Parent vs. friend

Investigating the parent vs friend notion.

Mother and daughter

It can be said, that for some parents, they want to be their child’s best friend and want to hear phrases like, ‘my mum or dad is my best mate.” They want their kids to be able to tell them everything. They want to be able to be open and share everything about their life with their children. Sometimes this is because parents don't not want to be like their own parents.

Parents often decide that the best way forward is to befriend their own kids. This can stem from the parents’ childhood, when they felt intimidated by their own parents. There is a fine line between the ‘understanding parent’ and the ‘best friend’. It can be confusing for children when a parent expects respect, but encourages colloquial, friendly language and complete openness.

A rare motive for befriending your children, but not unheard of is, selfishness. Does the parent lack friends? Does the parent feel lonely in the relationship with the other half? Is the child the best confidant, especially when the topic being discussed is the other parent and their relationship? How can a child understand boundaries if their parents are his level, her friends? How can a child understand that drinking is wrong when his father tells him about when he used to get drunk? How can a girl understand boundaries in relationships when her mother tells her about the 'hottie' at work?

Parenting is about balance and understanding; not all two families are the same. Even if children assure their parents they tell them everything, this is highly unlikely. The good thing is that that's the way it should be. After all, why is it important to know every minute detail of your child's life? Is it for his / her own good, or is it for control?

So many parents, in their strive to be the best, end up competing with others over who is a better parent, who has a closer relationship and who makes the better parenting decisions. When it becomes a game of popularity, emotional problems can evolve.

When it comes to respect, parents are no exception; you aren’t just given it, you earn it. Children need to understand that although you are the parent, they can talk to you whenever, wherever and about whoever they want as long as respect is in place.

Parents already have many different roles. They already have the role as a friend; it’s just built in along with the role as mum and dad. It’s a package deal. But learning the balance between the roles is the key. Some kids need to see more of one role than another, some kids need that little extra discipline and some parents may never experience both. There are also families which never experience ‘mate-ship’ with their children until later on in life, when their kids reach adulthood. These are all personal choices.

Tips for maintaining the parent/friend balance

Mother and daughter piggy back

1. Be a parent at all times. Truth, wisdom, knowledge, caring, teaching, loving; the ingredients that should never be absent are the building blocks on which your relationship will grow.

2. Listen as a friend, but use parental practices for input. If he is worried about his buddies wanting him to drink and drive, try to refrain from responding as a friend. Be firm and fair: you understand the feeling of peer pressure, but it is never understandable to encourage him to drink and drive.

3. Be friendly with your children’s friends but in an adult manner and by issuing guidance only when requested. Don't try to be young and hip so her friends will like you. If you aren't invited to hang out during the sleepover, don't be offended. Be happy they have friends and in knowing they will be there for her when you can't be.

4. Laugh together. It's good to joke around and create memories that will last a lifetime. These are the memories she will hang onto when you pass on. This will also guide her in eventually bringing up her own children.

5. Spend time together but don't be clingy. Expect your children to have days in which they prefer to be with their friends, but if you have a good relationship there will be times they’ll choose to be with you.

6. Always maintain the role as parent whilst they’re growing up. The day will come when they’ll be an adult and you will be both mother and best friend.

One fact remains that parents should be parents first and friends last. There will be a time when you can be both which will develop naturally, but above all, kids need their parents.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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