Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I’m going to talk about a statement that I frequently hear and it goes something like this “I’m their parent, not their friend.” Well, today I’m going to challenge this idea with my own statement: “A good parent is their child’s unconditional friend.” I know this is going against everything people say when they are talking about parenting so let’s get into it!
Let’s start by considering what a parent’s job is. First and foremost it is a parent’s job to ensure that the child is safe and their needs are being met. Their second job is to train that child in how to be a successful adult in the society in which they live. Those are the two things that parents are supposed to be doing for their child, that’s the job description.
Now, I’ve recently made a post about what it is to be a good friend. I recommend that you go check that out over here. Because we will be talking a lot about those ideas in this post.
When we look at the list of 12 things that I think need to be present for a good friendship, I would argue that there is only one of those things that is not required to be present in a good parent child relationship. That one thing is number 12. A parent child relationship does not need to be reciprocal. It can be and it is nice when it is, but a good parent expects absolutely nothing in return from their child. The thing is that your child did not decide to be a part of this relationship. You made that commitment, not them. Because of that, you really can’t hold them to a commitment they never agreed to. Being born into your life doesn’t in anyway make them in debt to you nor do they owe you anything in return for your parenting. When we became a parent, we decided to take on ALL the responsibility of that relationship. That’s the agreement we made by becoming a parent.
Thus, as parents, we can choose to become our child’s unconditional friend. Yes, this friendship will always be different then any other friendship that they have in life, even once they are an adult and you are no longer responsible for their safety or meeting their needs. This friendship will be different because of the unconditional nature in which that friendship is given. No other friendship should be given under unconditional terms.
A good friend is someone that is present. This means that you are going to attend their games or chess meets. Whatever it is that your kid is into. You are going to spend time with them on your days off; engaging in leisure activities together. You have to spend time with you child if you want to have a relationship with your child. So, that’s not unlike being your child’s friend. It also is in no way in conflict with the two jobs that you have as a parent. Spending time with your child is a great way to make sure that they are safe and their needs are being met. Spending time with them is about the only way that you can teach them, so if you want to do your second job then you’ll need to spend time with them.
Good Friend item 1 is parenting compatible. Hell, it’s a parenting requirement, really.
The second thing that makes a good friend is that you can trust them. Trusting someone means that you feel safe with them. This is definitely something a good parent works towards. You want your child to feel safe with and to feel that they can trust you. That’s essential to having a good relationship with your child.
Good Friend item 2 is parenting compatible. Well, this one is also a requirement for good parenting. So the score sits at 2 out of 2 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
Good friends accept you as you are. Just like any other person on the planet, our child are going to be imperfect beings. This means that there are going to be things that we like about are child and things that we don’t like about our child. That’s the nature of people. But a good parent is going to focus on the things that they like about their child and accept that their child is not a perfect being. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, what ever hot garbage out child has is our fault because whether it is nature or nurture, we gave it to them. But we also gave them their gold and diamonds. Okay this is only true for as long as your child is little. Once they start learning from their teachers and peers they can collect garbage and shit from other people. The point here is to remember that you had a major hand in making what ever they are.
Good Friend item 3 is parenting compatible and also on the list of things that good parents do. That makes the score 3 out of 3 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
Good friends respect your boundaries. If you are a friend to your child, you will respect their boundaries. This means that you will not hug them when they ask you not to. This means that you will call them by their preferred nickname, not the one that you wanted to use. Being respectful of your child’s boundaries will teach them how to properly set their boundaries and will help them stay safe. When you teach them that they have the final say over their own bodies they won’t allow a stranger to touch them inappropriately because they will understand that this is inappropriate boundaries. When you teach them that they have the final say in how other treat them they won’t accept a peer calling them names and being disrespectful to them because they will understand that this is a violation of their boundaries. Teaching your child good boundaries is teaching your child how to remain safe.
Good friend item 4 is parenting compatible and also on the list of things that good parents do. In fact, it is something that goes directly towards the primary job of parenting: keeping our child safe. That makes the score 4 out of 4 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
Good friends have your best interest in mind. So, yeah. I don’t think that we need any discussion here. Good parents have their child’s best interest in mind. Which means that Good Friend item 5 is parenting REQUIRED. If you don’t have your child’s best interest in mind then what’s going on? Seriously, this is legal grounds for removing your child from your custody in this country (USA). This is the grounds that children are taken in cases of abuse and neglect. That abuse and neglect is the evidence that the parent doesn’t have the child’s best interest in mind. This brings that score to 5 out 5 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
Good friends give emotional space. When a parent chooses to be their child’s friend, they choose to give their emotions space. They allow their children to have their feelings and help them learn how to properly regulate and express those feelings. Giving emotional space does not mean accepting inappropriate or unsafe behaviors. This harkens back to teaching your child good boundaries and keeping them safe. Both things are also things that good friends do. When a parent accepts their child’s feelings without judgement, they are teaching their child that their feelings are important and they are cared about. When they teach a child appropriate ways to express those feelings they are teaching their child good boundaries and helping learn how to maintain safety even in the presence of big emotions. These are essential life skills.
