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Parent or Friend? Which One Are You?

How do you parent your child? As a parent with boundaries, respect and discipline or as a friend with the aim of being popular with your own child and them liking you?

I am sure you all answered the first one and most obvious, a parent with boundaries, respect and discipline? That might be what you think you are doing but is it? We all want to be accepted and liked whether it be by our friends, in the workplace or as the favourite aunty or uncle. As parents though, you would agree that is not our main aim although we would hope our little cherubs not only love us, but look up to us. We are parenting children who need consistent boundaries, rules and discipline.

As parents, we have to make the hard decisions and not the ones that are always popular with our children. Friends on the other hand, will take the easy way out and are more likely to compromise on a decision to maintain the friendship. There are parents that do that to keep the peace in the family and prevent either a meltdown or resentment by the child involved. There is a difference in those times when we give in when we are tired or just can’t go into battle as opposed to consistently parenting this way. Parenting as a friend will eventually lead to the child calling the shots in the family, a lack of respect by the child towards the parents and eventually a no boundaries approach to life by the child. From there what happens? We have all seen groups of teenagers and out of control parties on the news and a complete lack of respect for authority. Where are the parents to these teenagers you ask? Probably at home wondering how they could have stopped their child going out and why they don’t listen to them. The answer to that could have started when the child was little and taught boundaries, discipline, respect and to respect others. Don’t get me wrong, not all teenagers are like that but they are the ones that tend to be making the news these days! The importance of starting this in the early years is vital in shaping our children to be productive members of society.

Keeping the family unit together can be difficult when we all run on such busy schedules. Developing family rituals are important. Family meetings can be very valuable and allows everyone to have their say about current situations that are happening in the family. Opening up the lines of communication with your children not only teaches them to communicate, but it also teaches them to listen to you, not to just ‘hear’ you. Take the opportunity to negotiate with your child if there is an upcoming social function they want to attend or want to do something else you aren’t entirely sure about. This also teaches trust with clear consequences if that trust is broken. A parent will follow through with the consequences, a friend won’t. Another example might be the parent who has an out of control child at the shops and is not quite sure how to rein them back in. A friend is going to give in and allow the child whatever they like. A parent will shut down the behaviour in an instant with the child’s reaction being a dead giveaway as to whether they take the parent seriously or not.

Having a positive, loving and honest relationship with our children is what we all want. I asked my daughter if I was a parent or a friend to her? She thought about it and said parent first, friend second. I am lucky she tells me most things openly and we have a great trust with each other. That has developed over the years with the message being I can’t help you if you don’t tell me. If you tell me, maybe I can help. She understands when she tells me things that sometimes I have to act on information she has told me if I believe it needs to be and she doesn’t always like it. A friend wouldn’t say anything, a parent would and that, is the difference.

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