Most experts agree that while parents can and should be friendly toward their kids along with fun to hang out with, at the end of the day, they still need to accept the role as a parent and not a friend.
Kids need boundaries, rules, and guidance. The closest friend isn’t going to inform them when they need to go to bed, make certain they manage to get their immunizations, or advise them on drinking, consent, and sex—those are roles of a parent, and they need you in that role.
Risks of Being Your Child’s Friend
Many parents believe that if they are friends with their child, parenting is likely to be easier than their child can do what they need since they’re friends. But in fact, trying to be your child’s friend is confusing for a child. Boundaries and rules make kids feel safe, but if you want to be your child’s friend, likely, you aren’t providing them with any rules or guidelines, which may create issues.1
Lack of Authority
What’s more, when parents lose their authority since they’re now on a single level as their child, kids can become anxious and unsettled. They require reassurance that you adore them, you are in control, and you’ll protect them—trying to become a friend strips away that picture of you as a protector and guardian and eliminates one of the most crucial support networks inside their lives.
Plus, giving up the authority, wisdom, and experience that comes with being a parent to be liked by the kids makes it difficult to improve healthy and competent kids who can handle frustration and disappointment.
Instead, kids need parents to draw lines in the sand, say no to things and offer advice. Yes, your son or daughter could get angry or upset, and they could complain that you’re the worst parent ever, but in the long run, you are doing what’s best for them and setting limits where they need them.
Strained Parent-Child Relationships
Likewise, trying to be your child’s friend can put unnecessary pressure on them—a force that they’re not mature enough to handle. After divorced moms shared personal information using their daughters, like financial details or negative thoughts about their ex-spouse, one study found that it didn’t bring the two closer. Instead, it caused psychological distress for the daughters.
No parent wants to feel just like a dictator. After all, you adore and enjoy the kids and want to pay time with them. But that doesn’t mean you have to quit being a parent to perform that goal. You can find ways to own friend-like experiences with the kids without sacrificing your role as a parent.
Having an agreeable relationship with the kids is important. Researchers discovered that children with warm, supportive, and empathetic parents tended to be much more engaged in school. In addition, they were not as likely to get into fights or steal things.3
So, how do you find the correct balance between parenting and friendship when it comes to the kids? While your son or daughter is younger, you’ll virtually make all the decisions. But because they age and begin developing some independence and autonomy, you can start to operate more as a mentor or coach and allow them some freedom to produce decisions.
This in which you start to pull back will depend largely on your own child’s maturity and responsibility. This doesn’t mean you won’t still have to utilize age-appropriate discipline strategies or set boundaries for the kids, but your parenting relationship will evolve.
You also can look for opportunities to pay time together and do things you both enjoy. But be cautious not to look to the kids to fill the importance of friendship. It would help if you nurtured your friendships along with your relationship with your partner.
As a result, put aside time weekly to pay time with the adults in your life. Doing so enables you to construct quality relationships with others to become influenced by the kids for entertainment or fulfillment.