Are You Really Sure You Want To Say That To Your Kids?

There are many great parents who are doing a marvellous job of parenting their children. They do what needs to be done-when it needs to be done and they remain steadfast in their approach. More often than not the kids benefit from this and turn out to be good citizens with a great attitude and will likely go on to be good parents themselves although there is never a guarantee of that. I can hear folks commenting they know someone where that didn’t happen and so on. Agreed. As I just said “There are never any guarantees of anything happening as we think it will or should.” But the chances are better that it will than it won’t. I believe that one of the most important factors or contributors that help shape this outcome is whether or not parents try to be their child’s best friend or their best parent.

If we look at what is happening around us these days we often see or hear people say “it sure has changed since my day” or “how has this happened, it never used to be like this?” Many other present day parents will say that times change and so should we. Many go on to say that “my children are more likely to tell me things or not do certain things because of how close we are and will not want to disappoint us.” I suppose there is some emotional truth in that but not enough to negate a strong parenting/child relationship.

When I consider the role that my ‘good friends have played in my life I think about some of the conversations I have had with them. I think about what I said to them in a crisis or what they said to me when I was upset about something and needed a voice I could trust. For the most part good friends tend to say what you want to hear rather than things that you need to hear. Such is the role of a ‘best friend.’ However, therein lies the difference between a parent and a best friend. A parent will tell you what is true whether you want to hear it or not but will also be able to explain the ‘why’ in a way that makes some sense. Parents have experience in most things that a child will face and will be able to guide their child in a positive direction. It becomes a teaching moment. These are the times when ‘life lessons’ get pronounced in the child’s life-a role that a ‘bestie’ can’t fulfil. Parents understand boundaries. Good friends often miss that one.  Parents NEED to be their child’s teacher. That is a role that our kids expect from us. We are the ones entrusted with the knowledge and the experience to guide our kids. We have paid our dues and now that can pay off for us. You cannot be both at the same time. 

Other points to be made:

–A parents primary task is to promote a sense of value, respect (for self and others), a feeling of having a place–being relevant, being/feeling connected to something important-family, security, stability and trust. Instilling these important life lessons are what parents have the experience to teach and to foster in their kids.

–Our kids have friends already. When parents try to become their kids ‘friend’ they really become emotional hostages. The friends our kids have made are people who have earned a place in our children’s lives. That means they are special and they are equals. Parents and their children are not equals. Parents may dress the same, look the same, enjoy the same music, like the same movies but that does not make them equals. There is and always will be an unstated power differential that exists. Someone has to be the final arbiter–the one that says “NO.”

–Someone needs to set the example–be the leader–the role model otherwise our children will do what many are doing now. They will flounder–they will struggle with social dictates. Their decisions will tend to be made by their emotions as opposed to their logic and what they know to be true or right. Children with no parental guidance tend to be more impulsive in that there is no little ‘voice’ in the back of their head saying ‘are you sure about this’. There is a diminished moral compass to guide them when they are left with no parental guidance. Friends don’t often guide but rather tend to placate.

–For many parents they become all or nothing thinkers. I hear them say that they enjoy having fun with their kids and I say then go ahead. Take you kid to the park, go hiking, go fishing, go to the football game, go to the concert, go to the beach, go where ever fun is to be had. This isn’t about enjoying our kid’s company. Of course it’s OK to do that. It’s about accepting responsibility for being parental–setting boundaries, explaining why things can’t happen the way they want them to. It’s about being the one who is stable and consistent so that expectations and lessons learned aren’t compromised. Our job is NOT TO BE COOL. Our job is about being the one who is there to, not only teach, but to protect and to guide our children-to prepare them for the time when we are no longer there. Then they can become the parents who do what we have taught them because by that time they will know that we were right all along.

–Perhaps our desire to be our kids best friend has more to do with us then it does with them–what do WE really get from the experience?

Anyways, that’s how I see it–all the best, Jim

All comments are welcomed. Please contact me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com OR jimcloughley.com and contact me through the contact page.

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