Too often for my liking I have parents that come into my office that really do not act like parents. They are too afraid to be parents and instead choose to act like a friend to their child(ren) or even worse, they act like the child and like the kids are the parents. I’m sure they did not intend for this to happen. In fact, I think that many times it is brought on by circumstances that they never even saw coming. Many times it is a divorce. With divorce many parents feel like they have to win their child’s affection and make up for the pain and hurt they have caused in their child’s life. Other times it is due to the parent being stressed and not being able to handle what is going on and the child ends up taking over as the authority in the house. Still, there are just some parents who are afraid of alienating their child, or are afraid their child’s threats such as never talking to them again will come true if they show their authority.
Of course you are not very likely in the moment to hear a lot of complaints from the child in these circumstances, but it never fails that I hear the complaints in my office once they feel safe enough to talk openly. Children are looking for boundaries, for their parents to be present, and to set limits. All of these things show kids and teenagers that they are cared for. Although you may be the “cool” parent if you do not give your teenager a curfew, they will begin to wonder why all their friends’ parents want to know they are home and safe and you do not. Or if you are the type of parent that makes threats of certain appropriate discipline but then backs down when your child gives you a hard time about it, what do you think you are teaching your child? The lesson they are learning is that they can do whatever they want without consequences, that the world should bend to their every whim. This is not a very productive lesson for their future and again, is not going to win you any brownie points with your kids because they will only see you as a pushover and continue to take advantage of you.
So what is a parent to do? Incorporate appropriate rules and discipline. It may be hard at first and you may need to make small changes to start with, especially as they will push back, expecting you to give up and let them do what they want. But it is important to hold your ground and be firm with them. They will thank you in the long run!