If you’re the parent of a preteen and you haven’t heard those words come out of your child’s mouth, they will. (Be honest – a few years back you said them to YOUR parents.) As preteens are starting to put together a better sense of self and their place in the world, they often question what they see as unfairness. If a friend has certain privileges or possessions that they do not, they can feel they are being denied something they have a right to.
When your child expresses this frustration in an accusatory way, it can easily put you on the defense. It’s a natural reaction for a parent but it generally just sets up an atmosphere of further conflict. Taking a little time to ready yourself for these questions can help you to keep a cool head and yet maintain your own standards for your family.
All families have their own rules, expectations, and financial considerations that play a role here. Some parents allow “riskier” behavior and later regret it, while some feel strongly that allowing some controlled risk is an important step in the growth and decision making process for children. When you can let go and to what degree is a very personal decision that comes with knowing your child’s abilities, reactions to peer pressure, daily environment, etc. Your job is to make the best possible decisions for your own child about what this looks like.
When you set boundaries and limitations for your children, it’s a sign of love, concern, and parental responsibility. Children obviously don’t always view it as that. Be calm, firm, and consistent. Practice a few of these statements to say to your child:
“This is what works for our family.”
“I have put a lot of thought into what is best.”
“I don’t expect you to always agree or understand. I DO expect you to respect my decisions.”
“I understand that you’re unhappy with my decision, but it stands.”
The job of being a parent isn’t an easy one. Keep in mind that your job is not to be your child’s best friend. Your most important job is to be a role model and help them be ready for greater independence as their ability to make wise choices grows stronger.