I had a mother come to my office today, and before she left I asked her how her family was. She has a 15 year old daughter who, according to her, was giving her a difficult time. However now the mother is very happy. Why? Because her daughter has found an 18 year old ‘boyfriend’ (can you even call them boyfriend/girlfriend at that age?!) and they now don’t go out at all, but spend all evenings at her house, watching dvd’s and television. Yeah, right.
I don’t know about you, but I find this so disturbing. We all went through the awkward and rebellious stage, where it was mandatory to do exactly the opposite of what your parents tell you. It’s part of being a teenager, of eventually finding your place in this world and growing up bit by bit. No 15 year old has a happy and harmonious relationship with their parents, especially their mother, who always ends up to be the ‘bad’ parent because she’s the one normally puts her foot down and says ‘no’. I had huge fights with my mother because I used to want to go out every other day like my friends did. We fought, argued and I never got my way. She always used to tell me the same thing ‘My house, my rules. When you grow up, you’ll understand and appreciate this’. Today I do, whole-heartedly. But back then, my mother was sometimes my worst enemy. I can not even start to imagine my mother allowing me to bring a boyfriend into our house and let him spend whole days, and as is the case nowadays, nights as well. Instead she was a parent, said no to many things, let me sulk and cry, and life went on.
So now this mother is happy that her daughter has a boyfriend and is always staying in. She’s happy that she no longer has friends she hangs out with, because they were a ‘bad influence’ on her. What she didn’t tell me, but which I know because I’ve seen this girl, is that she’s let her daughter go out with skirts which can only qualify as belts (and not even wide ones at that) and tops which leave nothing to the imagination. But all is well in her world now because she’s committed – how committed can you be at that age?! We’ve heard of this type of relationship so often now. I don’t want to generalize, but it usually goes along the same lines – long relationship which started off early – followed by a young pregnancy or a breakup – then followed by the children in question wanting to make up for the years which they had lost when younger, and they end up wilder and without constraints more than even imaginable.
I don’t want to generalize or judge because I can’t and have no right to, but I don’t think a parent should be the child’s best friend at that age. It’s okay to say no to your child and let him/her ‘hate’ you, because it’s not real hatred. It’s embarrassement when you have to tell your friends that you can’t because your parents didn’t allow you, and it’s anger that you never seem to get your way, but it’s not hate. That’s why when you grow up, you truly appreciate your parents’ strict behaviour, their punishments and their unyielding nature to your cries and tantrums.
What real boundaries of respect can be built if a parent is a yes-person all the time?