Yes, I know that as children grow and age, they become more argumentative and willing to push boundaries. Some – hell, most – start to envision themselves as equals and thus disdainful.
The trap is that if you spend enough time around them, you begin to think that they are, indeed, equals. Why should they give up something so that you can have a turn? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to do as they please, with whom they wish, when they wish and where they wish?
You understand in your gut that even teenagers are still children, but the constant pushing against the boundaries – especially by more than one in a household – will shift those boundaries. I have a mantra that the older kids are learning: "details, details, details." And even with the details, without which nothing will ever be approved, I have to ask myself specific questions as I consider the request.
- Can I depend on this kid, and his/her friends, to know how to behave in this particular venue?
- Is there going to be an adult there to maintain safety and order? Trust me, you have to be very specific when you ask if the parent is going to be there at that particular time and at that particular place.
- Is the event appropriate for the age?
- Is there a precedent being set if you agree and will you regret it later?
- What are the risks if something goes wrong? Whether to let a kid see a particular movie is in a different category from attending a coed sleepover.
- What’s the kid’s attitude and demeanor when they ask? Cockiness is more apt to get a negative than a straightforward request since the cockiness implies a lack of thought before acting in a new situation.
The truth is that while I have agreed to their requests, there have been moments when the answer is no because of a simple gut feel that something’s not right. And that’s actually okay regardless of what they say in response.
Because the final responsibility for whatever happens in those new situations will rest with the adult and not the child.