Are you a Parent or a Friend?

Shirley loves to brag about how she is a friend to her 13-year-old daughter.  Her home has become the neighborhood hangout with local kids coming there daily to ‘chill’.  She takes great pride is saying, “They tell me EVERYTHING!”

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?  I sure do.  Here's why;

  1. Friends only say yes.  Parents, however, must provide structure and guidance – and that translates into rules as well as discipline.
  2. Parents are not the equals of their children.  As a parent, you must make important decisions about your child’s life – where they go to school, how they maintain their health, how they spend their time, etc.  Children are simply not capable of making these decisions.  As they age, they will gradually be able to make these decisions but they first must have been taught how to do it by the parents.
  3. Friends never correct their friends.  It is the parent’s job to instill important values like honesty, kindness, work ethic and respect, while correcting poor behaviors.

Here is another concern.  As time goes by, Shirley's friends will do what young teens do best - test the boundaries.  They will begin doing things in Shirley's home that they are not allowed to do with their parents.  It may be swearing, smoking cigarettes, going to her house as a place to escape their parents when being disciplined, hanging out there instead of going to school, talking openly about inappropriate, illegal, or dangerous, activities they are involved in, possibly beginning to experiment with alcohol.  At what point will Shirley move to an adult-like stance and set some boundaries?  I have worked with many women like Shirley over the years.  Sadly, they are often so invested in being friends they fool themselves into believing they are providing something valuable for these young people.  They don't stop their friends from doing anything.  In addition, they are subverting the authority of the parents and school officials.  Shirley really cares more about being popular with young people than she does about providing real guidance - which sometimes means saying the word she hates, "No."

Sure, sometimes it is easier to be the “good guy” and get the hugs and adulation from children and their friends.   Sorry.  Your child deserves - and needs - the structure and guidance only a parent can provide. This does not mean your relationship will be that of judge and jailer.  Far from it!  By providing loving guidance, your relationship will be rich and full of love.  You will be doing what you inherently promised to do when making the decision to be a parent.  You will parent.