DRAWING THE LINE BETWEEN BEING A PARENT AND BEING A BEST FRIEND

The truth is if being your children’s best friend were enough to raise them successfully, then we would all parent that way and become great parents. However, parenting is way more complicated than that. Children and teens really craves structure, limits and boundaries because it makes them feel safe, secure and loved. As they go through adolescence and develop into adults, they need grownups in their lives who would provide stability and routines to help them feel safe. Our role as parents is to nurture, teach and coach them, and dole out punishment when they misbehave. But if we get too chummy with them as best friends, it may be impossible to lay down laws and set limits on our children’s inappropriate behaviour.

A lot of parents these days in trying to be their children’s best friend and probably be termed ‘ cool parents’ give in to every demand of their children, whether healthy or not. The line between being a parent and a friend is thin, because both require good listening skills, spending time together and looking out for each other. In as much as it is important to be your children’s confidante and their best buddy, parents need to be able to discipline their children and be OK if their children doesn’t always like them, because parents have to make hard decisions, like making them brush their teeth, even if they don’t want to, or go to bed at a good time, even though it’s more fun to stay up all night.

Being a friend is easier and more comfortable than being a parent, but if this continues, it creates severe problems down the road, and makes it hard for your child to relate appropriately to other adults. Sometimes being your child’s friend lends itself to having a “confidante” relationship, where you treat them more like a peer, rather than a child. As a result, their respect for you (and other adults) can diminish. You’re not in charge anymore, and they may feel like they’re responsible for your emotions in some way. But this isn’t fair to them—they are not meant to play that role with us. As they grow up, they really need to learn what their place is in the world, and we need to give them time to grow into each phase. Treating them like a peer doesn’t allow them to just be kids in the long run. If you suspect you might be doing this, you really need to look at what’s happening and try to change the dynamic. You can still be friendly with your children, but you must still be in charge, and have clear and consistent boundaries.

When you treat your child like a best friend, you tend to share things with them (after all friend share every information with each other) and sometimes overshare information that may burden them. Understand that you run the risk of losing your child’s respect if you share your weaknesses with them, you come out looking as if you cannot handle your problems. You are telling her she is your peer, her power is equals to yours. This will block your ability to be responsible and accountable with your child, because you won’t be able to effectively set limits and give consequences when she misbehaves, I mean how will you punish your friend for not cleaning up her room or doing the dishes after eating, she will laugh at your face or simply walk out on you. You do not expect your friend to be angry at you or shout at you, or even tell you how to live your life. If you act like your child’s best friends, she won’t take your authority seriously. Your child needs you to listen to him, to be a coach, to be a teacher.

So does that mean I shouldn’t hang out with my children?

Of course you want to spend time with your child and have fun together—and you should! You can (and should) still do friendly activities with them. In fact, it’s very important to have those moments. I’m not suggesting you cut your kids off and say, “We’re not going to be friendly with each other anymore.” The problem arises when you start relating to your child as if you are one of their friends, and not their parent who has their best interests at heart, but who also has authority over them.

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