Parents who double up as friends
Some adults get along with kids like a house on fire. It’s a delight to watch the beautiful friendship between a parent and a child…
What is different about this kind of parent-child relationship? Is it necessary to be friends with your kids? Will that help the parenting process? Let’s look at all of these questions and more in this article.
Many a times, parents and kids do not share a bond of friendship. This is simply because such a bond is consciously not established. Also, friendship calls for beautiful qualities like respect, trust, equality, honesty, listening, open communication etc, which do not have space to develope in a disciplinarian relationship.
When kids are young, they need a guiding hand. They need someone to look up to. Someone who shows the way. At the point, you are not exactly friends with your kids maybe, and that’s alright. However, as your kids develop, your role as a parent has to have an element of friendship. The sooner you can develop this equation with your child, the better it will be. Many parents feel this shouldn’t occur with their child until they are an adult—which I think is a bad idea. The sooner you become friends with your kids, the better your relationship will thrive.
Being friends with kids could be an alien concept for us Indian parents, many of whom have grown up in a patriarchal society where a parent-child relationship is respectful, and never necessarily friendly. However, that mindset is buried under now. To get through to our kids, we need to befriend them.
But an equation of friendship can be balanced with a guiding hand and a positive, uplifting attitude from parents. All parents want their kids to respect certain rules and live by them. However, these rules need not be drilled into them. In fact, what work better than rules you know? Values. Instilling values in our kids go a long way in fostering good, respectful, loving behavior.
Kids definitely need rules and discipline so that they are safe and they lead good lives. But once they know to differentiate dangerous from safe, good from evil, and love from hurt, you can let them be a little. In fact, this is when you can begin building true friendship with your kids.Only an authoritarian approach to parenting will be dismal and not beautiful. You don’t want that. Once your kids grow up, they will start feeling that you don’t trust and respect them enough and they may not confide in you then. Whereas, if you can build a respectful, loving, friendship with your child, it will be a thrilling and wonderful journey for you and your kids. That’s when they will be comfortable to discuss the most important issues which arise in their life.
For example, most parents find it challenging to deal with their teenage kids. However, those parents who have an open, friendly relationships with their kids tend to tide over this phase wonderfully. It sort of boils down to trust, open communication, mutual respect, and realistic expectations.
If you tend to yell and scream at your kids, growing up, they will not have a lot of respect for you. More often than not, how we say things to our kids as important as what we say to them.
True friendship has communication which is respectful, fair and balanced. If a child feels that their views are disregarded and their feelings aren’t validated—even if they’re wrong or acting childish—then in return they disregard the views and feelings of their parents.this is easier said than done and is mighty challenging. But it is the parent’s responsibility to create a conducive, friendly atmosphere at home.
Fostering acceptance is also key to developing friendship with your kids
Being friends with your kids does not mean that you have to accept every view of their’s or everything that they do. It just means that you have to accept them for who they are. For how that they are in that moment. It is a lot about not imposing our views on them but respecting their individuality and uniqueness. And finding a way to communicate the differences respectfully.
At the end of the day, it is about making a child feel respected even if they know that the parent doesn’t agree with them.
If as a parent, if you expect you kids to behave in a certain way all the time, it’s a lost cause. If the rules are hard on them, they are never going to know that you understand them. Tough love is key here. Respect and rules need to go hand in hand.
Kids tend to rebel. That’s how they discover their voice. But that doesn’t mean that you will always let them have their way and not care about having any rules. The rules need to chosen wisely and implemented flexibly. You need to be comfortable discussing disagreements with them respectfully.
Yet if the child feels respected and listened to, the guidance that their parent is offering is more likely to be warmly received. This is even more powerful if they have developed a strong friendship with them in their early years because a child wants to hear their advice.
When you share a bond of friendship and your kids feel close to you, they are open to listening to you. They always look up to you and even like your advice. Great communication is key here. They tend to engage with you in an open responsive fashion if you do that too, keeping the age difference aside.
Ofcourse this calls for a change in attitude in parents. We need to know that we have grown up in a different era and our kids are growing up in a different one. The world is changing and we need to adapt our thought processes accordingly. Old ways don’t work everywhere.
In this case, it is important to “agree to disagree” so that the respect of the friendship can be maintained. We do this with our friends all the time—we don’t force them to think and act the way we do, so why should we expect our kids to, especially when they are growing into their independent adult selves.
And the best part is that it’s never too late for parents and kids to create true friendship. You can do it any time with a dash of empathy, oodles of respect, lots of communication, garnished with openness, fair judgement, love and compassion. Just remember, treat them the way you want to be treated and you would have won adorable friends for life.