How controlling and involved should parents be in the lives of their children, especially their high school coeds?
Now that is a very interesting question, especially since most parents today have a laid back approach to parenting.
A growing number of parents want to be "pals" with their children and not disciplinarians or rule setters.
Unfortunately, there are no formal parenting manuals attached to giving birth. Most of us learn parenting by trial and error.
Thirty years ago the technology we had was almost non-existent. What little technology that was available to us was very limited.
Today the technology highway seems almost limitless. Every day something new is being discovered and made widely available to people of all ages.
It is hard to imagine a time without pagers, cell phones, laptop and desktop computers. On some levels, they have really enriched our lives. In other ways, they have become every parent's nightmare.
The challenges of the present moment are satellite radio and the Internet with its' countless "Chat Rooms" and the new phenomena of "My Space."
Clearly, parents and children need to communicate more efficiently, more effectively and more consistently.
Too many families are so busy with "living" that they have no time for each other. How often do you share a family meal or have a family night? When was the last time the whole family went on a family outing or family vacation?
If the truth be told, all in the name of "good activity," too many families are becoming like anonymous strangers that move at a distance and never really connect.
It is a sad commentary on family life when sport's practice during a school vacation impairs a family from having time away.
Even families that try to eat together are too often distracted by television watching or cell phones going off ten times within ten minutes of sitting down.
For many, family life is total chaos. Parents are afraid to set limits and boundaries. They find it hard to even reinforce pre-existing prohibitions.
In Suffolk County, young people cannot purchase cigarettes unless they are nineteen years of age. How many parents buy cigarettes for their underage children?
To drink and/or purchase alcohol, you must be twenty-one. Most of our teens start drinking regularly at fifteen because many adults tolerate it and don't hold underage drinkers accountable.
Driving a car with a junior license has very narrow parameters. Very few parents hold their children to these parameters. Sometimes it is easier to say yes than to say no.
Going to the movies is another social arena that many parents ignore. Most movie theaters post that teens under seventeen need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to see NR-17 rated movies. Many parents ignore that requirement and argue with movie theaters that try to enforce that requirement.
Why would we be surprised that our teenagers pick and choose the rules they are willing to comply with? They mirror what they see from the adult community that leads them.
If you would talk to the average fifteen or sixteen-year-old today, he or she would assert that he or she is quite capable of managing and directing his or her life without adult or parental supervision. In concrete terms, the average teenage coed believes he or she should have no curfew, be allowed to come and go as he or she pleases, drink socially and smoke weed and cigarettes.
For those unrestricted freedoms, the teenage coed would manage school well, go to class regularly and hand in all assignments on time.
If said student was non-compliant or inconsistent with compliance, his or her parents would be free to sanction said student accordingly.
Parenting a teenager on a good day is an adventure with limited support and assistance.
First of all, parenting is a full time job. It begins at birth and ends at yours or your child's death. Over the years it changes faces, power and possibly influence, but you are always a parent. Our children are always seeking our advice and input. Whether or not they listen is always a question mark. It should not prevent us from parenting.
Every parent has the right and obligation to create the kind of family he or she wants. How we, as parents, respond sets the tone and climate of our family.
More than ever before, I believe as parents we must be involved in our children's lives, even if they are resistant.
As parents, we should set rules and regulations for living in our homes. We should also set curfews and be clear where we stand and what is acceptable around the growing list of delicate issues.
We should take a position on teenage relationships and what is acceptable and not acceptable regarding sex, dating, drinking, smoking and drug use.
The Internet is a tool, not a toy. "Chat Rooms" and "My Space" should be carefully scrutinized. Presently, those venues have little or no formal structure. People can say almost anything they want and post almost anything they want.
Often our children are ill equipped and too inexperienced to respond to everything that is put out there. There is a limit to teenage privacy, especially when they are involved in venues that could potentially put them in harm's way.
Teenage hood is a very difficult time for teenagers as they attempt to navigate the complicated highway we call life. It is also a very difficult time for us as parents.
How controlling should we be? How involved should we be in our teenager's personal life? What is the balance? How do we achieve that?
Balance and communication are the key. We do not want to treat our children like prisoners of war. We want to empower them to feel independent and self-reliant, but we also want to protect them from falling off the crazy cliff of life and really hurting themselves.
Where is that balance? It is best seen when parents and teens can dialogue about everything and anything without fear, shame, blame or guilt.
The balance we seek celebrates the individuality of the person, but also the human awareness that we all need limits and boundaries.
Life is not black or white. It is gray. Too often to make it easy, we hide behind being rigid and absolute. Those absolutes paralyze communication and cause teenagers to put distance between themselves and their parents.
We want our children to be open, but we must respect their openness, even though we might not agree with them.
The Internet, "Chat Rooms" and "My Space" should have boundaries. Parents should not be afraid to establish them. Parents should not pick their children's friends, but they do have a right to make a comment about them and then let it go.
Parent-teenage relationships are a challenge and a human dynamic that we should never give up on! Our children are our future and are worth the effort!