Be their parent. Not their friend. Not their enemy.
Kelly Ripa said that she doesn't care if her kids are her friends. Her 13-year-old daughter is breaking rules, so she's being her parent. (You can read the article here.)
This celebrity endorsement reinforces an old concept worth remembering: our kids have plenty of friends; what they need from us is parenting.
My kids break down when we say no to ice cream for dinner. Instead of giving in, we stand our ground and perhaps even bring a little discipline over the tantrum that has transpired.
Kami wrote a great post last week on creative discipline, and Tony wrote a post on the reality that it's not our job to make our kids happy, reminding us again of what it means to stand tall and actually embrace the role as parent in the lives of our children.
I've been a youth worker for a long time, so I've actually been looking forward to the teen years.
I like that we've moved from a pure caretaker position to more of a coach. Our conversations are deeper and my kids actually get our jokes for real.
But it's also harder to understand the line between letting them try some independence and just needing control. It's gradual.
Baby years are all about wonder, toddler years about teaching, in preschool and elementary things start to click and parenting has more clarity.
Then the tweens hit and they start to wonder if they can try some things alone and all of a sudden it hits you: Soon they will be gone. And you only have a short amount of time left to get it together as a parent.
So what do we parents do?
We hold on tighter, while they're heading down the road to more freedom.
I think sometimes we forget as parents that while we are not friends, we are also not enemies. It's not about maintaining control. It's about the recognition that our kids don't stop wanting parents, even though they act like it.
They too know a time is coming soon when we won't be constantly looking over their shoulder with the same decision making rights in their lives. (Even though they like to tell us they can't wait for that moment.)
In truth, the closer it gets, parent and child are equally petrified of the future. Both are asking the same question, "Are they ready to make their own choices now?"
Our kids no longer want to learn to dance by standing on our feet. But it doesn't mean they've stopped wanting to learn to dance.
They don't want us to be friends or enemies.
They aren't looking for a hero or dictator.
They want a role model.
We use the word "accountability" a lot in our home. Accountability lets them know they need other people around to help them move in the right direction. We're always held accountable to God who sets boundaries in our life, and yet allows us to have freedom of choice. There's a part of us that always needs our parents to parent, no matter how old you get.
So let's keep it up. Keep being the parent. Don't worry about making them happy. Be creative with your discipline.
And it's ok that you close your eyes and wish it was as easy as scooping them up in your arms to protect them from all harm.
But have no fear.
Just like those scraped knees of days gone by, they will overcome the pain and get back up.
And there are still days when they'll take your hand and let you help them.
But other times our job is to just stand nearby while they do it themselves.
Just be their parent, no matter what ages your kids are.
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