Tuesday, June 21, 2011

5 Words That Have Nothing To Do With Friendship With My Child Or Anyone Else

If you ever talk about the idea of parents and children being friends, you may hear some concerns from people. The concerns usually include at least one of the following five words, which, to me, have nothing to do with friendship:

Word #1: Burden. As in, It's inappropriate to burden your child with your adult problems.

Apparently, some people worry that when a parent thinks of her child as a friend, she will lose her ability to filter what comes out of her mouth. I use discretion with all of my friends. I have some friends who I talk to about some topics, but never about others. And even for my closest friend who I will normally talk to about almost everything, I will hold something back if I know she is under a lot of stress or particularly sensitive about a certain issue. I selectively share thoughts, feelings, and problems with my friends, so as not to burden them. I would do the same for my child.

Word #2: Afraid. As in, You're just afraid your children won't like you.

I do think it's important that my children like me. How can I hope they will want to spend time with me and talk to me if they don't like me? But friendships aren't always perfect. Friends can disagree and upset each other at times. Instead of being afraid my friend won't like me afterwards, I sincerely apologize and try to explain or rectify the situation. I am not motivated by fear in a true friendship with anyone, especially not my child. 

Word #3: Hostage. As in, You might be held hostage by your child, always having to put his needs first.

When my children are very young, they are not always able to understand and consider my needs. The friendships may look lopsided, just as some of my adult friendships do when one of us is going through difficult times. But I trust that if my children grow up being treated like my friends, they will know how to be friends. I look forward to great friendships with both of them. A war involves hostages. In some parent-child relationships, the child is almost like a hostage. But friendship does not involve hostages. 

Word #4: Slave. As in, You will be your child's slave if you try to be his friend.

Parents are warned against doing nice things for their children, because the kids may come to expect them all the time. In a parenting book I read once, there was a chapter called "Never Give Away the Ice Cream," in which the author advised never to treat your child with anything unless you use it as a reward for good behavior. I prefer to treat my children for no reason other than that I love them, just as I would for my friends. I don't mind if my kids expect me to be nice to them. In a friendship, people get to do nice things for each other without worrying about "setting up expectations" or becoming slaves. 

I give away the ice cream.

Word #5: Manipulate. As in, If you don't establish your authority, it will be easier for your child to manipulate you.

I choose not to see my child as "manipulating" me when she is trying to get her needs met. I encourage her to communicate openly with me, but I accept that she is always expressing her needs in the best way she knows how at any given time. My children have no need to manipulate me, as long as I take their needs seriously. When a friend tells me she needs something, I respond to that need as best I can and as soon as possible, without accusing her of manipulating me. I do the same for my children.
    I am lucky to have a few amazing friends, from whom and with whom I have learned how wonderful a true friendship can be. And I have found that it is exactly the kind of relationship I would love to have with my children. So I'm doing my part to make that happen. And I'm aware of, but not worried about any of the things listed above. Those words don't describe any friendship I want to be a part of, with my children or with anyone else.


    I'm NOT saying "You have to be friends with your child, otherwise you are a bad parent." I'm NOT saying I'm a better mom than you because I parent this way. I'm saying this is how I choose to parent, and I love it. I'm saying it's possible to be friends with your child without disastrous consequences.

    Have you heard other ones that I missed?


    1. Yeah, man. After all, aren't we all fearful manipulated slaves of our friends? ;)

    2. I love your blog it always makes me think!

      Another word I would throw is consistency - I know that word is banded around a lot in parenting books that don't suit your (or my) style of parenting - many parents I have come across as a teacher try and be best friends with their child one minute and the dictator the next. Again you wouldn't do this with your adult friends.

      Before I had my own child the idea I had of a parent being friends with their child was one where a parent did anything to keep the child happy. This is also not a true friendship. If an adult friend wants to do something I don't want to do or I don't think is a sensible choice for her sometimes I'll do that thing but other times I'll say no.

      Anyway, I just thought I'd add my random thoughts, I hope you don't mind!

    3. I don't understand why people fear the word "friend" so much.

    4. What is a friend?

    5. "A friend is somebody you give up last cookie for." --Cookie Monster

    6. @mot par mot, Haha.

      @Beth, I love the feedback! Definitely share when you have something to add. You are right about the extremes. That must be so confusing for the kids! To me, there is no reason to be a dictator. I think friendship covers most of what I want with my kids.

      @Amy D, I know! There is so much fear around the word. I think most objections to it seem to be knee-jerk reactions. If we think it through, it seems like friendship is a pretty amazing thing to have with our kids.

      @Anonymous, I included my definition of "friends" in my last post, but here it is again: "Friends talk to each other, confide in each other, listen to each other. Friends like spending time together. Friends appreciate each other. Friends trust each other. If having all of this with my children is wrong, then I don't want to be right."