You Can Be Friends With Your Child… Just Not Yet.

A look at the topic with advice from the experts


Published:

When my oldest daughter was in pre-school, I attended a monthly parenting workshop run by the director of early education. Many women in the room were first time mothers, too. One talked about the trouble she had disciplining her then 5-year-old. She couldn’t enforce a time-out because her daughter was her “best friend.”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who thought, “Your daughter is not supposed to be your best friend.” I think even the mother who made the statement knew this wasn’t a healthy dynamic.

I also understood her sentiment. As Dr. Robin Goodman, a clinical psychologist who works with children and families, explains, “Many of today’s generation of parents grew up with authoritative parents and in turn, they want to be the opposite. They want to be seen as ‘cool, young, hip’ and be able to bond with their kids in a way that their own parent did not.”

But a parent’s role is not the same as a peer, and it’s crucial to make that distinction for a child’s protection and development.

 

A Friend vs. a Parent

“The parent-child relationship can have mutual caring and transparency, but it is not friendship because it is not one of equals,” says Brent Sweitzer, a professional counselor in Georgia. As Goodman points out, your friends don’t tell you to take out the garbage or clean your room. “Parents need to set limits, be role models, and make rules,” she says. “It’s their responsibility to take care of them and keep them safe.”

Therapist Katie Lear adds, “It can be tempting to talk to a child or teenager like a friend, especially if the child is very bright or precocious. Parents spend so much time with their children, and it is such a close bond that it can be tempting to vent to a child about problems with friends, work, or relationships. Sometimes, kids like these conversations because it makes them feel grown-up and important.”

But when the lines get blurred between acting like a parent and acting like a friend, it can lead to behavioral problems and impact the child’s future relationships. “Children feel secure when they know a parent is in control and can handle situations,” Lear says. “One way parents communicate this to children is by setting boundaries and giving consequences. Even though no child wants to be disciplined, kids who don’t have enough boundaries often feel less secure, which can lead to acting out behavior or anxiety.”

 

Parenting Children and Teens

Your teenager may be old enough to participate in group activities like shopping and going to the movies, but they still need parenting. “Even teens that seem very mature still are developing and do not have the ability to handle adult issues,” Sweitzer says. While they may complain about a parent being strict or setting limits, most actually want their parents to help them navigate their teen years.

Tandy Caraway, an educator and founder of CollegeMode Academy says, “Teens still want to be protected but want their voices to be heard. Unfortunately, at this age, their personality is much more developed than their personal reasoning skills. They still want and need an authority figure to help them navigate the transition to adulthood.”

Parenting teens is about finding a balance between protecting them and allowing them to become more independent. “I believe the magic in parenting a teen successfully lies in having a friendly relationship, instead of a friendship,” Caraway says. “Once you give up your credibility, authority, and assurance as parent, boundaries will be crossed that may cause you to resent your teen.”

 

Have Friends Your Own Age

It’s great when you can bond with your kids over activities you both enjoy, but this doesn’t eliminate your child’s need for friends their own age. Connecting with peers allows kids to develop life skills like communicating with others and resolving conflicts.

Just like kids need to develop friendships with their peers, so do adults. “This teaches kids to invest in healthy social networks and to seek out help in appropriate ways when (they) need it,” Sweitzer says.

Regardless of how close your bond is with your child, there will still be things they’ll feel more comfortable telling their friends. Conversely, it’s important for parents not to confide in their kids as they would a friend their own age, especially subjects like marital issues. “(These) really need to be reserved for adult friends,” Lear explains. “Kids who have these conversations with parents may become people pleasers, and feel like they need to be helpful to others in order to have a good relationship.”

 

You Kids Can Be Your Friends – As Adults

“It takes a lot of work to be a good parent and sometimes the job is not fun,” says Amber Trueblood, author and parenting expert. “But ultimately, parents have 18 years to create the type of people they would want to be friends with and hang out with as adults.” 

Caraway’s children are now grown up and she says, “At this point, I can enjoy them as a fully developed, well-rounded adults. It is a beautiful thing to transition to friendship knowing that I gave them the support they needed when they were children and teenagers.”

Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, teen issues, mental health, and wellness. She is a wife and mother of three children. To read more of her work visit www.randimazella.com. 

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Join one of our talented Mid-South Fencers’ Club coaches for a one hour virtual lesson to the fast paced and exciting sport of Olympic Fencing! This will be a FREE ONLINE class. All you need is...

Cost: free

Where:
Mid-South Fencers' Club ONLINE
125 N. Gregson St.
DURHAM, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Mid-South Fencers' Club
Telephone: 919-286-3100
Contact Name: Jeff Kallio
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It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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Get your summer vibes going at the 1st Annual Hubb’s Beach Blast at Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, NC.  Hubb’s Beach Blast will feature two of beach music industry’s top groups, Jim Quick and...

Cost: 20-50

Where:
Hubb's Farm
10276 US HWY 421 N
Clinton, NC  28328
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Sponsor: Hubb's Farm
Telephone: 910-564-6709
Contact Name: Tammy Peterson
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