In the debate of “should friends be best friends with their kids,” where do you stand?
For almost as long as there have been (modern) parent-child relationships, the question has been: Should parents be best friends with their kids? Should parents hold firm on rules or bend them to their child’s wishes? Should parents scold or turn a blind eye when their children act less-than-ideal? People—parents and non-parents alike—stand everywhere down the spectrum, from the firm yeses to the definite nos.
The fact is that there is truth and weight to both sides, but the distinction between right and wrong depends on how you define “best friend.”
When “best friend” means “equal”
In a household, not everyone can be equals. One’s opinion cannot always hold the same gravity as another’s. In fact, when no one is left in charge to make decisions or enforce rules, it can be called permissive (read: negligent) parenting. To add to this, studies have shown that kids with permissive parents tend to respond more violently when a conflict arises. Consequently, self-control has a loose definition.
When “best friend” means “confidante”
This definition is a little tricky, because sharing secrets and having an emotional relationship with your kids definitely isn’t a bad thing—but there are some instances wherein parents cannot disclose problems and all its little details. For instance, children are likely to experience more emotional distress if their parents told them just how difficult keeping up with finances are.
When “best friend” means “trust,” “respect” and “loyalty”
Yes, yes and yes. It is perfectly okay to share thoughts and opinions with your kids, especially if it means bonding with them. Treat them like they are their own person and respect who they are—especially if it’s an aspect of them that they cannot change. Sometimes being their friend means letting go of these dreams you had of them—athlete, artist, doctor, engineer—if they just can’t.
When “best friend” means “somewhere safe”
In most aspects, “somewhere safe” might just be the best definition of “best friend” when a child and a parent are involved. A child needs to be able to voice their concerns and their thoughts in a safe place without fear of judgment. The important thing to note is that no judgment doesn’t mean no repercussions.
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When it comes down to it, a parent’s role in their children’s life is to set boundaries and prepare them for a world that will disagree with them once in a while. It’s their responsibility to enforce expected behavior and create an environment in which the kids feel safe.
There is no one way to parenting and not every situation is the same. But sometimes the question to ask yourself when you’re tethering between being a friend and being a parent is this: Do I want my child to grow up without a mother/father?
Art Alexandra Lara