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A Parent Should Be A Parent…Not A Friend

by on Apr.04, 2011, under Behavior, Child development, Learning, Parenting, Peers, Relationships, Safety

Every time I hear a parent brag that her child is her best friend, I cringe and think, “Well, that’s too bad.”  The job description of parent is mighty long—nurturer, teacher, advisor, consultant, guide, spotter, disciplinarian, consoler, cheerleader.  But I am quite sure “friend” is not on the list.

 I fully believe that you really like your child, that there are times when you get along like peas and carrots, that you say you can read each other’s minds. But your child, whether young or old, needs you to be her parent. She has enough friends, and so do you.

I know that you don’t get to spend much time with your child; both of your schedules are packed 24/7.  So you want what little time you have together to be pleasant. I know it’s just easier to say yes, and everyone will be happy…for the moment.

I was told the story of a 15 year old girl who was invited to a party at a school mate’s house.   Her mother, as she has always done, called the party giver’s parents to check on the plan. The father shared that he was okay with beer and vodka, “… but I draw the line at weed.”  (No joke!)  His response to the supervision question was, “I’m not the kind of dad who checks on the kids all the time, but I will be at home.” Upon hearing the news that she would not be going to the party, the girl was furious, really furious.  It lasted many hours. But the next day it was as if it had never happened. “In fact,” Mom said, “she was unusually friendly and warm.”

Being a parent requires you to make some tough calls, to be unpopular, even hated sometimes. You will be the meanest mom in the world and threatened with a child who wants to live with another family, maybe run away. You will feel like a salmon swimming upstream when you’re told that alllllllllllll the other kids’ parents said they could, and you still say no.  But this IS your job.

Children are not like self-basting turkeys; they just can’t grow themselves.  Children will seek all the good stuff they can get—be it extra tv time, cookies from the platter, or minutes at the mall. And they count on you to stop them, to rein them back in. It is their job to test the limits; it is your job to stop them.  And as children get older, more than ever they rely on you to be their brakes, especially when faced with peer pressure. “No, my dad will kill me if I get home after curfew.”

Your child needs to know that you love her so much that you will tolerate her explosive protest when you lay down the law and you will not change your mind because of it.  Nothing can be more important to you than her well being, her safety, and her learning the rules of the road.

This is the job of a parent…not a friend.

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7 Comments for this entry

  • Dr. Erica Rivera

    Betsy – This was absolutely wonderful! I LOVE your humor infused reality check for parents. So incredibly important points. Thank you.

  • @tshaka_zulu

    Absolutely love this post. Of course, you’re preaching to the choir here, but the more people shouting this from the rooftops, the better!

    Thank you. 🙂

  • won

    Now if only this could permeate my ex’s soul. So often he says “well, he (son) didn’t want to do it”.

    It becomes such an alienating response when repeatedly given. He feels so much better for being his buddy. And I become more and more the #*&!*. My son is probably the only person that wants to call his dad when he gets in trouble at home or at school.

    It feels so good for him to have someone take his side.

    I’m so discouraged; your words filled my tank up a bit. Thank you.

  • Kelly


    This is excellent and I could not agree more!!! In my opinion, parents who insist on being friends and not parents to their children do so out of fear, insecurity, and laziness. It’s the same way I feel about giving all the kids on the team a trophy b/c they are “all winners”. Both appear to be the “easy-way-out” method. Guess what– not all kids on the team deserve a trophy and Moms and Dads should not be BFFs or buddies. Yes, it makes for harder parenting to discipline, give structure, teach children coping skills, and to say “no”, but who ever said parenting should be so easy? If it is supposed to be, then I certainly missed that memo and I would like to get on that e-mail list ASAP! 😉

  • Betsy Brown Braun

    Won: You need to keep doing what you know is right. In the end, your child will know you made the hard calls and it was for his benefit. I promise you.

  • Sandy

    Teenagers are teenagers and they do not like to be told what to do or be treated like children, which they still are. unfortunately the people that care about them the most, parents, teachers, etc. get the short end of the stick for awhile.

  • Elissa

    Well, I agree completely when children are kids. I do think there comes a time where friend can be on the list. I’m well into adult hood, and I consider my mom one of my best friends. I can talk to her on just about anything. I think by being a great parent while the child is growing is what leaves the door open to one day be “friends.” Is she a friend like my peers, no, of course not. But, I can’t think of another word that best fits how I feel.

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