Why can’t we be friends?

January 28, 2013
Why can't we be friends?

Why can’t we be friends?

I had the parenting of teens all figured out when I was a teen.

“What that mom needs to do is quit trying to be her kid’s friend. She is the parent not a peer.”

Now that I have kids I realize how difficult it is to maintain my parenting roles and still keep my relationship with my daughters friendly. I do realize that it is impossible to be your kid’s friend. Being friendly and being a friend are two completely different things. I want my kids to enjoy being around me. I want them to have fun when we do things together. I want them to like me.

The problem is how a teenager perceives friendship. In full disclosure I have no degree or any professional training in this area. This is just based on my own observations of my teens and their friends combined with my own experience when I was a teen.

Teenagers, for the most part, have a blind friendship. They don’t sit around and think critically with each other. They don’t analyze each other’s actions and render thoughtful insights into right and wrong. They accept each other’s actions blindly regardless of the truth. In each other’s eyes they really do very little wrong. I realize this is quite the generalization. I have observed this enough over the last 20 years to know it is fairly accurate.

This is why parents can’t try to be their kid’s best friend until they are adults. How parents see friendship and how teens see friendship is completely different. We just can’t become the kind of friend our teens want. They want someone who will go along with all their ideas, laugh at all their jokes and understand the music they enjoy. They want someone who will defend them even if they are wrong. I would submit that this is the kind of friend they actually need, just not from their parents. Without this kind of friend I would doubt that any teenager would have friends. There is enough conflict in a teen’s life with all the authority figures in their lives. They need to have a few peer friends who are on their side no matter what.

It’s a tough balance to maintain. I want my kids to like me, but I also want to help them make wise decisions. Sometimes, their need to be safe will cause me to be in opposition to their wants and desires. They naturally over-indulge in areas where it is unhealthy. I have to help them manage what they enjoy. There is nothing more painful than having an authority figure take your fun from you. In their eyes that is not what a friend does. My actions by default keep me from being their friend.

I need to find more opportunities to do fun things with my teens. I want to build our relationship into new areas that are just focused on having fun. Lydia and I got off to a great start yesterday. We ate lunch together at the local Chinese restaurant and went to see “Les Miserables” afterword. It was a wonderful time. It wasn’t an attempt to be her friend. It was a father and daughter learning to enjoy things together. It was about spending time together where rules and regulations were not a part of the conversation.

Last night I told her it was a memory I would never forget. She said she felt the same way.

James Dibben

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