As I begin to describe the “friend” parent, you are thinking of someone you know right now, maybe it will sound like you. The parent that knows the latest fashion styles, and is completely comfortable wearing them. The parent that knows all of the teenage gossip, who is with who, and how long they have been there. The parent that knows all about their child partying and drinking. The parent that believes wholeheartedly it is better to be their child’s friend rather than their parent.
Is it wrong to be actively involved in your child’s life? Absolutely not. Is it terrible to know your child’s friends and what they are up to? Nope. Is it wrong that you are more entrenched in teenage sagas than your own life? Pretty much.
Your teenager has friends. According to dictionary.com, a friend is defined as a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. They only have two parents, and possibly two stepparents. Your teenager has individuals surrounding them that are not sound sources of good advice. They have plenty of people to advise them on the fun thing to do, and the least mature manner in which to handle it. Poor advice is abundant in the 13-19 year old age groups.
What your teenager needs is the person that will speak truth to them, whether it is easy to hear or not. A parent is defined as a father or mother, or a protector and guardian. They need individuals that have their best interest in mind. Teenagers are mentally incapable of seeing the longterm consequences for their actions. Truly, the human brain does not fully mature until 25-28 years old. It is time for parents to be parents. Not friends or partners in crime, but guardians and protectors of their children.
From a young age, my mother would tell me, “I am not your friend. I am your mother.” I remember thinking how harsh that sounded. After mentoring many young people, I tell them, “I am not your friend. I am a mentor. I am a leader. You do not need another friend. You need truth.” A person would think this frankness would make these teenagers run from me. Just the opposite seems to happen. They want truth! They want boundaries! They want limits! With every single boundary and limit, you are expressing unconditional love to your teenager.
Mothers, fathers, stepmothers, stepfathers, and guardians of any kind, I challenge you to be the place of truth, boundaries and love for the precious teenagers you have been given for this season. Friends are abundant in the teenage world. People that will guide you and offer sound wisdom are priceless.
Friendship with your children will come later in life, when they are older. Right now is the time to be unpopular at times, but always looking out for their best interest.
Ashley Graves is the executive director of Choices Clinic & Life Resource Center. She has been mentoring teens for over 15 years, and has a passion for guiding them towards healthy life choices. Ashley may be reached at Ashley@ChoicesInLife.org.