04/16/2015 08:09 am ET Updated Jun 16, 2015

An Open Letter to 'Cool' Parents

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Dear "Cool" Parents,

I assume you know who you are. We all know who the parents are who are trying to be cool. Sometimes you dress like your daughters or use teen lingo. I'm sorry to say that despite your good intentions, you are nonetheless on the wrong track. You are likely trying too hard to be liked by and approved of by your kids and their friends. I know and you know that you want to be your kids' friends so that this will facilitate good and open communication and honest conversations. Unfortunately, despite your good intentions, this style of parenting is not the way to go. At one end of the spectrum, parents who want to be cool and their kids' friends share clothing with their kids. On the other end of the spectrum are the parents who drink and smoke marijuana with their kids and their kids' friends in an effort to be liked. I kid you not. I have heard about this over and over again in my three decades of therapy sessions.

Again, I don't think that you are bad or have bad intentions. In fact, I believe that most parents are trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately, though, you may be a bit misguided in your attempts to do the right thing. And, this sort of parenting is simply not "cool." These behaviors need to be tweaked and your attitudes adjusted a bit.

Cool parents need to be aware that:

1. Your teens do not want you to be cool. They want, instead, for you to act as their parents, not their friends. It is their turn to be a teen now not yours. You had your turn. Do you really want to repeat those years?

2. Your teens get embarrassed when you act like them, speak like them or even dress like them. You should not be wearing clothing made by teens simply because it still fits you. I know that the teens get embarrassed when you engage in copycat behavior because they confide in me.

3. There is no evidence to suggest that teens confide more frequently or honestly in "cool" parents. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that they are more inclined to confide in parents who remain, calm and collected when the teens speak.

4. If you act like a friend or a cool parent, then you are essentially giving up your role as an authority figure. This is not a good role to part with. Teens not only need authority figures in their lives, but they thrive when they have parents who set limits, boundaries and structure. Cool parents are afraid to set limits because they don't want their kids to get angry at them. If your kids have never gotten angry with you then something is very wrong.


5. In summary, dear parents, I suggest that you embrace your role as a parent. This means that your primary job is to keep your kids safe and on the right path. You might even feel less stressed if you don't have to work so hard at trying to be cool. And, the other parents will also be grateful not to be compared to you.

Good luck!