Blurring the Lines: Friending your Child
For 30-something-year-old parents, like me, being a friend to your child has its perks. But do you think parents should be friends with their children?
Some of my friends say yes… that “in this day and age a parent should be friends enough with their child to keep up with them”. I agree. Then I have the older folks sticking to their old rules of child rearing. My aunt says, “There must be boundaries between parents and children. They have to know their place”.
But what is a child’s place in their relationship with their parents? The old-time concept of raising a child was knowing that your parents were the authority figures. In some households, you couldn’t laugh until they laughed. And whatever you wanted to do, you had to ask and wait for permission. Nowadays, children are doing what they want, how they want it, and are not even giving their parents any kind of regard. So nurturing a balanced parent-child relationship requires some strict rules, with a pinch of flexibility.
I draw the line when it comes to respecting me. My relationship with my son may lack the old-fashioned way of raising a child, but my role as the authority figure is maintained. And it’s not compromised with me giving him an X-Box, Play Station, Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP, or iPod to do so. Some parents go overboard with being their child’s friend by overloading on the gift giving. Being that I am a single mother, I don’t have the contribution of a co-parent. I have my limits. And I don’t equate gift giving with building a relationship. It spoils a child’s expectation of their parent.
Considering the era that we’re in, the traditional role of parents has changed. And my role is completely different to that of my mother, and grandparents. My son is 14 years old, and his Facebook account is controlled by… drum roll please… moi. Why does he have a Facebook account? Well, it’s more of me allowing him to grow with his age group. He couldn’t get the account, unless he agreed to my rules. I monitor his Internet use, and I have the joyful task of running searches on my laptop and computer for sites that he visited… whether he likes it or not.
In this case, my friendship with him wasn’t in charge. I was in full parent mode, concerned about child predators online, and a different type of peer pressure that involves arranging meet ups with strangers on the Internet, or being friends with people on Twitter, Facebook, ooVoo, YouTube, Tumblr who you’ve never met. And it’s a rule he respects because of our multidimensional relationship.
Parents’ primary role is to be a caregiver, and being anything else other than that can seem odd for some people. But maintaining a friendship with children shouldn’t be that off beat for a parent. And when you think about it, a parent is a child’s first friend. The bond a parent creates with a child has to be a balance between the two roles. When children become pre-teens and teens, their friendship with their parents should already be intact, despite the ups and downs that occur along the way. That friendship helps to make a parent more approachable.
Surely there is a boundary between parent and child. One rules the other. But there is no blueprint on how to raise your child. And no one says that being a parent means being separated from your child emotionally. If your role as parent is inflexible, it will affect the type of relationship you have with your child/children. A bond is necessary. And though your child has friends within his or her age group, it wouldn’t hurt to develop a friendship with your child as well.
Having a certain level of friendship with your child can be a bridge to keeping your child on the right track. Peer pressure is very influential, so creating a friendship where your child feels comfortable to talk with you helps. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying be your child’s best friend. That’s for someone in his or her own age group (and yes I know some of you may say, “but my Mom is my best friend”, but that’s my take).
Being a friend doesn’t mean you have to be ‘in the know’ with what’s hip. Being a friend doesn’t mean you have to like Lil Wayne or Justin Bieber too. The type of friendship you should have with your child is one where they’re comfortable enough to even have their friends around, and share other aspects of their life with you.
My role as both mother and father can be a task sometimes. I have to balance the two. It’s tiring for me, and sometimes confusing for him. So I have learned to incorporate mother-son moments. I started this tradition with my son right after my divorce from his father. Not only did it give me a chance to spend time with him, but it also helped to fill a void. I have one day scheduled where my son and I spend the entire day together, which helps to build our friendship.
Our friendship is important because I want him to be able to come to me with anything. If I’m too rigid, most likely he will turn away from coming to me with anything that might be bothering him. My role as his mother is to make sure that I guide him, not to keep him at a distance and overly control him.
Some people fear that their children may think that their parent is a friend first, and a parent after. But as the old saying goes, “monkey know which tree to climb”. I think that if you maintain clear rules of engagement, and remain approachable and flexible in nurturing children, they’ll know “which tree to climb”, and show respect.
What do you think? Do you think being a friend to your child blurs the boundaries of your authority?