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“I hate you!” “You’re ruining my life!” These are familiar phrases to anyone who has raised a teenager, and Kelly Ripa — mom to Michael, 17, Lola, 13, and Joaquin, 11 — is no exception. The Live with Kelly & Michael host told Wendy Williams that her daughter got angry with her recently after Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, took away Lola’s computer and phone privileges. “She broke the rules,” Ripa said, explaining that Lola was on the phone when she should have been studying for Spanish. “I don’t think she likes me, but I don’t care. I’m like, ‘I’m not your friend, I’m your mom.’”
Knowing the difference is crucial for parents, says psychotherapist and parenting educator Andrea Nair. “Your child needs to know that you are invested in them and that you are making them a priority and that they matter,” Nair tells Yahoo Parenting. “But that doesn’t mean they are always going to like you. Friends sometimes cave because they want to be liked all the time, but that’s not the job of the parent. The job of the parent is to stay connected and keep kids safe.”
Oftentimes, teenagers may seem to want their parents to fill the role of BFF, but “kids sometimes ask for what they want and don’t know what they need,” Dr. Carly Miller, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adolescents, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Even if teenagers are asking you to be their friend, what they are really looking for is someone to guide them. In general, adolescence is a time of risk-taking and experimentation and finding identity, so teens need a guiding force to help them navigate their life when so much of it feels out of control.”
Still, it can be hard to hear your child say they don’t like you anymore, or to sit by as they give you the silent treatment or angry glares. “Everyone wants to be liked, and sometimes parents don’t want to upset the apple cart and feel like they’re against their kid, so it can be easier to agree and just be their friend,” Miller says. Her suggestion? Don’t personalize it. “Even if they’re saying ‘I hate you,’ if your child is venting to you, it’s a good thing,” she says. “They’re communicating with you and that’s far better than them shutting down.”
But remember: They’re the adolescent, you’re the adult. Don’t respond to their silent treatment with one of your own, and don’t meet “I hate you” with “I hate you, too.” Instead, listen to your kids, make it clear that you hear them, and explain clearly why you are doing whatever it is that’s making them mad. “You want them to know that it’s ok to express these feelings and they will pass, but also that there is a reason why this is happening,” Miller says.
The important thing, Nair says, is for your child to understand that no matter your choices or punishments, they are always your first priority. “Try saying to your child, ‘I know that this decision makes you mad, and the reason I am ok with that is that with my life experience, I know that this is what we need to do to keep you safe,’” Nair suggests. “If you have a calm conversation, kids will see your side.”
Ultimately, Miller says, the angry feelings will pass and your child will be grateful for your guidance. “Emotionally and socially, things feel out of control, and what makes kids feel safe is having an adult to guide them,” she says. “They don’t need another friend.”