By Julie Baumgardner
There have been many news reports of late about how teen star, Lindsey Lohan, and her mother have been seen out on the town partying together. While some teens might think that sounds really cool, that your mom would go out partying with you, the majority of young people will be quick to tell you they don’t want their parents acting like them. According to Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Adolescence Isn’t Terminal, It Just Feels Like It, some parents believe that the way to navigate the teen years is to become their teen’s best friend.
Many parents believe that by the time a child reaches the teen years they know enough to make good decisions with little or no guidance from their parents. However, the latest brain research has shown strong evidence that when it comes to maturity, control, and organization, all key parts of the brain related to emotions, judgment and thinking ahead, that portion of the brain does not finish forming until the mid twenties, which means, teens definitely need their parents actively involved in their lives.
“Sometimes as the parent you have to make decisions that will not be popular with your teen, but are in their best interest,” said Dr. Leman.
Here’s a newsflash. Teens do not want their parents to act like them, talk like them or dress like them. In spite of grunts, attitude, and carrying on, young people do want you to act like their parent.
“Kids who have parents who try to act, look, and talk like teenagers tell me that they feel very self-conscious and embarrassed when their moms or dads attempt to be teenagers,” said Dr. Leman.
If you really want to be your teen’s best friend, Dr. Leman gives these suggestions to parents:
1) Make your home the center of activity. Instead of your child always being somewhere else, make your home the place they want to be with their friends.
2) Listen to your teen when they are ready to talk. Being approachable is the key even if it is 1 a.m. and you go to bed at 10 p.m. This gives you a chance to continue to build a close relationship with your child in the midst of their growing independence.
3) Be an imperfect parent. It isn’t about you being perfect. Admit your mistakes and don’t be afraid to say, “I am sorry.” Share stories about when you were a teen. Be real.
4) Spend time with your teen. Make it a point to notice what they do well. Be approachable. Guard against becoming a critical eyed parent that only notices mistakes and weaknesses. Be real with your teens: Real, Encouraging, Affirming, and Loving.
5) Expect the best from them. Keep your standards realistic. Expect them to make good choices. Research shows that daughters with affirming fathers are most likely to marry a guy with those qualities.
6) Don’t snowplow the roads of life for your teen. When they fail, let them experience the consequences. There is no better time for them to fail than when they are at home and have people who love them around who can help them get back on their feet.
7) Love and respect your mate. Young people learn how to treat their future spouse by watching you. Model the behavior you want your children to practice when they are married and have children of their own.
8) Never beat or bully your child into submission. Take time to think about what you will say or do and the outcomes you are looking for. Shepherds use their rod to guide their sheep, not to beat them into submission. As parents, our role is to guide our children and teach them how to live as productive citizens.
9) Pray for them daily. The teenage years can be very challenging. Make sure your child knows you are on their team and you love them unconditionally.
“Your goal as a parent is to help your children become all that they can be,” said Dr. Leman. “The best way to steer our kids through the stage of adolescence is to know ahead of time what type of children we want to raise.”
Julie Baumgardner is the Executive Director of First Things First, an organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and families through education, collaboration and mobilization. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.