Communicating with teens is not always easy. One of my biggest problems is a tendency to want to project a maturity of thought onto my kids beyond their years, and being dismayed when they don’t achieve it. We’re all a work in progress, and it takes time to get “there,” wherever “there” may be.
Unfortunately, my idea of maturity (logic and reasoning) and the world’s (exposure to content at too young an age) aren’t the same, and that disparity lead to a conflict with one of my daughters last week.
There is a popular series of books and movies (this post isn’t about them, so I’m not naming names, but I’m sure you can figure it out) that my daughter asked if she could read a couple of years ago. Apparently I was one of the only people on the planet not familiar with these books, and pledged to do some research before reaching a decision.
I picked up the first one at the grocery store, and before long had read all four books. While the story line was obviously intriguing enough to keep me coming back for more, I decided that they weren’t appropriate for my daughter.
Did I say the books were horrible? No, I just said I read all four of them.
Recently my kids went to the library with their older brother, and my daughter checked out one of the books. By the time I realized it, she’d almost finished it. Nonetheless, it was taken away and returned.
I sympathize with anyone who’s almost completed a book and isn’t allowed, for whatever reason, to finish it; that would be difficult. The point remained, however, that approval had never been given to read it and the original decision on the matter hadn’t changed.
The incident spun into a discussion and personal stories from my childhood. In spite of my mom being a wonderful parent, there wasn’t a selection of age-appropriate books in our home when I was a teen. I was allowed to read books that no matter how mature I may have seemed, I wasn’t really ready for emotionally.
A story was also told about a brother and sister I knew who were raised by their father. In an effort to be a “buddy,” he sometimes facilitated things that a parent instead should have censored. Even as teens, my friends and I recognized that that’s not what we wanted or needed from our parents.
Did my daughter scream and cry? Pout? No, instead we had the best conversation—actually the highest level of real communication, often difficult with a teen—that we’d had in some time. It didn’t just end there, but continued throughout the week. We took a walk together Saturday morning, went out for a late breakfast, and ran errands in the afternoon. She remained open and affectionate, more than usual.
You can and should be friends with your child, but more than anything, you need to be a parent. It’s not always easy, but it’s your duty and responsibility, part of the job description. Friendship will follow. 🙂