Parenting is seen as an intimidating job to a lot of people. It is the responsibility of bringing up a child properly, to make him an independent, responsible, and happy individual. And it is a tough job because sometimes you have to be authoritative to get the job done. Children can be pesky and disobedient and therefore, being strict with them can be useful in forcing them to be disciplined.
But not a lot of parents have considered the option of being best friends with their child! Being friends with your child may not necessarily mean that he will not obey you when he has to. If you have a tendency to treat your child as a ‘friend,’ you should understand this important interpretation of friendship: friends are a group of people that have the same notion about ideas and life. The truth is, children and adults have very different notions about what they should be doing. They have entirely different notions about what’s right and wrong. They have very different notions about what they want to do tonight. Most of this opposition to parent-friending is rooted in the idea that parents want to be friends with their children for all the wrong reasons. “When they say, ‘I want to be his friend,’ and ‘I want him to be my friend,’ what they’re really saying is ‘I want to be his confidante.
The friendship between parents and children doesn’t need to be so black-and-white. “Intimacy needn’t imply that you are burdening your child with your personal troubles. And communicating trust needn’t send the message that ‘anything goes.’ Parents can build close, personal relationships with their kids and still remain responsible adults So should you try to be friends with your child? This is a hot issue that almost every parent contemplates about. So, let’s look at how we can be friends with your child and improve your parent-child relationship further.
1. Be Genuine
Whether you are practicing authoritarian parenting or trying to be your child’s best friend, if you are not being genuine, it will not be sustainable. Harshly imposing rules when you don’t want to will feel terrible to you and faking friendship (Mean Girls, anyone?) will be uncomfortable for everyone. Take a moment to tap into your own emotional intelligence and do what feels honest within yourself. After all, no expert can even know the intricacies of your life.
2. Purposeful Communication
Effective communication goes beyond words. It takes real work to communicate with your child. It’s not enough to simply ask, “How was your day?” or “what are you feeling about. You have to be engaged and practice active listening. When you show your children that you are invested in their responses and you care about what they have to say, you encourage them to act similarly towards you. Communicating is hard work, but the connection it creates is absolutely worth it.
3. Being friends and being friendly is not the same
One of the easiest traps for parents to fall into is thinking that being a child’s friend means making them happy. A true friendship is not always blissful, but it is genuine. Rather than glossing over things to make your child happy in hopes that she will then think of you as a friend; be a true friend. A true friend looks out for a friend’s well-being, even if that means making hard decisions.
4. Work on yourself
You can’t be your child’s friend if you aren’t your own friend first—at least a little. Understanding your own tendencies, quirks, and needs is vital in any relationship, and that’s especially true in parenting. Before you can try befriending your child, you need to be aware of how you might react in difficult situations. The better you know yourself, the better you will be able to connect with your child.
5. Just BE there for your child
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just BE there for your child. Many times parents TRY too hard to make everything okay for their child. Doing more is not always better; sometimes just being genuinely present with your child is the best thing. Rather than jumping to fix, teach or improve your child, maybe practice just being.
Henry David Thoreau famously wrote, “the language of friendship is not words but meanings.”
Befriending your child can be a huge challenge, especially amid the debate over whether parent-child friendships are appropriate or detrimental. The answer is not, and probably never will be, crystal clear. But what is clear is that you will know when you’re doing it “right” because it will feel right for you. To be friends with your child: Be genuine; be open; be a true friend; love yourself, and just be there for them. Then your role as both friend and parent will naturally balance itself out.