Monday, 9 April 2012

Should you try to be your teen's best friend?

A teen's best friend should be another teen, someone similar in age, in experience, and in maturity. Best friends should be to advise, consult and comfort each other as they try to navigate together the mystifying puzzle that is life. It is not the task of best friends to discipline each other.

The role of a parent in a teenager's life is entirely different. A parent's job is to explain the rules and norms within the family, the community, the society, and the culture to which the teen belongs. The parent must speak convincingly of the need for rules. He must be ready to give logical reasons why obedience to these rules is required. A parent is meant to be a role model, the first and the best, of a law-abiding, respected, productive individual within the society in which the teen is growing to adulthood.

It is also the parent's duty to administer discipline when the rules have been broken, or when the teenager's behavior has not met expectations. As far as possible, the punishment should be a natural consequence of the action or omission involved. If the young person neglects to set the alarm, sleeps in and misses the bus, he must walk to school, explain why he's late, and serve the assigned detention time. Thus he will learn from first-hand experience that failure to meet expectations has undesirable consequences.

The parent's responsibility is to allow the consequences to occur. He will not take responsibility for getting the teen up on time, nor will he drive him to school. If the school requires a note for late attendance, he will write it, but he will tell the truth, and place the blame where it belongs, on the student's carelessness in not setting the alarm.

If a teen has been assigned chores within the family, they must be completed before he is free to pursue outside activities. When he enters the world of work, his employer will not wait until he takes in a movie with a friend before he begins his job.

A parent's role is to guide the character development of the emerging adult, even though it may occasionally cause uncomfortable episodes of conflict within the family. Every teen will endure some growing pains, and few of them believe in suffering in silence.

A parent who tries to be a teen's best friend cannot administer effective discipline. Your young person does not need you as a friend at this stage in life. He does need you to be firm and self-confident in your parenting role. If you are consistent and fair in fulfilling this duty, he will grow to become an adult of whom you can be justly proud.

At that time, in the not-too-distant future, he will be your friend, someone whose respect and companionship will be more than sufficient recompense for all those challenging years of parenting. And, your enjoyment of that staunch friendship will be much more long-lasting and rewarding than were the trials of those difficult teenage years.

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