“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain
If you have young children, it’s hard to imagine a time when you’ll be more like friends than authority figures. But, as we all know, at some point when they become adults, it usually happens. If you’re a parent of teenagers, this reality is much closer, but at times feels even further away as their brain development seems to be stuck in reverse.
But, your relationship will continue to evolve, and it’s wise to start building the foundation of that next phase during the teenage years. And, while there is some debate about whether this is even possible, here are four ways to embrace that process without neglecting your parental duties or compromising your authority.
Change How You Speak
When kids are young, it’s apparent that you as the parent are in charge. You tell them what to do, what not to do, and how to do almost everything as they are learning. When they become teens, they still need tons of help, but if we change how to provide that help, it empowers them. You can continue to have an authoritative role with your kids while at the same time giving them the opportunities to make decisions on their own.
Support Their Interests
Another way to transition your relationship with your kids is to allow them space to figure out things on their own. Not only to give them that space but to also encourage those pursuits. You might not always agree with some of them, but most are within the realm that you can help out. So, help fund those snowboarding lessons or the hobby you know probably won’t go anywhere. It helps them to know that you’re seeing them mature, which builds the trust that is essential in a friendship.
Communicate On Their Turf
If texting isn’t your thing, but it’s the preferred method of communication for your teenager, do it more. You’d be surprised what you can do with a text conversation and be confident that they’ll read what you send them. This is more than what an in-person conversation can achieve with some teenagers. Don’t go too far and try and be best friends with them in a place like Snapchat, but be open to where they feel comfortable and foster your relationship there.
Be The Example
The older our kids get, the more they are watching and casually dissecting how we live. The personality traits and interests they develop over time usually have something to do with what they’ve observed in their parents. So, if they see you getting up and going to work each day, that’s something they will likely try to emulate. This is a passive way to continue to build the foundation of a relationship that is more like a friendship. And, the more transparent you can be about your own faults and problems, the better chance you have to hear those same things from your teenager. And, as we all know, the best friendships are based on transparency and trust.
Each of these things can help usher in a friendship with your teens. While it will take time before the evolution of your relationship to be more of a friendship than a parent (and you’ll always be a parent to some degree), it’s worth doing these things regardless.