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Just a Guy ... With a Teenager

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A SAHD asks: Should I be my kid's buddy or his dad?

Bruce Sallan: They say independence comes with the teenage years. I've witnessed my teenager go from clingy, in-my-face for every little thing, to closed door, on the phone, not interested in anything from Dad except what's in my wallet. Oh, and a ride whenever he wants to go somewhere. I know part of this is good, but the other part wonders how soon they are ready to be on their own?

Teen boy hiding something

Trust must be earned. Some things you just don't trust, don't take the risk, no matter what. A teen's brain just isn't fully developed, as hard as that is to believe, as the brain doesn't really fully mature till their mid-20s and, in the case of boys and men, maybe much later or never. Don't trust me on this -- do the research, it's a fact.

Am I to be his buddy or his dad? For instance, at school he got mixed grades on his first progress report but acted totally defensive when I questioned him. "Let me take care of it, Dad," he said. How many excuses add up to a cover-up?

This is my question, as the boy who adored his dad has become the moody alien everyone predicts of teenagers. And, now, he wants to date. What are the rules for dating for a 15-year-old? I asked him what it meant to date and he really didn't have an answer. He also wants to be allowed to stay at home, without an adult, on the occasion we go out of town without him.

Dating, we'll figure out. Staying home alone, an emphatic NO. Sometimes, trust isn't enough when temptation and other kids can provoke behavior that otherwise just wouldn't happen. Oh, and regarding the buddy or dad question: I'm his dad; that is my role, whether he always likes me or not. But, then again, what do I know, I'm just a guy.

next: Another Senseless Bullycide
23 comments so far | Post a comment now
Beverly April 25, 2009, 10:24 AM

If you continue writing, I will continue reading YOUR BLOGS. My son is grown but I have passed your article to my daughters, they are most enlightening and informative.


Mommy Dearest April 25, 2009, 10:48 AM

Having a 20 year old post-clinging, now very independent son, I have some advice for YOU. ALWAYS keep the role of his Dad, you are NOT his friend. Kids of all ages need to know this boundary.. it keeps them feelng responsile for their actions.
As far as staying home alone, at 15.. I wouldn’t do it yet. They are so sneaky still, and can get into all kinds of truoble. You will see, 17 is far more mature, and at that time you should re-evaluate. Dating? Most kids at this time “group date” meaning they all hang together. Alone time with a girl, and a hormone raging boy at 15… I wouldn’t do it. Keep trusting your instincts, they are the voice of wisdom. All this advice, but what do I know, I am JUST a Mom… with an amaizing, wonderful, 20 year old son!!

Shortrib April 25, 2009, 11:00 AM

I think it depends on the teenager and what kind of attitude,capability, maturity level and friends they have. I completely concur that they must earn the parents trust.

Carolyn April 25, 2009, 11:22 AM

Oh man, this teenage thing is killing me. It’s like living with the girl in The Exorcist. My 16-year-old daughter is a sweet girl, but lately she’s turned lazy, irresponsible, sullen ad quick to anger. So hard to know how to handle it all. Thanks, Bruce, for letting me know I’m not alone (I guess I already knew that), but also for sharing your life and advice. I have a 13-year-old boy that I probably would havge left alone when he turns 15, but now I will NOT. Mother first, friend second, right?

Ilene Power April 25, 2009, 11:57 AM

Your latest piece is oh so true, and though I’m not the mother of teenage boys anymore, still has great resonance when I remember that those years the boys were on the dark side of the moon. I hate to tell you this, but into their 20’s and 30’s this alien/alienated behavior bubbles up from time to time. My grandmother said, “when you have kids, you’re always in the army”. Believe it. Keep writing.

Signed: Forever a major general

Mary April 25, 2009, 12:02 PM

Having raised three kids (do we ever really stop raising them?), I agree that you are his dad first; being his friend can hopefully come later.

