“My daughter and I are best friends, we are really close.”
We often hear this from friends, relatives, and colleagues. But is it really something that you should do? Well, the answer is yes and no.
Being friends with your child has its pros and cons. On the one hand, they might confide in you more than before. But on the other hand, being friendly would mean lifting off the boundary between you and your child. The authoritative hand that you had as a parent goes away.
Confusing For Your Child
According to child psychologist Nicole Beurkens, becoming friends with your child might confuse him or her. They might think that they need to now apply the same rules of friendship to their parents. For instance, they might feel the need to help and advise their parents.
Children need discipline and boundaries in their lives. Without them, if say your child makes a mistake and does not get a stern warning, he or she will always be in the wrong. It is important to establish the outcome for doing the wrong thing at a young age. This way, children can clearly differentiate between right and wrong and know the clear consequences for misbehaving.
Taking a friendly approach might not be the best option as you might lead your child to think their misbehaviour can be tolerated. However, disciplining your child physically in these situations is also not recommended.
According to a recent study by the University of Michigan, children who are physically disciplined are at higher risk for externalising problems. This would mean that the child directs their problems to the external environment by being physically aggressive, cheating and stealing. The study also found however that, maternal reasoning and reminding of rules led to fewer externalising problems.
It is all about striking a balance.
Consider Your Child’s Age
Age also plays a role when you are considering being friends with your child. Most parents tend to change their parenting styles as their kids become older. This is beneficial because as kids enter their late teens and adulthood, they do not require as much monitoring as before.
Also, in that age group, children might want to discuss more taboo topics such as sex or drugs. It helps to be more open to your child at that point in time since they are at an age where they can make their own decisions and be responsible. As parents, we have to give them space and we can do this by taking a more friendly approach.
At the end of the day, we all want our children to grow up to be respectful individuals and to confide in us. Being friendly or not, that is completely up to you!
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