“I’m not your friend.” Many parents proudly say these words to their children today. Then they add, “I’m your parent and I love you.” What we are not considering is what those words sound like to the child. How would you feel if someone close to you said, “I’m not your friend“? Would you even hear the words that followed? I wouldn’t.
In reality, when you break it down, what is the opposite of friend? It’s adversary or enemy. The opposite of friend is not parent. Do we really want to teach our children that parents are not their friends? Do we want to voluntarily sign up to be adversaries? I don’t think so.
Who do you go to when you’re sad or confused? Who do you go to when you want advice or a listening ear? Your friends. Guess what? Kids do the same thing. They go to their friends when they need someone. If we announce “I am not your friend,” we are closing a really important door. Friends are the people we trust. What’s a parent if they are not someone we know we can trust? A parent needs to be a friend.
To clarify, I’m not talking about being a “peer” friend. If you are struggling with that part, you simply need to clarify and step into the parental role that you hold. That can be done with some coaching or counseling. When a parent is clear on their role, so is the child. Then you don’t have to worry about losing your power by being their friend; they know you hold the final say. We do not want to accidentally push our kids away. They have so many distractions and families are so busy. We need to bridge the communication gap, not make it wider.
If you think about a team, there are coaches and there are players. They all work together and they have very defined roles. The coach sometimes practices with the players to show them new skills, listens when they need a listening ear, pushes them at times, and gives them a break when needed. In all of that flexibility, the coach is always the coach and the players know it. In a family team, the parent is the coach and the kids are the players. Clear leadership in the family is crucial.
Life is about relationships, connection, heart and love. When you are working through something as a family, the first thing you want to ensure is that you are connected. Nothing happens if nothing is getting through. If you pull rank by saying, “I’m not your friend,” you have pulled the plug on connection as well. They won’t care about what you have to say because you just told them you don’t care about how they feel (even though that is not your intention).
Come alongside your children in their highs and lows. Listen. Share wisdom. Partner with them. Be their friend. Do that from early on and they will seek you out when they need information and guidance later. If you need help bridging the gap between being a healthy friend and a healthy parent, let me know. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation, individual sessions, group coaching and classes. I would be happy to help.
Traci L. Williams is known for her intuitive and practical parenting style. Her free parenting newsletter is available at www.alovingway.com. She can be reached directly at 951-240-1407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.