It is tempting, especially for new parents, to make their children the center of their universe. For the first few years of your baby’s life, this is perfectly understandable, but once you are able to hold conversations with your child, the role you play in his or her life must be made clear. As Dr. Francisco Kovacs said, ”Parents can decide to be friends of their kids, but they have to be aware that they’re leaving them orphans.” Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t be your kid’s buddy.
You are not your child’s peer. You are not equals. Having this structure is actually something that your child needs for a sense of safety, guidance, and belonging. Until your child becomes an adult, you are not his friend. A friend will not impose discipline, boundaries, or age-appropriate chores. A friend won’t actively connect your actions to consequences, or hold you completely accountable in a difficult moment. Your child will have a lot of friends growing up and only two parents. So be the best parent you can be, have that open relationship of love and support, but be clear about who you are and who your children are in this relationship.
Parents need to quit being afraid of denying their kids things that may not be in their best interest. The fact is, your main job as a parent is to love your children, and loving them doesn’t mean making them happy all the time or giving them everything they want. Loving them means raising them to be healthy, decent human beings. You and your child are not co-decision makers in any realistic way. Kids can offer you their opinion. They can tell you what they like and dislike. But remember, their well-being is more important than their opinion of you. Because certain decisions, especially important ones, have to be made by you, the parent. Kids have to understand that the family moves as a unit and the adults make the decisions. Children are not supposed nor equipped to run your household.
If we demonstrate to our children that our emotions aren’t dependent on anyone or anything outside of ourselves, we send the all-important message that we are each responsible for the way we feel. We are not victims of circumstance, but masters of our hearts. Our relationships–be it with our parents or friends–can only offer us guidance or share in the joy or sadness we have, but they are not the source of it. Teach children early that how they feel is a choice that they are making moment to moment whether consciously or unconsciously, not something that someone else caused/bought/did to them, or they will always look externally for situations to be arranged a certain way before they decide to be happy.
As much as we want to be a part of everything that goes on in our kids’ lives, we shouldn’t be. The goal of adolescence is individuation–separation from us. That means that children should have their own business, beliefs, and rules that they are not going to want to share with adults. Forming their own set of friends, developing their own values–regardless if we agree with them or not are just some of the things our kids will need to work through on their own. How else can they be their own person?
Like your husband. Remember him? Or someone emotionally, mentally, and morally capable of communicating with you on your level. Join a mom group. Or just reconnect with your best friends. It’s healthy for you and it’s healthy for your children. Parenting is hard. It is also infinitely rewarding. Having friends to go through it all with you makes the journey more beautiful.