HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

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You Are Not Your Teenager's "Buddy"

Mark …I have a simple question: I try to be my daughter’s friend, because her father is not involved at all in her life. Is this good or bad? Signed, Single Mom
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I regularly see a lot of evidence that today’s teens are trying to act older while today’s parents are trying to act younger. So you've got kids trying to be adults, and adults trying to be kids. It makes for a weird dynamic – and confuses the teenager as to who's the role model.

In those cases where the parent is a ‘buddy,’ the parent-child relationship tends to be a love-hate relationship.

I understand that the family unit itself has changed (e.g., more single parents, gay parents, parents who are dating, etc.). And I also know it’s hard for the single parent to be both a “friend” and a “disciplinarian.” But you have to pick one or the other – and your pick should be the one who employs “tough love.”

“Tough love” has 2 components though: (1) the tough part and (2) the nurturing part. It’s very possible to provide a steady diet of ‘tough’ and still have plenty of moments for ‘love’ (i.e., moments where you and your teenager are emotionally close, united and bonded).

In any event, you are not a buddy! She has other buddies, but she has only one parent – you. If she really needs an “adult” buddy, hook her up with an aunt, a Big Sister (from Big Brothers/Big Sisters Org.), or one of your trusted female adult friends.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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