These days, there seems to be a noticeable trend of parents leaning toward becoming best friends with their kids, rather than really parenting. One case in particular was pretty extreme. I watched with mouth agape as one high school girl’s mom leaned WAY in this direction. Not only did she try to be best buddy to her daughter, she tried to BE a teenager herself. The result was not pretty. There was little discipline, and the absence of rules made for quite a fun environment . . . for a while.
As things began to progress, it seemed the parent-child roles actually reversed. The daughter began feeling the weight of being responsible for her mom. Her mom’s incessant “best friend-ness” and clinginess began to push the daughter away. By the end of high school, there was so much dysfunction and emotional stress that the daughter couldn’t wait to get out of there!
The mother-daughter friendship that should naturally be there now, in the post-high school years, is sadly missing and may never return. What she thought she was gaining, this mom actually lost.
A funny thing happened in me, though. As I began judging the people and the situation, and being impressed with my sweet parenting skills, I realized that the tug in that direction is very real for me too. I really want my kids to want to be with me. I desire to be viewed as a cool mom by their friends. I’m tempted to buy things and give too much in pursuit of teenage approval. It’s real, and it’s not pretty in me either.
So, what’s a mom to do? Renew the mind. Rethink It. Actually, renewing the mind is something that I have to do on so many levels, in so many different areas of my life, so very often.
The world seems to naturally draw us toward parenting in a way that will give us immediate gratification and keep us from the uncomfortable, and maybe less peaceful, parenting that brings ultimate friendship with our kids.
As parents, we must take advantage of our gained perspective that allows us to see what’s best for our kids, even when they can’t. We can see beyond temporary happiness to a life of potentially enormous joy. We can see beyond the pain of discipline to the possibility of a future that is richer because lessons were learned early. We can be true friends to our kids in their adult years because we chose to be true parents to them in their childhood.
So, the next time you feel the tug, the pull, the pushback from administering discipline, foregoing the punishment, or even pretending not to see an infraction, pause to regain the big picture. When you feel compelled to impress their friends, buy their approval, or behave in ways that send wrong messages, remember that you are, first and foremost, the parent. Friendship later will be so much greater. And, later is longer!