"But I Thought We Were Friends!"

Every parent wants to feel as though they are also their child’s best friend but playing both roles to perfection is something even Oscar winners grapple with. Setting a good example and being well liked at the same time is a definite challenge – one that increases with each birthday your child has. Now that they’re tall enough to ride the scary roller coasters and old enough to buy tickets to R-rated movies, they may think the only rules they have to listen to are their own but if they’re still living under your roof – even if it’s just during school breaks – they’ll be none too pleased when you pull rank. But you’re the parent, it’s your job.

There’s a time to be a pal and a time to be a parent and when it comes time to talk finances, grades and living arrangements, playtime is over. For example, if your child signs up for a credit card and runs up a huge bill they can’t afford, you’re not going to take them out for ice cream…you’re going to sit down with them and determine how they are going to pay for this costly mistake. Go through the statement item by item and offer to cover the school-related purchases; anything else – take-out, clothing, fireworks – is their responsibility. If they still can’t pay down the amount, set up a schedule that will allow them to pay you back little by little. (They may need to pick up a part-time or work-study job to do so.) Instead of using credit cards, you can suggest a stipend for each semester. Once your child exhausts these funds, they will be on their own financially until the next break so they will be more likely to learn the importance of money management earlier on in their college career.

As for grades, they are typically released a few weeks after final exams and are released through the mail and online in your child’s name. If you are paying tuition, you’ll surely want to see if your money is going to good use. When grades are lower than expected, don’t automatically assume your child skipped classes and neglected to study; average to sub-par grades during the first few semesters are often due to the difference between college classes and high school classes and it’s likely your child is still learning the proper study skills needed to succeed. If poor grades continue into sophomore year, however, your child may not be trying their hardest or is neglecting classwork in favor of outside distractions. This is when you need to discuss the possibility of your child using a tutor or visiting professors and teaching assistants during their office hours to review the material. Unless your child lives with you, you won’t be able to tell if they are taking the steps necessary to improve their grades so if their marks continue to spiral downward, it’s time to consider having them move home, transfer or take a semester off to regroup. They may not be thrilled with the prospect of leaving the life they’ve made for themselves on campus but it will be worth it if their grades and enthusiasm for school improve from doing so.

Your child is technically an adult now but they’re a loooooooong way from knowing the answer to every question. As a parent, you too may not know what to do in every scenario but by remaining firm in your decisions, your child will learn by example and remember these lessons next time they find themselves in a pickle. Parents that are so obsessed with being a friend often neglect discipline altogether and their children end up poorly prepared to deal with what life throws at them as a result. Sure, your child may say they hate you for sticking to your guns but they’ll be eating those words in the not-so-distant future when they put your teachings to good use.

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