When it comes to the stereotypical teenager-parent relationship, it would seem that there is non-stop eye-rolling, sarcasm, and lying on the teens’ part. On the other side of the coin, parents are “supposed to” enjoy embarrassing their teens on a daily basis, intentionally.
Jim and I never fed into that. From the time the boys were very little, we have insisted upon mutual respect.
When the boys became tweens (11-12 years old) and were influenced a little more by their friends, they both became a little suspicious of us. It seems as though tweens start to talk with their friends about parents’ motives when it comes to everything, and that’s about the time when the rumor that parents can’t be trusted starts to make the rounds. (You know that wall that suddenly springs up between some teens and their parents? It starts to grow in the tween years if you stop communicating.)
I remember having lots of conversations with them at that age about how we would never intentionally embarrass them in front of their friends. (Sure, when it was just us at home, it was ON. With company, however, we behave. All of us.)
D was especially suspicious and didn’t seem to believe us. Though we had no past record of doing anything especially embarrassing in front of his friends, he often asked us not to embarrass him by doing A, B, or C. We talked many times about how, even though it was possible we might UNINTENTIONALLY embarrass him (because frankly, something a parent might find totally normal might be the same thing that would totally humiliate the tween), he really could trust us. Eventually it sunk in.
J, having heard the conversations we had with D a couple years ahead of his arrival at tweendom (I just made that word up), seemed to be easier convinced when it was his turn.
Staying true to our word has made it so that our kids like inviting friends over, and their friends like to come over. We have been told that “so-and-so loves how we all eat dinner together and talk” and how “so-and-so thinks it’s cool that our family has so much fun together”. Now Jim and I can be funny (or try, anyway), and the boys know there’s no ulterior motive involved. Nurturing mutual trust and respect within our family and as a result, showing our kids’ friends that we have–the horror!–GOOD relationships with our now-teenaged sons has really paid off.
This was never more clear to me than when, the other day, I grabbed J’s allowance out of my purse and walked into the family room where he was watching tv with his girlfriend. As I threw the money into the air over them I said, in the style of Jimmy Fallon and his credit card commercial, “I’m makin’ it RAIN all up in here!”
They both laughed. No eye rolling.