Last week I asked my 16 year old if I was a cool mom. I was reading an article titled “How To Be A Cool Parent” and I too thought of pushing my luck. I am sort of a disciplinarian and though I think I have changed over the years, the final verdict had to come from someone who was bearing the brunt of my ‘cool’ parenting.
He looked at me for a few seconds and answered, “No!”…’But why?’ Removing my glance from the laptop, I looked at him, almost wanting him to reconsider his hastily made comment. ‘Well, you told me about 3 years ago that I was a cool mom! What made you change your mind now?’ I asked again. He tilted his head a little and replied..”Ma, just the fact that you want to be cool, makes you uncool”
‘Hmm…’, I wondered if he was right. “Ma…parents are parents. They are not supposed to be cool. They are better that way.” He said, eyes still focused on the phone screen.
This small interaction made me a little curious and I went on talking to a few moms to find out about their dynamics with their teenagers and if they are more or less on the same frequency.
I realised, a lot of mothers who have teenage kids had relaxed rules. They have made up their minds that in order to be considered cool, they’ll have to accept, accommodate, give super-expensive phones, huge pocket money, spend insane amount on birthdays, allow sleep overs and sometimes also behave or dress like them. On the contrary, a lot of others were still living in an ancient age and had maintained a distance from their children. These parents were only instructing and not really communicating to their ‘not so little’ children.
Based on my conversation with some wonderful moms, I made a list of the things which I believe are quite handy and doable without compromising on the essence of a parent-child relationship.
1. Letting them stay up past their bedtime
Teenagers love it! My son takes after me and can manage with less than 7-8 hours of sleep on a few days in a week. Of course, it isn’t ideal, but he generally gets this luxury when he has an off the next day. Staying up late matters to a lot of teenagers. It satisfies their urge to question the norms and is easier for us parents to fulfil. And they appreciate it. For instance, if I give in to my son’s demand of staying up late especially when there is a match of his favourite football team, he thanks me by waking up on his own the next morning. Most teenagers would thank your gesture in their own way.
So, if the child is responsible, this small allowance on some days can strengthen the bond. And it shouldn’t only be restricted for studies or completing projects. If the child wants to see a film or some show, they can be given that liberty.
2. Giving them space and privacy
All teenagers want to be thought of as mature and capable of handling independence, and when we don’t trust them, it breaks their confidence and can sometime harm their sense of self worth and self respect. Also, at their age, they are developing new thinking capacities and figuring out who they are. Growing up, brings along the challenges of dealing with emotions and social expectations. And our children are learning all that and it’s only fair that they need some privacy. Of course, if there is a red flag, one should talk to the child but in most cases, giving them some space can go a long way in equipping them with independent thinking.
3. Being non-judgemental on Social media
Being a passive Facebook friend is alright, but commenting on all their status updates is inviting trouble! By being on their social radar, you do have access to their thoughts, ideas, experiences and moods, and you need to ask yourself if you are ready to be absolutely non-judgemental about it. Understand it’s not your right, but a privilege. So don’t abuse it. If you do feel a need to address something, wait for them to come home rather than doing it Facebook.
Also read: 10 Movies You Must Watch With Your Teenagers
4. Trying ‘not’ to be their best friend
There is a reason why children need parents and why it is more critical than being their friend. For trying to be cool, a lot of parents compromise on rules and authority. They let the child do whatever they want to, watch whatever they like or go wherever they wish. That’s not being ‘cool’. That’s being a bad parent! Because when children are growing up, they crave rules and boundaries. Which is why your relationship needs to be a little more formal and structured. Consequences are critical, so they can grow up to be self sufficient. And a bigger reason is that if a parent behaves like a teenager, it can confuse the child and affect his future friendships.
5. Finding a good time to communicate
It could be different for different kids. One of the mother told me that the best time to connect to her teenage daughter is when she comes back from her school. She shared that her daughter needs at least 15-20 minutes of her undivided attention. She was almost intrigued that how different and talkative she is in those few minutes and how the rest of the day she is immersed in her books and computer.
She confessed on making sure that she is not engaged in anything else when her daughter returns. Another mother shared, ‘I’ve figured that at night when my son is studying and needs a break, that becomes a good time for me to have a good conversation with him. I usually make hot chocolate milk for him and a green tea for me. He is relaxed and is most receptive at that hour.’
It may differ for your child but once you figure out what time he/she mostly wants to connect or talk, you can create a good bonding hour for the both of you.
6. Tuning in to their tastes
When I heard the stand up comic my son was listening to, I got a little shocked because the comedian used a few ‘cuss words’ and having been very particular about the language all these years, this was not something I had expected. However, my son insisted that I ignore those words and listen to the guy with an open mind. I tried that and we had a great time bonding on the jokes. He is sixteen and it is easier for me to be a little flexible now. Basically, it is all about being in the same place as they are or at least being aware of what they are watching or listening to. It could be a good connecting time and you too can share the music and films of your choice and develop your own little camaraderie.
7. Giving them an ear and not necessarily an advice
Many times, we just need to talk to make sense of things in our head. We may not necessarily be looking for solutions or advice. This is quite true for our teenage children too. They are figuring out relationships, career, this world and of course people. If we can be a little unbiased and non-judgemental, we can develop a bond of trust with them. Hearing about a break up or a fight with a best friend and offering a shoulder without gyan, can bring your teen close to you.
8. Nurturing things of common interest
My son shares his love of reading and watching films with me and of sports with his dad. Watching good Ted talks and crime thrillers together is our ‘us’ time. Similarly weekend mornings are reserved for football with dad. Finding common interest can always help in getting close to that elusive teenage boy/girl.
Keeping ground rules of the house should always be a top priority and once those are met and abided by, one can be flexible about the micro things. These are some of the pointers that you may find helpful. They may not make you the ‘cool’ parent per se but can surely help you develop a better bond with your teenager.