Should I be my child’s best friend?

By Linda Ligon, Family & Kids Magazine

The work of parenting is not easy. As children grow, the amount of guidance they need from their parents is constantly evolving, and it is hard work to adjust and enforce boundaries as situations and a child’s maturity changes.

It is very unpleasant to be the target of your child’s anger when you made a decision he does not like.

Would being your child’s friend be more effective, since one could assume that if your child likes you, he will be more likely to openly share and listen to your advice?

Parents should spend time together with their kids having fun and engaging in friendly conversations. However, there are some important reasons you should not swap your parenting role for that of your child’s best friend.

Children with structure and boundaries feel more secure and confident

When parents decide to take on a friend role, they step back from the task of defining and enforcing limits. Kids are then left to make most decisions with a lack of maturity and full knowledge. Without someone to guide them from making dangerous mistakes, kids can feel more stressed and vulnerable. To develop into confident, successful adults, kids benefit from a coach they respect who models proper behavior, sets limits and provides correction when necessary.

Perceived as a “friend,” he may no longer respect you and other adults

When kids do misbehave, if you are in a best friend role, you may have difficulty putting an end to your child’s bad behavior and it may spiral out of control. By taking on a friend role, parents signal to their kids that they no longer have the authority to correct and discipline. After all, is your teen going to respect rules that someone he sees as a peer tries to set? Also, by acting as your child’s friend, you have denied him the chance to learn how to properly relate to adults. He may have trouble showing appropriate respect for the other adults in his life such as teachers and sports coaches. This can result in discipline issues at school and at after-school activities.

Your child should not have to bear the burden of being your confidant

Parents who try to become their child’s best friend can inadvertently burden their child by confiding in him as if he were an adult friend. Yes, the relationship between a parent and child does involve friendly communication but this communication should not involve adult matters. It is your job as a parent to serve as a barrier between your child and adult problems that do not concern him. Issues with your child’s other parent or your spouse should especially not be discussed with your child. If you share your concerns about them, he may see this as a weakness and try to play you against each other to get what he wants. Instead of oversharing adult issues with kids, parents should be listening to the concerns their kids have and providing any guidance they need.

It can be hard to weather the storm of your child’s frustration that may come your way when you exert your parental authority during your child’s tween and teen years. You will need to make a lot of decisions your child may not like. The good news is that as your teen gets close to adulthood, you will be able to gradually step back and allow your child to have increasing ownership of his decisions.