Inside: Kids need their parents to be their parents—not their friends. They need someone they can look up to, someone they can confide in, and someone who is willing to show tough love when necessary. By being a parent (and not a friend) and through hard work and consistent dedication, you can raise happy productive children who become amazing adults!
When my oldest son Jason was in preschool, I met the mother of one of his classmates. She told me her number one goal was to be her son’s friend. Her definition of “friend” was to be his “buddy, a pal, someone she could hang out with and have fun with.”
“Because,” she said, “I want my son to like me.”
For her parenting meant friendship.
So that’s what she and her husband became—pals, buddies, and friends to their two children. Discipline and boundaries were non-existent. Rules were a four-letter word. Expectations and being responsible were out. It was free-for-all “parenting.”
Parent Not a Friend
Contrary to what this mother defined as being a friend, Socrates said this about friendship, Think not those faithful who praise all thy words and actions; but those who kindly reprove thy faults.
In other words, a true friend doesn’t allow you to self-destruct.
Definitions aside, I do know from being a parent for 40 years to five boys, kids need their parents to be parents, not friends (wanting to be liked), not buddies, and definitely not pals. So, what DO children need from parents? Here are 10 important things:
10 Things Children Need From Their Parents
- #1 Someone to look up to
- #2 Someone to be an example
- #3 Someone to implement boundaries
- #4 Someone to discipline fairly
- #5 Someone to give sound advice
They also need:
- #6 Someone they can confide in
- #7 Someone who will listen to them
- #8 Someone who will spend time with them
And they need:
- #9 Parents who can teach them problem-solving skills, the importance of being responsible, and how to function in an increasingly challenging world
#10: Most of all, they need a parent who is not afraid to show tough love when the situation warrants it.
Parenting is Tough
I’ll admit—when his mother told me she wanted to be a buddy to her kids rather than a parent, it sounded a lot easier than what I was doing.
Parenting, if done right, is no walk in the park.
It’s tough. It’s not for the “faint-of-heart.” And, it requires more blood, sweat, and tears than you will ever encounter in a 9 to 5 job.
Why? Because parenting demands a huge investment of time (24/7), raw emotion, and gut-wrenching work.
But it’s also tremendously rewarding.
Being a parent can be the most fulfilling role on earth (so is grandparenting).
Unfortunately, you don’t see the “fruits of your labors” for years—like 18 years—when your children either become responsible, hard-working and bright adults…or something else. Yes, there are proud moments along the way, but the real “proof of the pudding” comes when you see them evolve into adults that can make a positive contribution to the world.
Dangers of Wanting Your Kids to “Like” You
I have no doubt that this young mother wanted the best for her son. She probably believed being a friend to her son was also a form of parenting. And a good form of parenting. She wanted what every parent wants—her child to like her.
Is that so bad?
It could be if it’s your most important goal.
There are many books and articles written on the dangers of parents wanting to be their child’s friend and all of them guard against it. One of my favorite books on the subject comes from Joseph A. Califano, the chair of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University
Califano is the author of How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid where he outlines for parents why it so important that they take their role as mentor and guide for their children as opposed to being a “pal” to their kids. He states:
“Above all, remember these words: Parents are not pals. In all your discussions and decisions, be careful not to cross the line from parenthood to friendship. Your job is not to be your child’s friend, but to be your child’s teacher, and source of parental love and discipline, to establish standards of conduct and to provide your child with a moral compass. Your children will not thank you for being a pal; at some point, they may wonder whether you care enough about them to be a parent.”
A Code for Parents: 8 Things You Need To Know
How many of you are old enough to have read “Ann Landers” or “Dear Abby” in your local newspaper? They were sisters and advice columnists. They are both deceased, but from the time I was a teen, I faithfully read their no-nonsense advice on every subject under the sun.
One of their columns published in 1978 struck me as important advice to parents. I cut it out, pinned it on the mirror, and read it every day.
Reverend C. Galea was assigned to Guelph Correctional Center in Ontario, Canada. It was a juvenile hall for boys. One day he asked the boys to think about their lives and why they ended up in this institution. The result: “A Code for Parents.” Their advice to their parents is still timely for all parents—even after 40 years. Their “Code” lets parents know with unmistakable clarity that kids need their parents to be parents and not their friends.
Here’s what these kids said:
- Keep Cool. Don’t lose your temper. We are great imitators.
- Don’t get strung out on booze or pills. When we see this, we get the idea that it’s okay to go for a bottle or capsule when things get heavy.
- Bug us. Be strict and consistent in dishing out discipline. Show us who’s boss. It gives us a sense of security.
- We need to look up to our parents. Don’t dress, dance, or talk like us. You look ridiculous.
- Light a candle. Show us the way. Tell us God is not dead or sleeping or on vacation. We need to believe in something bigger than ourselves.
- Scare the hell out of us. If you catch us lying or stealing get tough. When we need punishment, dish it out.
- Don’t be wishy-washy. Mean what you say.
- Be honest with us. Tell us the truth no matter what.
Pretty savvy advice from troubled kids who needed parents, not pals.
What happened to that young boy in my son’s preschool class?
His mother moved him from school to school because he couldn’t get along with his peers or his teachers. He had no goals, no ambition. He was bored with life. His parents made excuses for him. He started using drugs in middle school, dropped out of high school, and became a drifter.
I’ve often wondered if this young man’s life would have been different had his mother and father chosen to be his parents rather than his friends. I’m not saying there is a direct correlation between their choosing to be their son’s friend and his difficulties, but it does make me question if their form of parenting became the springboard that led to his many challenges.
You Can Be A Successful Parent
Anyone who is a parent will agree: parenting is hard work. Most the time there are no easy answers. Sometimes we do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, and react rather than act.
But being a parent means you are in it for the long haul. If you make mistakes (as you will) remember:
Course corrections are allowed. Don’t give up.
5 Tips to help you in your parenting journey:
- Read books about childrearing. Some favorites are: How Children Succeed by Paul Tough, Grit for Kids by Lee David Daniels, Grit by Angela Duckworth, Human Making is Our Mission: A Treatise on Parenting by Abhijit Naskar and Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential by Eileen Kennedy-Moore
- Take advice from successful parents who have “been there, done that.” Listen to parents of varying ages. In other words, don’t discount the advice of older parents.
- Spend time with your kids; talk to them; listen to them, and be there for them as their parent (more on this in other blogs)
- Do NOT ever confide personal information to your children. They are children and are not emotionally ready to hear your problems.
- Continue reading my blog
With hard work and consistent dedication, you too can raise happy, productive kids who become amazing adults.
Repeat after me: “I can do hard things. I can be a parent, not a friend.”
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