Kim April 25, 2009, 12:07 PM

I agree that you should definitely be his dad first. However, the issues of dating and being allowed to stay home alone should be handled on an individual basis: some kids are just ready for responsibilities sooner than others. You need to know your own child and trust your instincts.

Traci April 25, 2009, 12:27 PM

I concur! They have enough friends. Thank you for standing up as a Dad, and just saying it! Keep writing, it so nice to hear from you.

Monica April 25, 2009, 1:49 PM

Yikes - reading your blog depressed the crap out of me! My kids love hanging out with me and spending time together and I dread the day they become teenagers and they prefer their friends and I-Phone to my company (sigh).

I guess I need to start dating so I have more of a life when they grow up and get their own!

arli April 25, 2009, 6:20 PM

Your opinion is reflective of most parents, trying draw the fine line between friend and parent. Too controlling and they rebel to lenient and they get into trouble. Some is parenting skills but there is a lot of luck involved too

Carol April 26, 2009, 10:16 AM

I love reading Bruce’s articles and it is so nice to know that there are dads out there that put a lot of thought into parenting, and being responsible for parenting - first and foremost. Unfortunately, my children’s father could not have been less involved, so Bruce’s comments are refreshing and inspiring! Maybe Bruce should consider writing a blog geared towards teenage boys about growing up to be a resonsible man (for all of those boys who don’t have participating dads in their life)! Bruce, please keep the articles and opinions coming.

Dear old dad April 27, 2009, 12:48 AM

Thanks for dealing with something I am about to… we dad’s don’t learn enough from each other. Keep writing I am listening.

Kathy April 27, 2009, 9:01 AM

Loved the article.I continue to struggle with similar issues( even though my children are twenty/close to twenty). It is so nice to hear this from a dad’s perspective. I like your insight.

Wendy April 27, 2009, 11:36 AM

“Heck Bruce, you just have boys; try it with girls! Love your thinking, keep it up and can’t wait for more from you”

Susan April 27, 2009, 8:26 PM

Having gone through the teenage years with a boy (and survived them..he is now married)….I understand what Bruce describes. I explain it in this way….Someone comes in the middle of the night when they are about 12-13 and takes whatever brains they have at that age and removes them…..they act totally alien until at least 21-22 (sometimes longer, especially boys!) and then whoever took out their brains earlier puts them back…very slowly, slowly. Bruce, you write for all the Moms and Dads out their with are not alone!!!!

Michelle April 29, 2009, 12:32 AM

Wow great stuff keep writing so we can figure this thingout call teenager!

Bobby May 2, 2009, 1:24 PM

When my son, Michael who is 15, tells me he hates me, because I had just ‘parent’ him. I think to myself, good he’s listening! Of course a half an hour later he’s forgotten that he hates me and wants to know if we can go hit some golf balls.

Melissa (Australia) May 19, 2009, 6:26 AM

Your last line “what do I know? I am just a guy” I feel sells you so short! Having read a few of your blogs I think that you are a dad who is taking your role so seriously and yet humble enough to ask questions of yourself, knowing you are not always getting it right. Oh, how our world desperately needs more parents to care enough to say “no” even when it means you are going to be “the worst parent in the world”. (Yes, really - THE WORST,UNCOOL,DON”T HAVE ANY IDEA BECAUSE YOU ARE SO OLD, PARENT) I would rather risk the barrage of under the breath names than risk giving in to maintain “friend” status. Anyone can be a friend. It takes courage to be a parent.

Lewin July 1, 2009, 11:56 PM

Good evening. Vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness.
I am from Tunisia and also now teach English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “This is cause mainly by the bites from fleas when they feed on the blood of the cat.”

THX :-), Lewin.

Psyche September 8, 2009, 10:59 AM

Greeting. The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.
I am from Nigeria and learning to write in English, give true I wrote the following sentence: “Most socially, he was padded filming as a name cleaner and moralizing teens to affect him, before being trimmed for a peeping tom and shared a comic heyday.”

Thanks :o. Psyche.