Do I consider myself my teen daughter’s best friend? No, nor do I aim to be. Do I consider myself a friend to my daughter? Yes, or at least I hope so.
Does being my daughter’s friend mean that I have no authority over her? No, as a parent my role is to ensure that I raise a happy, healthy and productive addition to society – and letting my kids run wild doing whatever they want without accountability won’t achieve the “healthy addition to society” thing I’m aiming for.
So, the age-old debate of whether a parent can be a teen or child’s friend depends on how a person defines what a friend is. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the top definition for the word friend is “one attached to another by affection or esteem,” followed by “one that is not hostile.”
Most healthy parents show that they hold their children in high esteem when they hold high expectations of them and have great amounts of love or affection for their teens – even if they set curfews, assign chores or expect respectful behavior.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publication titled “Parenting Styles and Healthy Parent-Child Relationships” identifies four types of parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, neglectful and dismissive.
Authoritative parenting, a style when parents show kindness and support while setting boundaries and providing guidance, had the best outcomes for children resulting in lower rates of substance abuse, violence and risky behaviors.
I believe that a parent can be both authoritative and a friend. In fact, a good friend should want what’s best for their companion, and there are plenty of unsaid rules and expectations in friendship, such as making time for each other, lending an ear and being trustworthy – which, coincidentally, are all traits parents can have with their children.
I have a high school aged daughter and I am not claiming to be the perfect parent – because, as any parent would know, they don’t exist. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but through these 14 years of motherhood, I’ve learned a few skills that make me a friendly parent. First and foremost, I tell my children that it is because I love them that I try to protect them and expect them to do their best.
Second, I try my hardest to make time for my kids. My high schooler could take the bus to school, but I choose to drive her. Those 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon are golden because I get a rundown of what’s going through her brain.
Sometimes, kids don’t want to open up to their parents, and that’s when being a good communicator and listener is essential. I’ve learned that for my kids to share with me, I need to share with them. I’ll share stories from my childhood, my goals and my daily happenings.
We always make sure to sit down for dinner together. This strengthens our family bond and gives everyone an opportunity to talk about what’s going on in their lives. We also laugh a lot as a family. I’m not afraid to make fun of myself, and I think my kids appreciate that. It brings me down from the parental stage. Laughing together makes a parent approachable.
Today, I asked my daughter if she considered me a friend. Thankfully, she said yes.
Do you agree that parents should not be friends with their kids? Read the opposing viewpoint here and then weigh in on the discussion in the comments.