“Don’t be best friends with your children. They don’t need you to be their buddy. They need you to be their parent!!” Have you heard this advice? It sounds so wonderful and I have pondered this question for many years with my 6 children. I have not only listened to those who say this, but I have also watched. I watched to see their relationship with their own children. Sadly, I fear that many who have said this have taken it way too literally and are not friends…or barely even friendly…to their own children. That cannot be right!
I have also witnessed the other extreme. Parents who are intimidated by their children. They try to fulfill every single thing their child demands because they are terrified their children will get mad at them and not like them anymore. This is really the epitome of “parental insecurity”.
I know, like everything else in life, there is a balance to this parent vs. friend discussion. I will state right up front that I do not like the previous mentioned comment…..because…it’s my blog and I am allowed to state things right up front. Just not liking it is not good enough for my decisions, so allow me to share why I think that statement is wrong.
1. I do not know how to not be my child’s best friend.
Parenting is a lot of work. Pregnancy, delivery, sleepless nights, dirty diapers, toddlers, hormonal teens, messy rooms, dirty clothes, tons of cooking…need I go on? I did not have children just to make me a parent. There wouldn’t be enough benefit in it. Just a lot of work. All of that work and no friendship = eventual resentment. No thanks! I had children because I love kids. I love their giggles, their snuggles, their love notes, their pictures, their logic and reasoning, their creativity and their simple faith in the goodness of this life. They make the absolute best friends in the world. They always see the best in me and they are so forgiving when I mess up with them. No matter how hard I would try, I could never ever not be best friends with my kids. My heart would break.
2. I don’t believe it is all or nothing.
The idea that if you are your child’s friend then you can’t be their parent is so one sided. It is assuming that you can only be one or another. It is saying that I can only be his parent or be his friend, but by no way could I ever be both. I don’t agree. I believe that it is possible to be a friend and a parent. I know that sometimes it is challenging to find that balance, but I believe that it is possible. I actually believe that the more of a real friendship that you have with your children, the less you have to play the “I’m the parent” card.
When you share a sweet friendship, you desire to please one another, to help one another and to not hurt each others feelings. You can’t stand for something to be in the way of the sweet friendship that you have and you get things right much quicker. I believe that it is similar to the marriage relationship. I did not marry just to have a new boss in my life. I married my best friend because I could not imagine living the rest of my life without him. There are times in our marriage, when he has to be the spiritual leader in our home and make decisions even if I don’t agree, but those times are far and few between because of our deep friendship. I believe I can be friends with my husband and still be married, and I believe that I can be friends with my children and still be the parent.
3. I want to be a parent like God.
When I analyze and review my parenting, I constantly come back to one example – the parenting style of my Heavenly Father. I fall so terribly short, but my hearts desire is to be a reflection of God to my kids. If I ask myself, “Does God want to be my friend?”, I am led to search for the answer in Scripture.
We are told in the Bible that God talked to Moses as a friend (Exodus 33:11), Abraham was called the friend of God (James 2:23), Proverbs is full of verses about friends that so aptly applies to the relationship between parents and children (Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loveth at all times…; Proverbs 27:6 – Faithful are the wounds of a friend…; Proverbs 27:9 – Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel…; Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.) Jesus called many His friends….even Judas who betrayed Him. Wow, that alone is thought-provoking isn’t it?
I am convinced through the example of my Heavenly Father and the relationship He desires with us, that He would not look down from Heaven and say, “I can’t be your friend. I am only your parent.” I am so very thankful that He is my Father and that He desires a precious friendship with me. The sweeter our friendship, the less God has to use His authority because I will more willingly submit to His leadership in my life because I know that He not only says He loves me, but I know that He desires a relationship with me. I am His girl and He delights in me! That, my friend, is what I desire for my children to feel about my relationship with them.
So, let me say, “Be best friends with your children and be their parent. It is possible because God shows us how to do it!”