Parenting a child has two major components. One is the emotional bond that ties us and helps us to create a loving relationship, and there is the functional role of caregiving – the cooking, washing, setting boundaries and sharing our family values. Both are vital in raising a healthy child.
I get concerned when I hear parents say “I’m her/his best friend” as this is not one of the components of effective parenting and it can be quite harmful.
As our children grow our roles as parents change. When they are babies we need to attend to most of their needs. Once they begin primary school the role changes somewhat as we teach social skills, completing homework and problem solving skills. Then with teens, enforcing some significant boundaries as they work towards independence. Our parenting moves from more emotional to more functional.
When thinking of your child as a friend it’s helpful to think about what friendship really looks like? Our friendships are usually with other adults with whom we can safely share our worries and concerns as well as our opinions on a whole range of issues. Our children don’t have the maturity to understand the complexities of many of our concerns and our capacity to manage these issues.
Over sharing with children can leave them feeling burdened and concerned about you. It can also create an illusion for your child that they are co-decision makers in your family and they are not. Kids can offer an opinion, tell you what they like or dislike but the role of parents is to lead the family and make the adult decisions.
When I ask parents about their parenting style they will often tell me that they just want to give their children what they never had and to parent them in a way that they would have liked to be parented. This can be very problematic if your parents were distant or rigid, or they seemed uncaring or they made some major mistakes. Some parents want to avoid these pitfalls by being their child’s friend, but this will very likely lead to a very unhealthy parent/child relationship.
It’s hard to imagine when your child is young the possible implications of your parenting style as they grow. I see clients in my clinic who bring preteens and teens to see me due to challenging behaviour and where they will not do anything that is asked of them. This can be a consequence of poorly defined parental boundaries when the children were younger.
As children grow to become teens they are meant to push away from their parents and to develop their own values and beliefs and for the most part they don’t want to share those with their parents. If you have been your child’s friend earlier in their life you might find this time very challenging and possibly feel a sense of loss.
As a parent you are not responsible for:
- Making sure your kids are always happy. There will be plenty of times when you are parenting responsibly, and your kids will be furious with you, and that is OK.
- Controlling your children. When our kids make poor choices (and they will) then they will feel the consequences of those decisions. It’s our job to influence them as best we can by setting limits and following through with consequences if they are required.
- Doing things that our children are capable of doing themselves. Assisting our kids to problem solve and persist is really important. Letting them try things even when they are not keen is important and letting them know that if they persist they will master it.
You are responsible for:
- Making tough decisions which may not be very popular. You don’t need to give long drawn out explanations for why you are making a request, a simple ‘its not safe’ or ‘it’s your responsibility’ can be enough.
- Helping and encouraging your child to move towards independence. It is your job to teach your child age-appropriate skills, they need to learn how to tie their shoes, write their name and to emotionally soothe themselves.
- Hold them accountable. Set some limits for your children and if they are behaving inappropriately enforce some consequences.
- Do your best. Effective parenting requires us to perform a balancing act much of the time. Encouraging our kids, setting appropriate boundaries and remember to pick your battles, we are all just doing our best after all!
If you found this blog helpful please share it with your networks … Until next time ..