Home article Why You Can’t Be Your Child’s Best Friend

Why You Can’t Be Your Child’s Best Friend

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Why You Can’t Be Your Child’s Best Friend

Be a parent, not a friend. We’ve all heard this saying countless times. But what does it really mean? And why can’t you be your child’s best friend? Isn’t that a good thing if my child sees me as a friend?

Being a parent, rather than a friend, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a respectful and loving relationship with your child. What it does mean is that you have to be the authoritative figure. Children are not emotionally or developmentally capable of setting boundaries and making good decisions for their own wellbeing. It’s your job to do that, even if it sometimes means that you have to be the “bad guy”.

If you’re always trying to please your child, afraid to set boundaries or enforce rules for fear of upsetting them, you are setting them up for failure and disappointment. The real world just doesn’t work that way. Society, even schools and jobs, are bound by countless rules and boundaries, and they will be enforced, even if your child doesn’t like it.

DO NOT let your child make all of his own decisions. He is not ready for that, and it causes stress. You can provide limited choices, discuss things, get his opinions and input, and then YOU, THE PARENT makes the decision. Whether it is about  which classes to take, summer camp, sports or anything else, YOU ULTIMATELY MAKE THE DECISIONS. Obviously, if your child says they hate baseball but want to play piano, you could probably make that happen. But if they want to take classes that are too hard or too easy, you have to make the judgment.

Many parents think it’s better to let their kids make their own decisions. Not always. As they get older and more mature, it is healthy to gradually give them more decision-making power over their own lives, but very slowly and with guidance. By the time they leave home, you do want them knowing how to make good decisions for themselves. But if you give them too much control too soon, it can cause anxiety and extra stress.

At the end of the day, we all want to have close, loving relationships with our children. And you still can. You just can’t be their best friend. Guide them, teach them, allow them be mad at you for doing what’s best or what’s right.   Eventually, they will become healthy adults who look up to you and respect you and strive to be like you. What more could any parent ask for?

Here are a few reasons why you need to be a parent, not a friend to your children.

  1. Children need rules and boundaries to feel safe, stable and secure. It is your job as a parent to provide security and a stable environment for your child. You are not equals, and it is not a democracy. There is a hierarchy that must be enforced. This is accomplished with love, nurturing, rules and boundaries. You must learn how to be firm, but gentle. Having the structure and security of knowing what is expected and when helps reduce the amount of anxiety a child will feel.
  2. Kids are not developmentally capable of making big decisions. Their brains are literally not developed yet, and specifically the parts of the brain necessary for making big and important decisions. Let’s be real here; young children are still trying to master the basic notion of what is right and what is wrong, and teens struggle daily with how to make good decisions for themselves. Do you really think these very youngsters should be making important decisions or have a lack of rules and boundaries to guide them? They absolutely should not. When you give children tasks they are not ready for, you could be setting them up for failure. It can have a negative impact on their self-esteem.

At the end of the day, we all want to have close, loving relationships with our children. And you still can. You just can’t always be their best friend. Guide them, teach them, and progressively let them make their own choices with the positive or negative consequences that follow. By slowly gaining control, they will eventually learn to make their own healthy choices. But for now, allow them to be mad at you for doing what’s best along the way. Your children will more likely look up to you and respect you for raising them to become responsible adults. What more could any parent ask for?

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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