Rights and Responsibilities of Parents
Parenting is one of the only jobs where the job description constantly changes. In the beginning years of your child’s life, parents are in charge all of the time. But as your child matures, more and more responsibility must shift from the parent to the child. By the time your child is a teenager, a parent’s job is more of a monitor and advisor. Adolescence is a time when your child begins to form their own identity and needs more independence and freedom. This is a good thing, and, when done correctly, it allows parents to meet the goal of developing a responsible and productive young adult ready for the world.
As the parenting role changes, unfortunately there is a fine line between your teen’s freedom and independence and your rights and responsibilities as a parent. It’s a balancing act, as with many aspects of parenting. For example, you want to allow them to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes, but not in situations that are dangerous to their safety. Finding that balance is difficult. Parents must allow their teen more decision-making, privacy, and responsibilities, but not at the expense of their rights. To help guide you on the right path, here are some tips from the experts:
The right to be treated with respect. Parents, siblings, and family members should be treated with respect. This means that everyone should act in a way that demonstrates they care about others’ feelings and well-being. Parents should role model values such as honesty and courtesy, while avoiding behaviors such as calling people names, yelling, putting down others’ ideas, or taking actions to hurt someone’s feelings, possessions, or physical body. Teens should be expected to follow these same values and parents should enforce them. Although teens should be encouraged to voice their opinions, they should respect a parent’s final decision in any matter. Arguing and yelling are signs of disrespect.
The responsibility to set rules. Parents must establish house and family rules that fit within their values. While it is a good idea for parents to consult teens in setting rules, the parents are the final authority. Examples of rules that need to be established are curfews, who can be a guest in the home and when, who is responsible for what household chores, and no one is allowed to use illegal substances. Along with the right to set rules is the responsibility to enforce them with consequences. No parent should feel guilty for taking away privileges when a teen has knowingly broken a rule.
The responsibility to say no. If a parent believes that something is not safe for their teen, they have a responsibility to say no, even if their teen announces that they are the worst parent in the world. While it’s a good idea for parents to explain their reasoning to their children in an attempt to get them to understand, realize that along the way, this can become your teen’s primary form of manipulating you. They can over-negotiate until you feel too tired to say no anymore, or you may give in to gain your child’s approval or acceptance. Explain once and then stand by your “no” without guilt.
The right to information. Parents should ask questions and expect that they will be answered truthfully. Parents have the right to know where their teenagers are, who they are with and what they are doing. While teens do not have to go into details about private matters, like their thoughts about their date, they do have to let parents know things like the location of the party they will be attending and who is chaperoning the party. While you must be aware of a teen’s legitimate need for privacy, parents have a right to know what is happening in their child’s life. Parents also have the right to verify their children’s whereabouts. For example, parents can call host parents on parties or overnight stays.
The right to talk with anyone who is involved in their teen’s life. Parents can consult with anyone who influences their child. This can include teachers, coaches, youth group ministers, doctors, friends, and parents of friends. Parents also have a right to monitor all aspects for their teen’s school life, including academic, behavioral and social issues.
The right to promote family unity. Parents must protect the family, and part of that, is to create harmony among its members. To build strong bonds and relationships, parents have a right to expect their children to share meals as a family as well as participate in family outings, traditions, vacations, and family meetings.
The right to monitor technology. Parents need to keep their teens safe online. The internet poses many safety concerns ranging from cyberbullying to sexual predators. Whether it’s through a laptop, tablet or cell phone, parents must monitor their children’s online activity. Teens may protest that you are invading their privacy by being their “friend” on Facebook, but that’s the point… anyone can see their posts, so parents should be just as aware of their teen’s posts as anyone else is.
The right to encourage a teen’s view of their future. Teens have the ultimate choice of what they want to do with their future lives, but it’s a parent’s role to open their eyes to their options. Even if they have impractical ideas for their future, parents can encourage their teen when they observe their strengths. The outside world will fill them with negativity, so you don’t need to bring them down as well. Believe in them, praise them, and build their self-confidence. When they believe in themselves, they will be inspired to try new things.
The right to make mistakes and change their minds. Mistakes happen. Instead of feeling guilty about mistakes or trying to hide them, parents should role model how to shift a mistake into a life lesson. When parents make mistakes, they should: admit they’ve made an error or a poor decision; apologize to anyone they may have hurt, including their teen; and forgive themselves for the mistake and its consequences. When you apologize and receive forgiveness, you model a vital life skill for your teen and move from a bad situation to a more hopeful place.
The responsibility to demonstrate love. While you should avoid embarrassing your teen (such as giving your teen a huge hug in front of their friends), letting your teen know on a daily basis that you care is important. It can be a simple text message during the day or a kind word of praise over dinner, but your teen should feel your love.
Many teens are talented at making their parents feel guilty. Their protests over your actions can be endless… “I have the earliest curfew.” “None of my friends have to have family movie night on Fridays.” “You are invading my privacy when you look at my cell phone!” It can make a parent doubt every move they make. Do not allow your teen to make you feel bad for taking your role as parent seriously. You have rights as a parent and a responsibility to ensure your teen is safe and becomes a responsible and productive adult. Follow the tips above and rest assured that you are performing your role well!