When you were growing up, did you ever think the words, “My dad/mom is my best friend,” would ever be uttered from your lips? It is difficult to imagine. The societal order of things is that teens are always at odds with their parents. Right? Building friendships with your children isn’t necessarily easy, but as someone who spends so much time with their children, it’s worth it.
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Building Friendships with Your Children
Today, we see an ever-increasing movement of parents working hard to befriend their children. Logically, it seems to make sense that if we are their friend, they might be less inclined to get into trouble. They would come to you for advice willingly. I submit that this has its benefits. However, it provides a slippery slope when we lose sight of the fact that we still need to be a parent first, a friend second.
There are simply some situations in which you cannot physically be both at the same time. And when the choice comes as to which to be, many choose friendship over parenting because it seems easier. They don’t have to worry about their child “hating” them.
There is a lot of merit to building a friendship with your children. However, you have to set up some boundaries and discuss those with your children. They need to understand that their friendship is important; however, their long-term happiness trumps any short-term flings that may intercede.
Providing an open and trusting dialogue with your children is the first place to start. You can’t wait until they have decided to be on their own to do this. You have to start when they are as young as can be. Encourage honesty, no matter the situation. Show to them how important it is that they come to you and tell the truth no matter how bad it may seem.
If the foundation is built strongly at inception, then when the winds, hurricanes, and earthquakes of puberty hit, the foundation will surely hold and make it through. (We are there, that friendship might be the only thing to save our homeschool right now.)
There is a delicate balance that must be maintained between the role of friend and parent with teenagers. Whether conscientiously or not, simply playing the role of a friend provides a means and a way for them to manipulate your role and power as a parent.
Part of your job as a parent is to provide that stability in their learning and growth.
You can provide your child/children with all the love and support they need while providing them with the structure and boundaries are necessary. Make sure that you help your child with situations and problems that arise by encouraging them to find solutions. Don’t solve their problems for them.
Give them some flexibility when it comes to things that aren’t devastating in the long run. Some freedom in decision-making when choices provide options that prove no risk to long-term goals. Allow your child to openly discuss and go after their own dreams and passions and not the ones you had planned out for them since before they were born.
It is ever so easy to hold them in your arms as an infant and decide right then and there that they will be the world’s next scientist, baseball player, or noble laurite. We all have great hopes for our children. However, the more we push our dreams onto them, the less they feel like including us as parents in their choices.
Remember, the best method of befriending your child is providing them with a loving and safe environment to grow up in. There will still undoubtedly be a few instances of “That’s not fair, you’re so uncool, or even I hate you.” But in the end, they will choose you to come to important life-altering decisions instead of people that barely know and listen to them.