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Parent or Friend: Which will you choose?

Parent or Friend: Which will you choose?

“I’ll be your friend when you are 30. Right now, I’m your parent.” The sentence was barely out of my mom’s mouth before she wrapped me in a hug.

I remember thinking that calling my mom my best friend was the biggest compliment I could pay her.

All while I was growing up, she was my number one confidante. She was always ready to swap my young inexperience with the wisdom her life had provided her. And in my young teenage mind, she was my best friend. But at the time my mom saw her role in my life very differently.

To her, she was not a friend but a parent, a mentor, coach, counselor, tutor and a million other things. And now looking back, I see that she was right.

I’m so thankful that she was never my friend.

Raising kids today is full of controversial topics. Do you spank or not? Should they eat organic food? Are vaccines actually safe? The list could keep on going.

Among these topics is the idea of being a BFF to your child.

Are you your teen’s parent or their friend?

When it comes to parenting, friendship usually means that you and your teen are equals. You regularly confide your problems to them. You and your teen have few, if any, boundaries. And your relationship is predominantly egalitarian, meaning you both share power. In this style of parenting, no one is actually in charge of the other.

This type of parenting focuses on protecting your child’s self-esteem. It works on promoting a feelings-based and relationship-based connection with teens.

On the surface, this form of parenting sounds great. But it can also bring an array of problems.

Codependency can develop

One danger that can result from trying to parent as a friend is a sense of codependency. This learned behavior that is oftentimes passed through families and it usually manifests itself in a person’s behavior and emotions.

The biggest threat of codependency is that a child can become too reliant on relationships. They lose a sense of self and the ability to function confidently on their own.

This means that as they grow up, making safe choices for themselves will get more difficult.

Without confidence in their own decisions, they are more than likely going to be easily swayed by the people around them. This makes the peer pressure to drink underage even worse.

If they have developed a sense of co-dependency with their parent, a teen may also question if they should turn down alcohol while underage at all. Seeing their parent drink may encourage them to feel that they also have the right to drink.

Additionally, if for some reason that co-dependent relationship becomes strained or goes away, the teen may turn to alcohol to try to numb their emotions. This can be extremely dangerous. A teen using alcohol to try and escape stress can enter a vicious cycle that may lead to addiction.

Lack of boundaries

When a parent uses egalitarian parenting, they become equal to their child or teen. This makes it difficult for the parent to create any boundaries.

While boundaries may not always be fun to establish, they do help to keep teens safe and they can also help them feel safe. By knowing a rule, a teen knows that their parents care and worry for their safety.

And if they know what will happen to them if they break a rule, they might think twice about doing something dangerous.

Whether it’s because the parent questions their own authority, or because it’s uncomfortable, leaving boundaries out of a home can be dangerous.

In research conducted by the Wake Forest School of Medicine, teens who lived in homes with clear rules on underage drinking were 30% less likely to attend a party with alcohol.

Within this same group of teens, the 60% of participants who did attend a party with alcohol were 38% less likely to drink.

Each of these students made a choice based on the boundaries set by parents. By choosing not to drink, they saved themselves from dangerous potential consequences.

All thanks to having clearly defined rules for underage drinking from their parents.

By having boundaries on drinking, teens can know for sure what is and isn’t good for them.

These rules can also give them an automatic response with peer pressure. If they’re offered alcohol underage, they can refuse it and use their parents as an excuse.

Life without Coping Skills

An egalitarian style of parenting can also prevent a teen from developing coping skills. These skills are what we fall back on as adults that help us get through our stressful situations.

Healthy coping skills include things like physical activity, reading and deep breathing. As parents, it can be easy to want to make everything easy for your child. But egalitarian parents will sometimes take this to an extreme.

These parents will do everything they possibly can to make life for their teen as easy and comfortable as possible.

This can be detrimental when teens aren’t able to learn how to cope with difficult life situations in a healthy way. Instead, by having situations fixed for them, they run the risk of turning to harmful coping mechanisms later in life.

This can lead teens to grow up and turn to alcohol when they encounter stress as adults. While at first this solution may help them feel like they’re relaxing, it’s greatly hurting their ability to function.

Inside their bodies, the alcohol is slowing down the brain and making the decision-making process harder. If they continue to use alcohol to relieve stress, they may notice that they develop a tolerance to a certain amount. This can lead to a need to drink more and more to get that relaxed feeling. This can result in alcohol dependency.

Set Your Teens Up for Success

While choosing to be a friend to your child may seem fun and makes things simple at home, doing so has lasting damage.

A teen may grow up without some of the fundamental things that they need to be the best adult they can be.

The most important thing that you can do for your teenager as they grow up is to be their parent. Set boundaries, have conversations with them and be invested in their life.

And don’t be afraid to talk through the difficult parts of growing up. While it may not seem like they’re always listening, your voice is one of the most important ones that they hear.

So choose to be a parent. Believe me, your teen will thank you one day.

Kaitlyn Inman
kaitlyn@missourisafeandsober.com
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