. His website has a wealth of info to get you started. Click here to get started.

5. Relationships
Relationships are the glue that holds us together. Cultivating a solid relationship with your teen will teach them how to have healthy relationships in their own life. I’m not talking about being friends. I’m talking about respecting each other, listening, asking questions, setting clear expectations.

6. Morals
In recent years, the dictionaries of the world are adding words all the time. This word (Morals) might be the first word to be omitted from the dictionary. We’ve become a neutered society in that we’ve accepted that all ways are permissible. But that’s just not true. Every action results in a reward or a consequence. I strongly encourage you to define what it is that you stand for and what your don’t stand for and get to it. One interesting project is to design a Coat of Arms with your children. Don’t adopt one that’s already created. Build one from the ground up. It’s a fun project and will help you define, clearly, what your family stands for. Get started here.

7 School
Academics are key! Bringing the idea of purpose back into the conversation adds some relevance to that math test or english homework that seems trivial.

8. Respect
Likely another word to be omitted from our language altogether. This word has lost most of its importance. Looking to the past and honoring our elders (grandparents, veterans, personal heroes and mentors) while being aware of who is around us and why, we can start to build a vision of our future. By respecting people in our life and most importantly ourselves we can have a reverence for the importance of our time while we are alive.

9. Mortality
We will not be alive forever. We cannot live selfishly and not expect a major consequence. We’re alive to serve each other. To help one another. Without this critical truth engrained in our thoughts we will simply pass through life to not be remembered. Don’t let your life only end up as a warning to others.

10. Spirituality
What is your anchor? When the winds of life blow you around what keeps you grounded? Your faith brings hope for today and tomorrow. Your faith brings purpose, color to your world.