“Mom, are you my friend?”
Those are the 5 words my son asked me. That small question made me think – how do I want to answer this?
It had me pondering what other mothers thought about the idea of “being their child’s friend.” But before I share their thoughts, let me tell you my own: “No, I am not your friend, I am your mom,” is what I told my 10-year-old son.
But the conversation didn’t stop there – he went on to ask me if I was friends with my own parents. Now, although my parents weren’t always perfect, one thing they definitely did do right is that they never tried to be my friend – at least until I became an adult.
Why do I think that what they did was right? Because I believe that a parent is there to protect, guide and teach. They should model good decision-making, model kind behavior, keep the family safe, and provide consistency in a child’s life so a child can feel safe and comfortable, and best able to handle life’s challenges along the way.
A parent should be the one person a child feels he can talk to about anything, while at the same time being the person who sets the rules, boundaries and expectations for behaviors.
This structure is what provides children with a sense of safety and belonging.
If done well, this is how an open relationship between parent and child is established. When a child breaks the rules, boundaries and expectations (as they are sure to do – this is how they learn), it is the job of the parent to give the child consequences for those behaviors, while using the experience as a teachable moment.
How can we learn from this? How can we do better next time?
Our job as parents is to prepare our children for life. To be able to talk with our children about real issues, with the intention of teaching them life skills so they, and we, will feel confident that when they go out on their own, they will be best able to make the safest and smartest choices. “Friends” do not have that type of relationship; active parents do.
But when I asked some mom friends for their thoughts, I was surprised at how many disagreed with me. They want to be their child’s friend. I was told that if I was friends with my child, they would tell me everything. Other said they wanted to be a “cool” mom, and that they wanted their child’s friends to think they were “cool.”
I asked what makes a “cool” mom, and my friends all said the same thing: not many rules (like staying up late watching TV, playing video games, computer, cell phone and texting without any rules or consequences for breaking those rules), not being “overprotective, ” letting their child go to the house of a friend they don’t know, letting them hang out at the mall at quite young ages (because everyone else is), letting them have a Facebook account before they are 13.
I could go on and on… and I realized I must be in the minority, because to me it sounded like a cool parent is a parent that lets their child run their house. Apparently cool parent doesn’t want to disappoint their child or deal with conflict and has a hard time saying no or setting limits.
Well, I guess I don’t fall under “cool” parent category!
My husband and I run our household. We set limits, have rules, boundaries and expectations. When those aren’t followed, my son knows the consequences. I love my son and I want him to be the “best” person he can be, I want him to make mistakes and learn from them, I want him to be good to others and treat others how he wants to be treated. Most of all I want him to be happy and comfortable with who he is as a person. And if he was running our house, how could we teach him these things? If he had no limits, what will he expect from others?
If “no” is not a word he ever hears, he will expect the world to always say “yes” – and boy will he be in for a shocker as he gets older!
If my son didn’t have to follow specific guidelines, what kind of person would I be preparing him to be in school, and more importantly, in life? So I tell my son, who I love more than anything, “I am better than just a friend, I am your mom, and proud of it.”
And P.S. sweetie, one day, you will thank me for it.