If you missed the first post in this parenting series, be sure to head over & read it HERE.
Kids need friends, and they crave acceptance. Growing up is hard, and the social world that our teens face today is, in many ways, more ruthless than ever. Finding a safe, reliable friend who will stick with them through thick and thin is a challenge. As a result, many parents figure that being their child’s friend is the most important part of their relationship.
But kids need PARENTS even more than they need friends.
Although most kids would never say this out loud, they actually WANT parents more than they want friends. A solid, consistent, loving, compassionate, and firm parent can bring more self-confidence and security to a teen than any peer friendship ever could. And research backs that up.
Often parents go through the turmoil of wondering if their kids will forgive them if they are firm or unpopular in their consequences! Parents may change their approach, parenting style, and discipline methods, all because they want their kid’s approval and high regard. We must not make the mistake of making our parenting be about our own need for acceptance!
We may COMPLETELY disagree with our kid’s perspective, and they may want something that we would never and will never be okay with, but we can still hold our ground while showing them a flood of empathy.
What is empathy? It’s not the same as sympathy. Sympathy is a card– a simple notion of feeling bad for someone, often accompanied by something from Hallmark. Empathy, however, takes it a step further and involves us actually trying to see the world from the other person’s shoes. Do you remember the last time you saw a movie with a jerky main character that you actually cried for at some point? (My wife feels that way about Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter— she can’t stand him, but at the same time, she can’t help feeling bad for him in the final movies.) That involves seeing the world through that character’s shoes, even when everything about them and their behavior may drive you nuts.
Having empathy for our kids is very much the same; we may feel very differently from our kids, but we care enough about our child to accept that how they feel about something really matters to them–really matters. We then voice that sense of sincere empathy to our kid, and our kid (even when they don’t get their way) realizes that we took the time to understand them. That’s a beautiful thing, and it leaves us in the role of being their ally instead of their enemy.
Stay Tuned for the Next Post in this Parenting Teens Series:
“Don’t Forget to Follow-Through”