“You can’t be friends with your children and discipline them at the same time.”
Raise your hand if you've heard that before. Since I can’t see if you raised your hand or not, I’m just going to assume that you did. Because, seriously, I’ve heard people say things like this on more than one occasion.
Maybe this sentiment became popular because people saw bad examples of relationships in which the children and parents were too familiar and there was no discipline at all. Or maybe the thought of having a little kid as a best friend didn’t sound right to people so they voiced their opinion in this way. However, I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. Not only do I think you should be friends with your children, I think you should be BEST friends with your children.
When I think of the qualities I want in a best friend, I think of someone who’s there for me, someone who’s honest with me and someone who loves me just the way I am. This is exactly what I want to be for my daughters and what I know they want to be for me.
We also think of a best friend as someone with whom we share the important moments of our everyday lives. Again, this description is accurate when it comes to how I feel about my relationship with my daughters. So, where does the fear come in? Is it the fear that, if you’re too close to your child, you won’t be able to discipline them? Or is it the fear that being too close to your children will show them that there’s no distinct boundary between child and parent and that they may feel free to cross that line whenever they feel like it?
Let me ask you, though, how many times have you allowed your “best friend” to cross the line without telling them how you feel? How many disagreements and arguments have you had with your best friend only to find that the bumps in the road only draw you closer? Or lastly, when have you ever allowed your best friend to struggle or hurt without offering a friendly word of advice or lending a hand? You haven’t. You don’t. So why would it be any different with your child?
Better yet, why wouldn’t you want to give your child the same love, forgiveness, honesty and trust that you give your best friend?
The cliche thinking on this subject is outdated and should be challenged. Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that you go out and party with your kids or that you allow them to live under your roof with minimal guidance and standards. What I am suggesting is that you take a different look at parenting in today’s society. In a world filled with hurting hearts and misplaced anger, why can’t your child be your best friend? In a world filled with unjust treatment of people because of the color of their skin or their ethnic origin, would it hurt for you to be a guiding friend to your child? In a time when a child grows up wondering if they’re as good as what they see on social media or if they’re worthy of the life they’ve been given, would it damage them to know that they have a best friend in their father or mother?
In my house, it doesn’t. In my house, my daughters are two of the best friends that I have in this world. The challenges that my girls will face might cause them to ask themselves if they can handle the ups and downs that life will throw at them. As their best friend, I hope that they let me in on some of those thoughts and that they feel safe coming to me as a father and as a best friend.
I’m an example of someone who made it through life’s tumultuous turns because I had good friends. I’m also an example of a boy who grew up to be a man wishing I had more of a friendship with my mother and father. Reflecting back on it, I would love to have broken the barrier between child and parent with them.
This intimacy that I have with my daughters benefits them, but it also benefits me.
I would not be the person that I am today if not for my daughters. They have no idea how much they inspire, encourage and lift me up with their love and attention. Being their best friend and their father (and, yes, they’ll be the first to tell you that we are indeed best friends) means everything to me.
Let’s consider throwing away the idea that we could be too familiar with our children.
Let’s consider the fact that raising a child in this world requires you to not only be present with your children, but also involved in the matters of their hearts.
Our children need the benefit of being surrounded by as many great people as they can. They need someone who loves and believes in them. They long for someone to listen to them and cry with them. It’s essential that they have someone to celebrate with them on their level and rejoice with them in their language. Why shouldn't one of those people be you, their parent and best friend?
“If you hang around your children long enough, you just might become best friends.” - Linell Greene