This was probably my favorite line from “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” this week. The classic email gone wrong: a teenager sent an email to her father intended to get to her friend and she was busted for lying about sleeping at a friend’s house. She clearly lied. She clearly made a choice to spend the night with her boyfriend which she knew was against her parents’ wishes. Ironically, she was the one with the bad attitude toward her father. She was worried her privacy was compromised by seeing a text he shouldn’t have. And she showed no remorse for her behavior, only for getting caught. So when the father started to discipline her for her lying she said: “I am mad at you dad, you are not my friend anymore”. He replied with: “I am okay with that because I am not your friend. I am your Father”. Amen!
I see this all the time. I coached teenagers for 10 years and did teenager/young adult small group bible studies at the church I worked at for another 5 years long before my time at Hope Clinic. This young girl’s attitude is not uncommon: Children who expect to be friends with their parents; children who expect high levels of privacy from their parents; children who don’t show remorse for bad behavior; children who want all the freedom of adulthood but none of the responsibility and parents who want to be friends more than they want to be parents. Is this all young people or parents? No. But it is more and more of them today. Statistically we know young people are physically maturing at a younger age, (http://health.yahoo.net/news/s/nm/us%20puberty%20earlier) and they are exposed to sex/adult decisions at a younger age and yet each generation is maturing more slowly than the one before. (Think: Our grandparents were married, on their own with a job at 18; today college doesn’t end for many until 23-25 and children are living/returning home longer than ever before).
My viewpoint on the friends vs. parents is my own. Not a Hope Clinic ordained rule. I have just not seen it work for young children and teenagers when you put the friendship in front of the parenting. As a coach, I believed in teamwork, giving my kids a chance to share ideas, but my athletes knew the buck stopped with me and I had the final vote. And sometimes I would choose to do what is best for the team even if I knew someone was going to be mad at me. I know effective teachers who draw the same boundary. As a boss over the last 10 years I have had to make those hard lines there too. Do we want to be ‘friends’? Sure, on some level. But we need to put our commitment to our leadership/mentoring role (whether teacher, coach, parent, or boss) ahead of meeting our own need to be liked by doing what is best for the one we are guiding. The one we have been entrusted to care for and help grow into a strong, capable human being.
Do we want to love and nurture? Yes! Do we want to give children a chance to succeed and fail on their own? Yes! But do they need boundaries? Yes! So before you bail out your child of oversleeping, not finishing a homework assignment, or something similar, consider letting the chips fall where they may. Consider guiding your child through the consequences, not around them. Because if they aren’t equipped to handle the small stuff, then they are not equipped to handle the bigger stuff. Like the things that bring them to Hope Clinic for Women in the first place. Consider letting them be mad at you for a day or two or not your friend because you had to set a boundary that you know is good for them in the long term. Their future coach, teacher, boss, and spouse will thank you for it.