Author: Rachel Doherty | Tweens 2 Teen.

When parenting gets hard, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to be friends. But friendship isn’t what kids need from their parents.

We all want people to like us and see us as valuable. That’s hard when you live with kids who dwell in their self-centred world.

In relationships with tweens and teens, they often do all the taking and not much giving. So some parents try to even that up by acting as a friend to their kids. They plan outings together and take up hobbies with each other.

Rachel Doherty

“Chance makes our parents, but choice makes our friends.” – Jacques Delille

There’s nothing wrong with doing things with your kids or having passions in common. But doing that as a friend, rather than a parent can muddy the water. It can turn your relationship into a battle of needs, rather than one built on love.

Being friendly doesn’t mean that you’re friends

The parenting rule book doesn’t say that you can’t get on well with your kids. You can have a great time together in a friendly way without being best buddies.

Parents have a job to do in the lives of their children. It’s their role to shape kids for their adult lives. To help them understand who they are and where they fit in the world. That’s not something you can expect of a friend. In fact, most people would resent a friend stepping into that space.

Parenting is about creating a balanced relationship. One where kids can come with their problems, but also have their independence respected. And it’s not one where you unload all your burdens in exchange for theirs. That’s what their real friends are for.

Friendship is about equality

Parents have power over their kids, particularly when they’re young. You can decide where they live, and what school they go to. You can choose what they do in their free time and even step in if you don’t like their friends. Friends don’t have that sort of power.

People who chase a friendship with their kids start to give their power away. That’s all good if your child respects you and ensures that some of your needs get filled too. But that’s not something teenagers are naturally inclined to do.

The danger of trying to be friends with your kids is that you risk becoming like that kid at school who always wanted to be part of the in-crowd. You’ll be forever chasing their approval and be ripe for manipulation.

Parents who pursue friendships often feel they have to give their kids what they want to feel loved. This is the permissive style of parenting, which isn’t good for you or your kids. Instead create a relationship that has a good mix of authority, respect, and friendliness. You can find out more in my article on parenting styles.

“I’m a believer in the parent first, friend second philosophy, and trying to find that balance.” – Jenna Fischer

Our kids don’t need us to be friends with them

Life is about having different relationships. The good life involves close relationships with at least a couple of family members. People who accept us unconditionally and will always welcome us home.

We also need some good friendships. People we can depend on in tough times and hang out with when things are going well. And we need some connections in the world of work too. We spend too much time in our job not to have a least one kindred spirit there.

A friend can’t fill the role of a parent. It’s a parent’s arms that can provide the greatest comfort in times of trouble. And their resources can get kids out of a tricky spot in a way a friend can’t. We shouldn’t see being a parent as somehow lesser than being a friend.

If you want to have a great relationship with your kids, it’s about owning your role as a parent.

Value your place in their lives as their most important teacher and guide. See the best in them and encourage them to chase more of that. And set a great example of the adult life that they’ll be attracted to.

If you need some help with this, have a look at my article on the five secrets to raising great teenagers. A good relationship with your kids will be a friendly and fun one!

What do you think? Is there a difference between parents who are friendly and parents who seek to be friends? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Rachel Doherty