Love Your Child Best by Being Their Parent, Not Their Friend
Your Child Does Not Need Another Bestie
Increasingly, it seems to be a point of pride and admiration to be able to brag that your child is your best friend and, increasingly, it seems like we as a generation of parents are losing what it means to be a parent. Often times being a friend and a parent overlap – we listen, we love on, we encourage and we do fun things together, just like friends do, and knowing where to draw that line can be very difficult. As parents, we want to not only be loved by our children, we want to be liked. And the desire to be liked, when it wins out over our desire to parent well, can be very dangerous.
In our roles as caregivers, authorities and disciplinarians we often have to make decisions and enforce consequences that our children will not like. Whether it’s a toddler crying and pouting or a teenager stomping and yelling that you are the meanest, most unfair and uncool person on the planet, the sting of rejection is difficult to bear. Often, just to keep the peace, we appease our children and give in to their demands so we don’t have to face their rejection or so they don’t withhold their affection. This may work in the short term, but in the long term we are teaching our children that they can manipulate us and our feelings and get what they want.
As parents, we cannot allow the presence or absence of our children’s affection to hold us hostage in making decisions for their well-being. We cannot allow the question of “will they still like me?” to be a stumbling block in our care. We cannot allow fear, insecurity and plain laziness to dictate our parenting. When we make the decision to be a friend rather than a parent we are handicapping our children of one of the best resources they have – PARENTS.
Our children are just that – children; despite what they think and what they insist, they do not know what is best for them. While some may be mature for their ages, they do not have wisdom and experience on their side to know how and when to make tough calls. They do not naturally choose to make life difficult for themselves or do something they don’t want to do, even if it’s in their best interest – given the option nine times out of ten they would choose to watch television over studying, with little regard to the fact that they have a test the next day. While children seem to make testing the limits a full time job, it is our job as parents to reign them in and keep them safe.
In the long run, as children grow and mature and begin to make their own decisions, they will learn that while you may not always have done what they thought was best, you did what was best for them and – one day, even if it seems like the very distant future – they will appreciate the times you put your need to be liked below their need to be parented well.