As most kids grow up and face challenges and tough situations, especially social ones, they confide in their friends, not so much in their parents. Just ask yourself how much you know about the day to day issues your high schooler deals with – many kids find their parents to be too opinionated and judgmental, and without real understanding of what it’s like to be that age.
Let’s set aside our parent identities and just look at this from a third-party perspective. If a child has something important on their mind, do we want that child to go to the parent? Yes of course, so what kind of a landscape must we nurture in order for that to happen naturally? Just telling our children to always tell us when something is wrong isn’t going to work, not if the necessary relationship is not present.
So what kind of parent to be? Well what kind of parent did you want when you were a child? Imagine yourself back as an adolescent – what would be your ideal mother, father? That’s where we start. You will have your own take, but here are six great ways to earn your child’s friendship:
- Please don’t stand on a pedestal. Friends operate at the same level, as equals. One is not superior to another. Kids look up to their parents naturally but there’s no need to emphasize that hierarchy.
- Be present. We need to set aside significant dedicated time for our children. These busy lives push us to hand them an iPad so we can engage in our own agenda. But what was it that we wanted more than anything growing up? To spend quality time with mom and dad.
- Let them have their own life. Where is most friction between kids and parents? It’s when parents project their own wants and desires onto the child, their own ideals and identifications onto someone who, after all, is another being. Children are not extensions of our ambitions, nor do we own them outright.
- Allow them to self-correct. Here’s a hard fact… if they hate your discipline, how long before they hate you? Has it not happened in so many families? The answer is to lay a nurturing foundation (joyful, loving, inspiring) by which kids can exercise their own understanding of right and wrong… as sentient beings we naturally know when we act in a positive or negative way.
- Stop preparing them for “something.” More preparation means narrower focus, which is actually a limitation of other possibilities. Yet we know life is always change. So what is more relevant to an exuberant life? Preparation for a particular field or sharper intellect and higher awareness? Our children need to be full of flexible potential for anything, not armed with one set of tools for one thing.
- Let them grow. As adolescents grow, their independence flowers. Celebrate this blossoming. Let them be their own person – they have their own life to lead, their own lessons to learn. Be a compassionate witness, not a controlling parent. The best thing we can do, not just for our own children, but for all children, is to be a model human being. Then they will naturally gravitate back to that source of blissfulness.
When there is friendship, there is room for influence. When there is no friendship, there is only correction and discipline received begrudgingly. Are there kids who do things out of spite, or do the opposite of what their parents have dictated? Why do they behave this way? Because the relationship is not one of heart-felt friendship.
Our children will naturally seek advice from all of their friends, and these days with global communication access, their friend can be someone from the other side of the planet. Now more than ever before, we need to make sure they count us amongst those friends. They carry love for us from their early childhood, and as they grow, we need to be in a way that makes them fall in love with us all over again, consciously.
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