Many times parents will say that it isn’t important to be liked or not- the kids need to learn right from wrong and this isn’t a popularity contest. Others also say that you can’t be friends with your children. You need to be the parent and you must be respected. I would like to explore this “parental friendship” thing a little bit more.
I have known outstanding parents who are as friendly as can be with their children. They goof around together and mess with each other’s hair just like siblings do. I have heard parents giggling with their children like fifth grade girls at a sleepover. I have heard children giving their parents advice on how to dress. How do these parents get by acting as friends with their children and, at the same time, produce such fun, loving and smart kids? How can these kids turn out well without punishment, rules, consequences and discipline?
I have talked to some parents who have this friendship “thing” going on with their children. I can paraphrase my conclusions like this: If you are fun to be around, if you aren’t critical, controlling and negative, if you truly enjoy your children and life, your children are going to be easy to deal with. They are going to want to hang out with you. They are going to seek you out when they want advice and comfort. They are going to respect and follow your suggestions and your requests most of the time. They will want to become like you.
Some parents have to make rules and set up consequences in order to get their children to do or not do things. Other parents don’t ever play the rule and consequence game. These friendship-friendly parents would much rather be parents who elicit good behavior and mutual respect from their children naturally than those who have to punish to get it. When a parent has to punish and control a child to get good behavior and demand respect, most likely the child is going to behave correctly just to get the parent off his back. More than likely, bad behavior will recur. How many kids do you find on the streets, in jail or in the principal’s office whose parents are fun, openly loving, kind, happy and respectful to their children?
You can discipline and control all you want in hopes of raising happy, successful children filled with good self-esteem, but if you are the model for whom they are supposed to become, ask yourself what is in it for them? What is it about you that is so awesome that your children would want to become like you? This is a tough question, and makes for some very uncomfortable soul searching, but it is really important to do. You are a very big part of the reason your children behave the way they do.
If you are not a friendship-friendly parent, it isn’t too late to become one. Apologies are always a great place to start. It is okay to be wrong and make mistakes. You are a human. A lot of times when parents are too controlling and no fun to be around it is because they take themselves and life too seriously. Become comfortable with mistakes- especially your own. Start becoming humorous and fun with your children. Once they start enjoying you, you will add ten years to your life because this will change your entire parenting paradigm. Most of the conflict will disappear and you will start enjoying parenting for once. Tell your children your feelings. Tell them your fears. Be honest with them. Let them know you aren’t perfect. Above all, tell them how much you love and appreciate them and then mess up their hair.