I hear these words in my office from parents often…”my child is my best friend.”
Here’s the thing…best friends are “equals” that give and take in a way that creates balance. As a parent…we are older, more experienced in life and have to make important decisions that can highly effect the outcome of the health and well being of the family. Some of those decisions…many of those decisions…are ones that a child may not like, but based on said adult experience are still the right ones to make. If you are best friends with your child, you may not be making the harder decisions and are setting up your child for some rough times ahead.
I fully expect that there will be moments in my daughter, Izzy’s, life where she proclaims to “hate” me for the boundaries that I set. She is only 6 and is already unhappy at times for the moments when I say “no” to her, but you know what…she also has a very clear and consistent understanding of what is ‘ok’ behavior and what is not and that makes her feel safe. It doesn’t keep her from trying to push my boundaries and that is completely natural for a child of 6 years old or a 17 year old to continue to see if the “rules” have changed, if the parent is paying attention and is consistent…or testing to see if the parent cares more about what the child thinks of them than they do with providing the future tools to thrive within a society that has rules. In fact that is a strategy that many kids learn to use to try to get what they want…to play on the fact that their parent or parents are human and care greatly about what people…what they, as their kid, think of them. Are they cool, do their friends like them…can they hang out and “shoot the shit” or drink a beer together. I have clients who regularly smoke pot with their kids in order to feel accepted and liked. Then, they punish their kids for bringing drugs into the house. Mixed messages are extremely confusing and detrimental to your kids.
Be a parent first…a friend second. The long term health of your child depends on it and they will respect you in the long run.