The mistake of trying to be your child’s friend

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

Styling yourselves as ‘buddies’  conflicts with setting boundaries, making it harder for you to impose limits and require good behaviour

Do you try to be ‘friends’ with your children? Many parents do nowadays, as traditional approaches to parenting have become unfashionable.

But it’s not a good idea. Somehow trying to be your children’s friend conflicts with setting boundaries, making it harder to impose limits and require good behaviour. So if that’s you, your children probably end up doing whatever they want without any rules or consequences. Eating what and whenever they want, staying up late, hanging out with friends you don’t know, endlessly online.

But that also means that your children will grow up unprepared for the real world. Because if children are to become independent, confident and capable adults, they also need to learn discipline and good social skills.

Otherwise they’ll lack maturity, have difficulty controlling their impulses, be reluctant to accept responsibility, and have difficulty fitting in with others.

A much better approach is to be flexible, but also firm. Warm, while retaining your authority. Setting and enforcing clear expectations for behaviour and conduct. Because calm and consistent discipline develops responsibility and co-operation in your children. And setting limits helps them develop self-control. Then your children will grow up well adjusted, mature, assertive, socially skilled, resilient, achievement oriented and responsible.

Being firm is not easy of course, and sometimes you’ll have to lean on your kids pretty hard, because they’ll only ever want to do what’s fun. Rather than doing chores or homework.

You’ll also have to use your authority to stop them from squabbling, get them to tidy their rooms, or put their phones away. Because asking them nicely probably won’t work. And children generally don’t understand why you want them to do the right things. So you have to insist.

You’ll also need to be a good role model. Because children pay far more attention to what you do than what you say! So show your children good values, like honesty and kindness. And how successful adults control their impulses, work hard, and are resilient and persistent.

Always do what you say you’re going to do, because it’s keeping your promises that teaches your children what reliability means. Show them that you value education by taking an interest in their school work. Then your children will study well.

Help them learn to make good choices, for example by encouraging them to do their homework before going online. Because when children learn to make good choices , they’re better able to make the much tougher decisions that we all face later as adults.

So your job as a parent is to prepare our children for life, not to be their friend. Including talking with them authoritatively about real issues and teaching them the life skills they’ll need.

But then, as your children become older and grow independent, they will gradually become your friends and you theirs, but in the context of a loving relationship between adult children and parents.

So be their parent, and be proud of it.