Parents are generally seen as the protectors and providers for their children. However, with the change in the style of parenting modern parents are being seen to increasingly shed off their authoritarian roles and cultivate friendship with their kids.
There do exist some concerns about the issue of parents treating their children as best friends and confidantes. While parents may be fully equipped to deal with the issues that the children are facing it may not be the same the other way around.
There is also the question of the authority getting undermined when they “bring down” the level of their relationship with their children. It is true in many cases that children need the authoritarian parent figures more in their lives, however, it couldn’t hurt to have a parent who can be counted on by the kids as a friend.
Tips to become your kids best friend?
Give Time: Any friendship requires time to build the foundation to last. Parents should make time or find time from their schedules to devote to spending with their children to nurture the friendship.
Listen: Refrain from jumping into giving advice mode and just listen to what your child has to say. Even if you feel it is nonsense it might hold significance for your kid. It won’t always be easy especially with all the other more pressing responsibilities of the family but it has to be done if you want to maintain the friendship.
Talk: Best friends talk to each other all the time. However, in a parent-child friendship the parent needs to understand and maintain certain limitations. Age-appropriate topics and knowing what issues are best left not discussed with your child will have to be decided by you.
Joking Helps: Joking with your toddler helps set them up for social success and fosters the bond of friendship between you and your toddler. When parents joke and pretend play with their kids it breaks the ice and lets the toddlers think more creatively, be more social and manage stress better.
Be Positive: Your child may not immediately respond positively to your efforts. There maybe days when they act difficult. Parents who express negative emotions towards their infants or handle them roughly on a regular basis will never be able to be friends with them and on the contrary create aggressive kindergartners who in turn become aggressive adults. Parents need to be positive in their approach and handling of their kids so that there is a bond of trust and friendship.
Be Approachable: Children, especially very young children are very scared of being reprimanded. They feel they will be scolded if they admit to having made any mistakes. This fear makes them stay silent about many of their issues and problems. By being approachable and conveying that they will not be scolded you can earn their trust thereby getting access to problems that may require urgent attention such as bullying, peer pressure etc.
Resist the Temptation to Correct: Your child may not be correct in dealing with situations in many cases. But resist the temptation to correct him or her unless he or she asks you for advice. Even then, refrain from imposing what you feel is the correct solution and instead guide him gently. Teach him or her good values that will help guide them through dealing with tough situations.
Foster Self-Compassion: Research suggests that self-compassion is a very important life skill which helps people stay resilient in the face of adversity. Teaching and displaying your child the lessons of self-compassion such as mindfulness, managing thoughts and emotions, empathy, self-kindness and commitment to solving problems helps bring your child closer to you. Children also learn the value of empathy and kindness and become more approachable to share their problems or simply to talk about their day.
Know when to let go: You may have forged a close friendship with your son or daughter. But know when to let go. They are bound to make other friends at school and at their other activities. Let them know that you are still there for them whenever they need and step back to let them open up to new experiences and people.
Tend to your mental health: Negative parents with depressive tendencies can never be friends with their children. They in fact contribute to their children’s stress making them more anxious and negative. If you feel that either of you are struggling with your mental health get help immediately to save your relation with your child.
Don’t Aim for Perfection: Don’t beat yourself up if your friendship or your relation with your child is not what they show in the glossies. No relation is perfect and the important thing is to find the right balance of authority and friendship that works with you and your child. As long as you and your child are happy with your friendship it doesn’t matter what the magazines say.
There will be times when you will try all of the above and not always be successful. Stop beating yourself up for being the less than perfect parent-friend. You never know when your child will come and surprise you by the smallest gesture of appreciation for just being there.