If you’ve even been in a public place (such as a restaurant, movie theater or mall) around teenagers and you’re older than twenty-five, you’ve probably noticed that they can get quite obnoxious. I was reminded of this over the weekend when I went out to see a movie that a couple dozen teens were also interested in – and it made me appreciate and see the value in the premium theater that doesn’t allow people under 21. While I was once an obnoxious teenager myself (and it wasn’t that long ago), I remember my peers and I having at least some respect for our elders, whether they were strangers or our parents.
Part of the problems with kids today isn’t with the kids themselves, but with their parents. Today’s demanding lifestyle often requires both parents to work (and sometimes longer hours) to provide their kids with the good things in life. Combine that with today’s “me first” attitude where many parents prefer to use their non-work time for leisure activities without the family rather than having to deal with the issues at home and you can see why kids today are so different.
Many parents feel guilty about the fact they are unable to spend the time they’d like to with their kids so they compensate in other ways. They buy their kids things like iPhones (even though they are only eight years old), American Girl dolls (which cost well over $100) and other things to show their love. And that’s their prerogative and I respect that. But where I have a problem is when parents let their kids do things that set a dangerous precedence.
Recently, I’ve read some articles about parents allowing their teenage children to have parties at their homes and purchasing the alcohol for them. The reasoning is that at least they’re drinking where they can be watched. There are also some parents that buy their children birth control — they figure that since they’re going to do it anyway, they might as well be protected. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter what trampy singers are dominating the airways or what garbage Hollywood is pumping out — the blame here goes with the parents and no one else.
Parents need to remember that they are supposed to be an authority figure and teach their kids right from wrong. They are not their kids’ friends and it’s not their job to be cool. It’s their job to prevent their kids from doing dumb things.
When parents allow their kids to do things like this, they are not only harming the kids, but their also harming themselves as well as other parents. If a seventeen year-old kid is allowed to have some friends over to share case of beer while they listen to music, what is the lesson here? Is it not possible to have fun without alcohol? Do laws really matter and do we need to abide by them? What about the kid’s fifteen year-old brother — what is he learning from this situation? Of course, I wonder what happens when the kid asks if he could try pot, cocaine or other drugs. Or would he just go somewhere else where he can try it since his parents won’t allow it?
Kids need parents for a reason. Otherwise, we would have all lived off of candy, never gone to school and watched TV all day – a modern day “Lord of the Flies.” When parents simply give in, they seem weak and their kids never respect their opinions. Yes, they “like” their parents — but remember how quickly friendships dissolve at that age over the silliest of disagreements? When the parents finally decide to stand up and say “no” the kid doesn’t care about their opinion and will find a way to do what he or she wants to.
Of course, other parents in the community suffer as well. The “uncool” parents that won’t let their kids trash their house look like bad guys in their own kids’ eyes. They hear things like “I wish you were cool like Tommy’s parents” and “I can’t wait until I turn 18 and can do whatever I want.” Of course, their kids eventually learn (although sometimes it’s takes them until they are parents themselves) that their parents were right in not allowing it, no matter how passionate they are with the idea. I remember my parents shooting down an idea of my cousin and I driving four hours to visit some girls we met on vacation. We were 15 & 16 and while the idea seemed great to us at the time and were angry about not being able to do it, we quickly got over it and soon realized it was a dumb thing to ask for. My parents (nor my aunt and uncle) had any intention of letting us do this for the sake of being cool and knew that they were the bosses — not us kids. Had one family given in, the other one would have suffered through some ugly dinner conversations for the next week.
So what can a parent do when faced with these challenges? The best thing is to sit down and have a respectful talk about it. “I know Tommy’s parents let him drink, but there’s a reason why you need to be 21 to buy alcohol…” or “I know you’ve been with your boyfriend for almost a year, but an intimate relationship comes with emotions that are tough to understand at your age…” work better than “we simply won’t allow it.” Ask him or her how they’d react if the roles were reversed and to really think about it. Ask questions like “so if we had a party and the police came and arrested you for buying alcohol for minors, do you think that would be fair?”
Even though you’re the authority figure, you need to be sensitive to the wants and needs of your kid when discussing these topics. Be firm, but be respectful. Let the kid state his or her case and really listen. While things may get ugly at times, you’ll eventually win the war.