[An added note, because after reading some comments, I think this needs to be said.
This post? It’s not about what your teenager wears, but rather how present you are as a parent.]
Just to be clear, when I say “every parent” that also means me.
I don’t play favorites.
For the past several months, something has really been bothering me. Well, to be honest it’s probably been much longer than that, but it’s really gotten under my skin recently. And the thing is? We all do it. Every single parent I know.
And it has to stop.
Parents: stop phoning it in. Quit turning in your parenting card, assuming that your kids have it all figured out.
I get it. It’s a slow fade, this turning in the parenting card.
We trust someone else’s parents a little too much. We give in to buying that outfit because our daughter is begging. Begging. So we shrug our shoulders and buy it anyway. We upgrade to the latest and greatest cell phone because, why not? Unlimited, uncensored internet anyone? Our kids get an Instagram account and we don’t bother to check the photos they’re tagged in because surely their friends wouldn’t post something that inappropriate. Right?
Please know this post isn’t about helicopter parenting. We live in a love and logic household here. You make a bad choice, you live the consequence. But if I’m not even bothering to check on the bad choices, then why bother with the consequences?
May I present Exhibit A. Just a few weeks ago, my thirteen-year-old attended a swim party with friends – girls and boys. For a moment, I’m going to pick on the girls, but the boys will have their due turn. Y’all. These girls were wearing bikinis skimpier than Kim Kardashian. No kidding. And of course they were filtered, cropped and posted on the ‘gram.
Moms. Dads. That is not okay. My son is going to have to say about 500 Hail Mary’s when those girls hit tenth grade because of all that skin showing. Help a sister out and teach your girls that hottest isn’t modest. Have her delete those photos and put on a cover up. Teach her, model for her, that it’s classier to be a lady than a … well, you know.
The thing that really got me, though, was that those girls had a parent (most likely) that bought it for them. Why, oh why are we dialing it in when it comes to teaching our kids about modesty, decency and age appropriateness? And, the boys? I don’t know about y’all but my teen is getting quite the teenage swagger. They say things to be cool, do things to be cooler and snap photos of it to be the coolest. Parents, teach your boys to show respect. Moms, if they don’t give it to you, why on Earth would they ever respect a female friend? It starts with you.
In our house, when my kids start copping the attitude, they hear a “I’d be happy to visit with you when you’re ready to treat me with respect.” And then I walk away. I’m no parenting goddess, but I’m a mom – a woman – who needs to be respected. Quit telling yourself that it’s because your kid is a teenager, or he’s going through a phase. When the disrespect happens (and trust me, it will), meet it head on and don’t give in to turning in your parenting card. Pretty soon, when the big conversations come, you won’t have any cards left to play.
Can we chat about social media for a second? I’m a lover of the social, but I am more and more surprised by just how much teens are posting (likely without their parent’s permission). Because when a 13yo kid uses “funky a** lady” in his bio? Um, no. Or, when I see middle schoolers hanging on each other, using the heart-eyed emoji and chatting about their “date.”
MOMS! DADS! Here’s a newsflash. At that age, our kids do not know, cannot know, the meaning of dating. Finding a spouse in middle school shouldn’t even be on my kid’s radar. Watching the NBA finals, scheduling high school classes and hanging with friends at the pool? That, that should be on my kid’s agenda. The dating will come. But not without respect. Not without communication. And not without a healthy relationship between parent and child.
I just keep seeing the virtual shrug of parents. The “well, I guess we’ll just go along with it” look. And that’s what gets us into trouble. That’s how we lose our kids. I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving up my kids’ morality, their holiness and their joy to the ways of the world.
I think we’re so afraid to set boundaries, to say no, to engage in a hard conversation because we’re afraid of the reaction. You know what I think? Teenagers want to be loved. I know I did. They want to be heard and they want someone to look out for them. They may think you’re crazier than Richard Simmons at the gym, but set the boundary anyway. Say no anyway. Have the hard conversation anyway.
We owe it to our kids to stay plugged in. To ask the hard questions and be prepared for the hard answers. To realize that we don’t have it all figured out, but to give up doesn’t just mean we’re giving up on the situation – we’re failing our kids.
They’re worth more than that.