Why Not Being Friends With Your Kids Is A Good Thing

“Mom are you my friend?”

(and we are not talking Facebook Friend)

photo credit: hoshi7
KidSafe Parenting Help

Those are the 5 words my son asked me. That small question, made me think. How do I want to answer this? So it had me pondering what other mothers thought about “being their child’s friend.” Before I share their thoughts – let me tell you mine right up front. ”NO I am not your friend, I am your mom,” is what I told my 10 year old son.  But that conversation didn’t stop there, he asked me if I was friends with my parents. That one was an easy answer – NO – and although I could share many things my parents did not do right – one thing they did do right is they were never my friend (until I became an adult).

Now why do I think what they did was right? I believe that a parent is there to protect, guide, teach, model good decision making, model kind behavior, keep the family safe, and provide consistency in a child’s life so a child can feel safe and comfortable and best able to handle life’s challenges along the way. A parent should also be the one a child feels he can talk to about anything while at the same time the parent sets rules, boundaries and expectations for behaviors. This structure is what provides children with a sense of safety, belonging and if done well an open relationship between parent and child is established.

And when a child breaks the rules, boundaries and expectations (as they are meant to do – it is how they learn) it is the job of the parent to give the child consequences for those behaviors – while using the experience as a teachable moment. How can we learn from this? How can we do better next time? Our job as parents is to prepare our children for life…to be able to talk with our children about the real issues with the intention of teaching them life skills so they and we, will feel confident that when they go out on their own they will be best able to make the safest and smartest choices. “Friends” do not have that type of relationship – active parents do.

So as I ponder this…and ask some mom friends their thoughts, I was surprised how many disagreed with me. They want to be their child’s friend. I was told if I am their friend they will tell me everything, they want to be a “cool” mom and they want their child’s friends to think they are “cool” too.

So I ask, what makes a “cool” mom – and basically they all said the same thing, not many rules (like staying up late watching TV, playing video games, computer, cell phone and texting without any rules or consequences for breaking those rules), not being “overprotective” – letting their child go to a friend’s house that they don’t know, hang out at the mall at quite young ages (cause everyone else is), letting them have a Facebook account before they are 13. I could go on and on…and I realized I must be in the minority because to me, it sounded like – A cool parent is a parent that lets their child run their house (or a cool parent doesn’t want to disappoint their child or deal with conflict and has a hard time saying no or setting limits….. perhaps that is for another blog.)

Well I guess I don’t fall under “cool” parent category! My husband and I run our household. We set limits, have rules, boundaries and expectations. When those are not followed my son knows the consequences. I love my son and I want him to be the “best” person he can be, I want him to make mistakes and learn from them, I want him to be good to others and treat others how he wants to be treated. Most of all I want him to be happy and comfortable with who he is – but if he was running our house how could we teach him these things? If he had no limits what will he expect from others? If no is not a word told to him he will expect the world to always say “yes” and boy will he be in for a shocker as he gets older.

If he didn’t have to follow specific rules, boundaries and expectations what kind of person would I be preparing him to be in school and more importantly in life? So what I say to my son, who I love more than anything is, “I am better than just a friend, I am your mom, and proud of it.” And PS sweetie – one day (after years of therapy) you will thank me for it.



Author: Sally Berenzweig MEd, MA

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