Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Society Tells Us About Being Friends With Our Children (And Why It's Nonsense)

Dear Parents,
You should worry about who your child's friends are, because his friends will be very influential in his life. His friends will have an affect on his self-esteem, his eating habits, his chances of doing drugs, and lots of other important things.
You should combat this possible negative influence by trying to be influential in your child's life.
But you must do this while never attempting to be your child's friend. Don't ask why. Trying to talk about it will only make us angry. So just don't do it. Good luck.
But I wonder:

Is there a better way to ensure that your child has good friends who are positive influences, than to be one of them?

Is there a better way to keep in touch with what is going on in your child's life?

Is there a better way to develop trust and mutual respect with your child?

I'm not talking about being a friend instead of a parent. And I'm not talking about fake "friendship" where we are desperately seeking approval from our kids, or trying to be cool like Amy Poehler's character in Mean Girls. My definition of friendship does not include any of these things.

Not like this (source)

I'm talking about friendship. Real friendship. And all of the wonderful things that go with it. Love. Respect. Trust. Acceptance. Comfort. Fun. Laughter.

I'm talking about treating my children as I would treat a dear friend, who I invited into my life. One whose company I enjoy. One whose relationship with me is extremely valuable.

If you think you might ever want your child to consider you a friend, like when he's grown and can choose how much time to spend with you, I suggest you start now. Don't take any chances on whether he will someday forgive you for the unfriendly things you might do in the name of "good parenting." Don't set yourself up to have to explain why you felt like you had to be cruel or tough "for his own good." It may be too late by then.

It's never too soon to start.

Don't try to prepare your child for dealing with the inevitable unhappiness he will someday face by doling out doses of unhappiness in childhood. Instead prepare him by giving him the gift of your unwavering friendship, which will be there as long as you are alive, to help him through those unhappy times.

Don't be afraid to be a friend to your child. There's nothing scary about it. What's good for your child is what's good for your relationship with him.

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