Good Friend item 6 is parenting compatible and on the list of things that a good parent does. That brings the score to 6 out of 6 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
A good friend listens. A parent will best support their child by listening to them. Giving them time to talk about everything and anything that matters to them helps solidify the feeling that they are important to the parent and that what they are thinking and feeling matters. The relationship that a child has with their parent is one of their first and goes a long way to teaching them what a good healthy relationship looks like. If the parent gives that child plenty of room to express their ideas they are going to feel that is a valued part of a relationship. Not to mention that allowing your child to talk to you freely when they are a toddler and young child will instill in them that you can be trusted with their thoughts and that you care about their thoughts. This will set the stage for them talking to you during their adolescent years when they are struggling with the transition into adult.
Good Friend item 7 is parenting compatible and is also on the list of things that a good parent does. That brings our score to 7 out 7 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
Good friends are loyal. Everything you do, everything you say and all that you are is invested in your relationship with your friend. You’re determined to be a successful friendship living a great life together. What about that would a parent not desire to have with their child? A parent should absolutely be invested in the relationship they have with their child. They should be giving that relationship a very high priority over almost every other relationship in their lives. Ensuring that you have a good relationship with your child is ensuring that you are in a position to give them the guidance that they need to learn to be an adult. It also means that they will trust you when you give them directions towards maintaining their safety. Your loyalty in this relationship is a primary trust builder.
Good friend item number 8 is a requirement for parenting. Parents have to invest and commit to their relationship with their child. This makes the score 8 out of 8 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
A good friend in impeccable with their word. This is about maintaining the important balance between kindness and honesty in your relationship. One of the best ways for a parent to express their love to their child is through their kindness. A child will not believe that you love them if you are not kind to them regardless of what else you are doing for them. Thus, being impeccable with your word is the expression of love in the context of the parent child relationship. And clearly, a parent desires to have their child believe that they are loved.
Good Friend item number 9 is parenting compatible and is yet another item that is on the good parenting list. This brings the score to 9 out of 9 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
Good friend’s are supportive. A parent can choose to be their child’s friend by supporting them in the things that they are choosing to undertake and in the times that they are struggling. This means cheering your child on even if they are pursuing activities that you have no interest in. It also means being there to hold your child when they cry after their first break up or when they have a fight with one of their peers. Offering guidance during these times can help them learn better social skills and help them regulate their emotions. It can also be a time that a parent can offer the larger picture perspective to their child which can sometimes be helpful when everything in their world feels so hard.
Good friend item 10 is parenting compatible and is again on the list of good parenting skills. This brings the score to 10 out of 10 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
Good friendships are not competitive. When a parent chooses to be their child’s friend, they are choosing not to compare their child to other children, to the person the parent wanted to become or to social expectations. They are agreeing to instead give that child room to take life on in their own way and at their own pace. The parent can be a good friend by accepting that their child’s life will look different then any other person’s life and that it’s alright. This allows the child room to be their own person and to make their own choices. This is a skill that they will need as an adult. Fostering decision making as a child will allow them to learn the importance of consideration of options and that failures are not the end of the world. This is the best way to teach your child to be resilient.
Good friend item 11 is parenting compatible and is also a good parenting skill. That makes the score 11 out of 11 that a parent can be their child’s friend.
The remaining Good Friend item is number 12, “Good Friendships are Reciprocal.” This is the one that we started this discussion with. This is not exactly incompatible with parenting. If your child choosing to reciprocate the friendship then that’s a bonus cherry on top of everything else that is awesome about being a parent. But it is essential to understand that being a parent means a giving of yourself and that the relationship you have with your child has to be thought of as an unconditional one. But in truth, if you are a good friend to your child, they are most likely going to reciprocate this friendship. And a really beautiful thing happens when they become an adult. If you were your child’s friend the parent child relationship changes form and becomes much more like conventional friendships when they become an adult and it really is a very cool thing.
Thus, I argue that a parent can be their child’s friend. I also argue that good parents are their child’s unconditional friend.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you have been listening to consider listening to other episodes of the podcast and consider giving some support. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!