Stop Being Your Kid's BFF and Start Being Their Parent
I had two experiences in the past few weeks that brought to mind a point that I've often wrestled with in my own head. Or I should say, I've often debated with myself whether it's a point I should discuss in public. The ramifications of questioning someone else's parenting skills are wide and deep -- as they should be. However, this past week I came to the conclusion that this is a discussion that we should all be having more often.
My first experience was in a small clothing store next door to our local Wal-Mart. I was shopping for my oldest daughter and noticed a young girl... I'd say she was around 14... who was with her mother. The mother was diligently shopping for the young girl, while the girl was diligently texting. Her smart phone never disappeared from her hand the entire 20 minutes I was in the store. Not once. Ever. Her mother even asked her to please put the phone down and help her pick out the outfits her mother was purchasing for her. The young girl never so much as acknowledged her mom. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Her mother continued to spend her money, and time, on a child that didn't even bother to show her the respect of a response. Actually, the mother acted as though she didn't expect her to respond, nor obey. The expectations she exhibited toward her daughter were fulfilled right before my eyes.
My second experience was in Wal-Mart. A mother with two children... I'd say they were somewhere in the range of 8 and 12... was in the check out line next to mine. These two children were loud, rude and obnoxious. They were laughing at the "naked" women on the magazine cover (it was Cosmopolitan), while the mother talked on her smart phone. They fingered every compulsion item on the shelves, and made crude jokes while the mother continued to talk on her smart phone. At one point, she did take the time to screech at them that she "wished" they'd hush so she could hear herself think. I think she may have even jerked the 8-year-old up from the floor at one point, but I refused to look. My brain-to-mouth filter occasionally goes on the blink, so I thought I'd be better to just look away than become transfixed by what was sure to be an embarrassing moment for me later.
During her "important" conversation, she also took the time to gripe about her husband to the person on the other end. I have no doubt that both the 8- and 12-year-old heard this quite clearly. Such is the gift of childhood. I merely shook my head when she finally hung up her phone and immediately began to make excuses to the lady behind her for her kids shocking, rude, and completely inappropriate behavior, which she never once confronted as the adult in charge of her own children. She rolled her eyes at her neighbor in line and exclaimed loudly, "Kids are just so much different these days! Ya know?!"
Ummm... no, actually. I don't know. I think the truth is, parents take the responsibility of parenting so much differently these days.
I place no blame on the children in either of these instances. The blame lies squarely with their parents. Period.
So, here are my thoughts:
How can we, as a society, expect our youth to respect themselves when we don't even demand that they respect the authority in their lives? That young teenager who ignored her mother saw absolutely nothing wrong with her behavior. It was treated as acceptable, therefore it was. She fully expected her new clothing to be bought, while she texted away on her smart phone, which was also purchased by the woman she was ignoring.
You cannot give children respect, nor self-esteem. They must be EARNED. They must be TAUGHT. They must be ACHIEVED. A primary way that we do this is do teach them to respect the authorities in their lives. We, as the parents, are responsible. We owe it to our children to tell them, "No." We owe it to our children to teach them manners. After all, manners are free, right? We owe it to our children to teach them that respect isn't optional. We owe it to our kids to discipline them when they are disrespectful or rude.
We are creating a society of young people who think that they are entitled to the latest gadget because "everyone else has one." Actually, I had a close friend give that explanation for purchasing her 11-year-old a phone just last month. I didn't ask, but she obviously felt the need to justify why she would purchase something completely unnecessary and completely extravagant for an 11-year-old child who hasn't even reached puberty.
And yet, parents the world over encourage their kids to be unique and achieve their "personal" best. urely, the irony isn't lost there. Parents are spending more time buying their kids electronics that connect them with every person they've ever met in the history of EVER than they do conversing with their kids about things that actually matter. You know... things like respect, kindness, relational health and interaction. Things like sex, drugs and morality. Things like contentment, hard work, and earning what you have. Heck, from what I've observed, it seems more and more unlikely that parents are even having a conversation with their kids about what they expect their behavior to be... just period.
Actually, much of our culture now spends a good deal of their time avoiding those topics like the plague... some even roll their eyes when you bring those topics up in conversation. Or the other end of the spectrum: Kids must be allowed to "express" themselves in whatever way they want to. Seriously? I think that at some point you can be so "open-minded" your brains just fall out!
I ask you, parents, when is the last time you spoke to your children about morality or respect? When is the last time you had a conversation with your young person regarding sex? When is the last time that you spoke with your child about your expectations of them excluding the times that you're angry with them because they weren't meeting your expectations? A real conversation. One where you weren't trying to play at being their BFF and were their parent.
Kids have a hundred BFFs these days. Often, they change from year to year. However, they only have one set of parents. Just one. Wouldn't it be great if our mentality changed as a nation and parents conducted themselves strictly as parents until their children were old enough to no longer need daily parental guidance? Wouldn't it be great if we carried ourselves as parents who deserve respect and actually earned the respect that's needed to develop a lifelong friendship with that child once they become an adult?
How much healthier would our kids be if we, as parents, had conversation often enough with them that they felt perfectly comfortable discussing sex, drugs, bad habits, hurts, triumphs, and everything in between, with their parents before they texted their BFF to ask their opinion?
Parenting isn't easy. It should be tough to raise a real live functioning human being with an eternal soul. We're complex creatures. But, if you've made the choice to be a parent, it's absolutely imperative that you actually be one.
I want to be clear that I'm not suggesting that mobile phones are bad. I don't think they are. My oldest received one at 15, when he obtained his driver's permit and actually had a NEED for one. What I do believe is that it's a poor parenting choice to purchase your 8... and yes, even your 12-year-old... one. There are even multiple diagnosis' now that occur from too much social media. There's social media disorder, social media anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive social media disorder, etc. There's an entire generation coming up who spend more time conversing on Facebook than they do with the parents who are ordained to parent them.
And frankly, there's an old generation of parents who make excuses for their children's behavior, but refuse to act responsibly in parenting them. You, as the parent, are responsible and I think it's time that it's said out loud. It's time to stop being politically correct and stop making excuses for parenting decisions that are opposed to raising healthy, kind, generous, loving, relational, engaged children and young people.
We all screw up... heck, I'm fairly certain that I've messed up at least 10 times today in regards to being a parent. And I'm not suggesting that ALL parents treat their children the way these particular parents were; what I am suggesting is that it's all too common and we're ALL making excuses or skimming over the importance of what's happening. There are some things that aren't just "mess ups." Some things are directly affecting our youth in the long term. I believe that keeping up with the pack, lack of discipline and real training, along with engaging in the technology wars for the sake of "fitting in" are some pretty big ones that we can correct.
It's time to stop trying to be one of the kids and get back to the business of raising children, who we all hope will one day become productive adults. That isn't going to happen by accident! Parenting is an intentional job. What are your intentions as a parent?
I also want to point out that being close, personal loving friends with your children is the goal of all good parents. However, true "friendship" is about respect, love, care, diligence, common interests and caring about another person. Could I just posit that maybe you can't achieve real "friendship" with your children until you parent them first and well? Are you raising children who will become the kind of adult that you would willingly choose for a friend...even if they weren't your children? I think it's a valid point.
As a side note, I thought I'd link our position on "dating" here in case anyone gave a hoot. ...grin...
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:7
Photo Credit: jhaymesisvip.