Should you be friends with your children? That’s a question many new parents face, and learning to be a parent vs. a friend can be a difficult lesson for many parents when kids reach a certain age.
Any Gilmore Girls fans out there? It’s easy to admire the best friend relationship Rory and Lorelai had, but it brings up an interesting parenting dilemma: being a parent vs. a friend to your children. While I think you don’t have to strictly be one or the other, most parenting experts agree that you should not be your kids’ best friend. When it comes to being a parent vs. a friend, you have to remember that kids of a certain age don’t need the emotional side of your parenting as much as they need a functional role model and disciplinary.
So, should you be your kids’ friend? The easy answer: not yet. The younger children are, the more they need that emotional support of a parent who holds them, talks to them and takes care of them. Once they reach preteen and teen years, they have friends their own age to provide emotional support. What they really need is a parent who will set limits, teach them right from wrong and discipline them to teach them. No, it’s not fun and I doubt any parent looks forward to the day they have to ground their 16-year-old. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to raise well-adjusted children.
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How to be a Parent vs. Friend
As much as you may want to be your children’s confidante, being a parent vs. a friend means allowing the kids to lean on you for support but not leaning on them when YOU need the support. According to experts, allowing vulnerability and sharing adult problems with your kids can both put unnecessary pressure on them and confuse them when adult issues are more than they are ready to handle. This is where the characters on Gilmore Girls made some mistakes, but it doesn’t mean being your kids’ best friend isn’t incredibly alluring.
Tips for Remaining a Parent vs. a Friend
- Be a Disciplinary: Set boundaries when they’re needed and don’t give in just because you want to be their friend. They need discipline to learn from mistakes, just like we all do.
- Don’t Try to be the “Cool” Parent: Your kids will love you regardless of whether or not you seem “cool” according to their standards, so don’t worry about trying to learn their slang and pop culture and fit in with their lifestyle. It can cause more harm than good.
- Keep Adult Problems between Adults: At least while kids are not yet adults themselves, try to only talk to other adults about your relationship problems, money issues and other adult problems that kids are not emotionally ready to understand.
- Focus on a Relationship, not a Friendship: When your children become adults, you can take on a “friend-like” relationship with them and they will seek your parenting advice when they want it. Otherwise, focus on building a solid, trustworthy relationship that doesn’t necessarily mean being their BFF.
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When to be your Kids' Friend
As soon as your kids grow up and reach 18+ years old, they should be ready to take care of themselves. You’ve spent the past 18 years parenting them so they’ll grow into well-rounded adults, and now, you can develop the friendship you want with them. When they’re younger, you begin laying the groundwork for a friendship in the form of trust, but it’s not until they’re adults that you can really BE their friend. Regardless, parenting is incredibly rewarding, and it does not mean you can’t have a wonderful relationship with your kids.
What are your thoughts on being a parent vs. a friend? How have you walked the line and built a solid relationship with your kids?