Parents as Friends

There is a growing trend among parenting experts that encourages parents to befriend their children. The benefit of this philosophy is that children will feel that their parents are on their side and will be more likely to respond positively to correction. Traditional parenting methods suggest that parents maintain a more authoritative role in their children’s lives. Is it possible for parents to be their children’s friend? Do they have to sacrifice a certain amount of authority in exchange for friendship? Is that in fact, in their children’s best interest? Can you ride the line of friend and authority figure without sacrificing either?

In becoming your child’s friend, one must first understand what a friend is. A friend implies equality, a sharing of something in common, a shared experience, a shared respect and an ability to hold each other accountable. Does this exist between parent and child?

I know it is politically incorrect these days to say that equality does not exist between parent and child but politically incorrect or not, it is a fact. Sure, both are human beings and entitled to certain basic human rights but for the most part, children do not have the same rights as parents.

There are some rights that you gain based upon the level of responsibility you have. It goes without say that parents and children share different levels of responsibility. Therefore, they are then entitled to different levels of rights.

Additionally, as parents are ultimately responsible for their children and children are accountable to their parents, how can equality exist in a relationship that is so fundamentally unequal?

Perhaps there is more truth in the old way. While I agree that parents should be approachable and receptive listeners as well as avid supporters of their children while maintaining a loving and warm home environment, this in no way suggests or supports the idea of friendship between the two. Parents should maintain their authority at all times and friendship and authority do not always coexist peacefully. As children will make friends at school, in their neighborhoods, at camp, at after school activities and various other places, the friendship of their parents is not only unnecessary but inappropriate, confusing and perhaps damaging.

Children desperately need parents who embrace their authority and honor their responsibility. Parents will not be found at school or the various other places friends will be found. You are all they get and it is up to you to maintain your authority so that your children know what it means to respect authority. If you forego your authority for the sake of friendship, especially during the teen years, necessary boundaries that should be maintained during these stressful years are crossed and erosion of respect can occur.

Finally, friendship implies a shared experience. You and your child are not undergoing a shared experience. You have already undergone what they are going through for the most part. They are trying to arrive safely into adulthood and you are their leader and their guide on this journey that they are taking, not their peer. It is not a journey of equals but a journey with two very distinct and separate roles. Once the roles become intertwined, confusion ensues, and neither party benefits. It is my suggestion that parents remain parents and leave friendship to their child’s peers.

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Parents as Friends