This post: I Know I’m Not Supposed to Be My Teen’s Friend, But Sometimes That’s Exactly What He Needs
Written by: Morgan Hill
Ask pretty much any parenting expert and they’ll tell you… DON’T be friends with your kids. They advise that parents should always stand firm and never blur the boundaries of the parent and child relationship if they want to raise their kids right and be respected.
And, for the most part, I followed that advice to a “T” for the vast majority of my son’s childhood.
Listen… I know I’m not supposed to be my teen’s friend. But now that he’s a teenager and nearing adulthood, we can’t help but be friends, too.
Not “partner in crime” or “buddy-buddy” kind of friends. I don’t share all my inner secrets with him or put my friendship with him above my role as a parent. But I’m there for him always standing ready with a listening ear, an empathetic heart and solid advice when he asks for it – much like a trusted friend would do. Plus, I really love spending time with him!
He still knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when the chips are down, my authority rules. But he’s also come to realize that our relationship is built on respect and that means there’s room for discussion, that I’ll keep an open mind and I’m willing to listen to his views and perspective about everything.
Despite expert opinion, I’m living proof that you really can have a close, fun relationship (and friendship) with your teen without compromising your authority.
Here’s what being a good friend to my son means to me.
I Know I’m Not Supposed to Be My Teen’s Friend But Sometimes, That’s Exactly What He Needs
Being a friend means supporting him and his needs…
Sometimes, being a friend to my son means understanding that going out with his friends is far more important than him cleaning his room this second. It means putting myself in his shoes, realizing what he needs, and respecting his priorities and choices.
The one thing I’ve learned about parenting my son is that constantly getting on his case, tossing my authority around like confetti and being too parent-y causes him to shut down, or worse, rebel. He needs to learn to adult without my constant hovering or intervention.
It doesn’t mean he won’t have to clean his bedroom. It means I understand his needs right now and that his room can wait until tomorrow. I’m not giving up my power or authority as a parent, I’m strengthening our relationship by compromising, and being supportive and compassionate. I’m drawing him closer to me by understanding his world.
Being a friend means being a non-judgmental listener…
Being a good friend is about having give-and-take conversations and not judging my son every step of the way. When he’s talking, I give him the floor. I let him share his voice, his opinions and even his frustrations.
But that doesn’t mean I’m silent. Sometimes I’ll laugh or give an affirmative, “uh huh” so he knows I’m listening. Sometimes, I’ll ask questions, toss out solid advice, and sometimes, we’ll even get into an interesting debate. But the cool part is, I hear about his life and his views in a very different, more intimate way.
Being a friend means sharing and having relatable conversations…
My relationship with my son isn’t one-sided. We’ll grab a few minutes before school or I’ll sit on the edge of his bed at night and talk about his day. The more I listen and the more I share a few relatable stories about my teen years here and there, the more he talks and shares about his life. In fact, he’s more likely to ask me questions instead of me interjecting them.
We have a great time bantering and sharing experiences about high school. “MOM, it’s not like that anymore!” he’ll exclaim when I propose advice. But then he’ll tell me how life as a high schooler is now which gives me more of an inside view into his life.
Being a friend means being honest, even when it’s hard…
My boy is well on his way to adulthood, more grown than not, but he still needs my guidance. When he talks about high school, I can’t help but draw from my own high school experiences – angsty, full of complicated friendships, peer pressure, relationship questions and tribulations, trying to fit in and more. And while I can advise on all these things, my son often unabashedly says I’m lame and rebuffs my advice.
Still, it always surprises me when I offer him advice and a few weeks later he comes to me and tells me my suggestion worked or that my advice made sense to him. Being a friend means having those hard conversations and realizing my son may not take every bit of my advice, but more often than not, a hefty portion of what I’m saying is sinking in.
Being a friend means knowing when to hold my tongue…
Sitting on my bed together at 10 o’clock at night (of course, when I’m ready to fall asleep) or driving in the car are the times when my son opens his heart. He’ll come home on a Friday night and tell me things that happened (stuff I wish I didn’t know) or drama at school or things he’s going through. For me, there isn’t a whole lot of chit-chat or advice I’m dolling out. I just listen.
The hard part is biting my tongue. But the best part is knowing he’s actually sharing his life with me. Sure, I’m making mental notes of things I have to talk to him about or teach him later, but for that moment in time, I just enjoy it and wait until later to discuss it.
Being a friend means hangin’ out together…
Sometimes, we have a game or movie night. Other times we go out to breakfast, lunch or dinner, go on a hike, hit an amusement park or go camping. Whether it’s gaming, music, a hobby he loves or sports, I try to dive into the things that interest my son.
I adore hanging out with him. Now that he’s older and he’s slowly developing a life of his own, we don’t have nearly as much time together as I’d like, which is exactly why I say “yes” every chance I get! The more casual, fun, relaxed time together we have (you know… no nagging, no reminders, no life lessons, etc.) the more we strengthen our bond.
Being a friend means loving him no matter what…
My son and I don’t always get along. We don’t always see eye to eye. And, sometimes, he does or says stuff that truly baffles, infuriates and frustrates me. But he knows, no matter what, that my love is unconditional.
Just like some of the lifelong friends he’s known since pre-school, regardless of what goes on in our lives, we always circle back, make up with each other, regroup and become stronger as a result of it. We learn from those experiences and we love each other through thick and thin… just like trusted friends do.
I know experts advise against it. But for me, I can’t imagine having a different kind of relationship with my son. Truth be known… he really is my buddy.
Yes, I’ll always be his mom and, yes, I’ll always put my role as mom above my friendship with my son, but the amazing relationship I’m fortifying with him now is one I hope will only be strengthened throughout the rest of his life and mine.
About Morgan Hill:
Morgan Hill is an essayist and humorist. She has written for many online and print publications including Insider, Your Teen Magazine, Revel and MASK Magazine. She is the mother of freshman and senior sons in high school. When not writing, she can be found at flea markets, in her garden, photographing architecture, taking cooking classes or eating the stinkiest cheese she can find. You can also find her on Twitter @MorganHWrites or Instagram @MorganHillWriter