If you have arrived on this page looking for ways to be your child’s friend, you are in for a surprise. You cannot be your child’s friend unless you want to forfeit your position as a parent. It is very tempting and easy to step into a “friend” role with your child. That temptation, however, has long term consequences, and it is a road riddled with traps and a tricky u-turn.
Friendship is an important relationship in everyone’s life. It is based on mutual likes, dislikes, opinions, background and age. Yes age! A forty-year-old can be friends with a 35-year-old or a 65- year-old. But friendship between a thirty-year-old and a five- or ten-year- old is just irrational. The discrepancy in the mental, social and emotional development of the two age groups is simply monumental.
You are a parent and this crucial role simply conflicts with the role of a friend. Having said that, you can still be a loving and friendly parent just not a friend. There is an elusive, fine line between the two. But then who said it was going to be easy?
You and your child are not equal
Equality is the essential basis of a friendship. Your age and experience far exceeds your child’s and therefore you are not equal. The decisions around your house, finances and other important matters are up to you not your child. You can take suggestions and opinions from your child but your child is not in the capacity to take decisions with/for you.
Checking unacceptable behaviour
If you are a friend you might want to overlook your child’s mistakes, allow excess of ipad and fun time, not reinforce regular bed time, let them miss homework, not push them to work hard and be relaxed about chores. So who will correct a child when he/she behaves inappropriately? Who will set limits and rules? Who will differentiate between right and wrong and reinforce moral behaviour? You can’t be a “cool” parent one day and then check your child on another day. Your child might think of you as a hypocrite in that case.
You are the role model
If your child pulls a prank or misbehaves, you can be a partner in crime and achieve the emotional closeness you seek. But a partner in crime will not be looked upon with admiration. Your child needs to see you as a strong, decisive, mature, courteous and morally sound person who they aspire to be when they grow up.
Earn their respect
If you are a friend your child may love hanging out with you. You both may see each other as a confidant. But do you really think your child will respect you once you have cribbed about grandma or your spouse? The day you cross that line, bid adieu to respect. Perhaps they will turn for guidance to another adult who they admire and have observed exhibiting maturity, tolerance and resilience. That may prove to be devastating for your relationship.
Separation is important
The purpose of adolescence is to allow the child to become a separate individual with his/her own experiences and opinions. You may not approve of your child’s friends and his/her points of view but that is for him/her to work out. If, however, you are your child’s best friend, he/she may have little opportunity to work out complexities of relationships outside the house. This may lead to social and emotional problems in life later.
As a parent we play an emotional and functional role in our child’s life. We cuddle them and play with them and support them as part of our emotional role. As they grow older our role becomes more and more functional. Sometimes we seek a more emotional role in their lives and try to be their friends. However, we ought to remember they have and will have lots of friends. But they have only one set of parents and no one else can play that role better. So be proud to be a parent.