“I will always be my child’s best friend,” my friend Hillary told me. “Many parents get wrapped up in what they “think” that phrase means compared to what it REALLY means. Parents are friends that children need – the people who teach our children that they are important, loved, and safe.
This isn’t the first time I’ve bucked the current standards of parenting advice, and I am quite certain it will not be the last. ”
You Are Their Safe Place.
Hillary is sharing how parents are friends every child needs…
Take it away, Hillary…
“A best friend is so much more than what people think. In the throes of some of the worst parts of adolescence, sometimes I think a child needs to know their mom is their best friend- their safe place, their support system…
- They need to know that they can go to her when they need her.
- They can tell her things without worrying about being judged.
- They can trust her with their thoughts, worries, and questions.
- They can always trust her and know she is their ‘safe place.’
- They can lean on her.
- She is there when her children need her – they are never alone.
- She is honest, forthcoming, helpful, wise, and loving. She is a true best friend.
Why I’m my child’s best friend
I’ve heard it a million times, and I’ve seen it in many parenting articles, all of the reasons why parents should not be their child’s best friend, but let me tell you why I AM my child’s best friend. This isn’t the first time I’ve bucked the current standards of parenting advice, and I am certain it will not be the last.
I read it everywhere; I hear it from my mom-friends, I hear it on TV… explaining why moms should not try and be best friends with their children. They are our kids, and they should respect us, and we should not care if they like us. We are to be role models and caregivers but certainly not buddies with our sons and daughters.
And I’ve given a LOT of thought to this line of thinking but am never able to agree with it.
In fact, I DISAGREE with it wholeheartedly, and it’s based on two main principles.
Why I DISAGREE with the opinion that “Parents Can’t Be Their Child’s Friend”
The first one is that maybe these people who espouse this theory of not being best friends with their kids don’t have good friends. It leaves me wondering if these parents should reevaluate just who they are keeping company with.
Because in my small group of friends, I have nothing but respect for these ladies. And I don’t tell them what to do, but they come to me for advice because they think I’m a good person, a good mom, someone who makes good decisions (and vice-versa).
And while I want these ladies to like me… (I really do), I don’t change who I am or say words they want to hear just because I want to be liked.
They like me because of what I believe and speak my opinion, even if it’s not what they want to hear.
In the middle of my most stressful times, I want to call these friends up and talk it out and get ideas and sometimes just be brought back to earth. And these are the women I can’t wait to talk to when something wonderful happens to my family or me. I want to share these moments with them BECAUSE they are my friends.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that EXACTLY what we hope for from our kids?
Isn’t that what the other half of parenting magazines focus on (aside from “NOT being best friends with your kids”)… they focus on “How to get your child to open up & talk to you,” or “Teaching your kids the social skills that let them confide in you,” or “Supporting your child in the good and the bad?” or even “Knowing what’s going on in your child’s life.”
By being my child’s best friend, I create an environment that elicits those kinds of responses.
My girls will WANT to tell me the good, bad and ugly BECAUSE I am their friend AND I am their mom.
I WANT MY KIDS TO KNOW THEY ALWAYS HAVE THEIR BEST FRIEND AT HOME.
And the 2nd reason I can’t agree with the parenting experts who tell us not to be best friends with our kids?? Well, let me just use the exact words my OWN MOM shared with me…
“Hillary, in this mean ol’ world, it is important for a child to know they can come home at the end of the day and know, know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their best friend is waiting for them. And that they will be loved and that they are not alone.”
Pretty good, huh?
Yeah, sure, you may say a Mom or Dad should always be showing them that they are loved and not alone… but think about the level of comfort you feel when you are in the company of your best friend. It’s different, isn’t it? It’s more relaxed, it’s comfortable, it’s inviting.
I want my girls to know they can share anything with me. They can tell me their biggest fears, their greatest dreams, their secret wishes. I want my girls to know they can tell me anything and not be judged.
And hear me now – Being non-judgemental is the polar opposite of condoning bad behavior. Here’s why…
If at some future point, one of my girls confesses she has lied to me about being at a friend’s house and instead went to a party, I don’t plan on high-fiving her and asking if she hooked up with a cute boy. Because I wouldn’t encourage deceitfulness or unsafe behavior in one of my best friends, regardless the age.
What I would do is commend her for telling me the truth because that shows she respects me. We all make mistakes and have behavior we are ashamed of. I do it daily as an adult, so I can tell you with great confidence I did it a lot more in my youth.
Then, I would talk about WHY she felt like she needed to lie to me in the first place. If she was embarrassed or uncomfortable telling me – maybe it was because she knew it wasn’t right. We’d talk about WHY I feel some places aren’t safe for her. And I will tell her that she can ALWAYS call me if she is in an uncomfortable situation, and I will drive anywhere to pick her up without punishing her.
Because I love her, and I want her to love and respect me. But I want it to come from a source of mutual respect – not instilled by fear.
Fear is forced, while respect is earned.
“Put simply, fear is forced, while respect is earned. The cultural misconception that if children fear parents, respect will come naturally is simply false. While it’s true that children may comply with the desired behavior if they fear what might happen otherwise, the eventual outcome is very different from motivation centered in respect.
If your child fears you, they are far less likely to come to you voluntarily for help when they need guidance, advice, or assistance as they grow older and develop more autonomy–leaving them to struggle without your help.” – youthranch.com
“In the long run, the difference between fear-based and respect-based parenting is the difference in your relationship with your child–and your child’s relationship with life.
Where will your child turn when he or she faces difficulty in life or wants to understand something? He or she will look for guidance where he or she feels heard,” supported and respected. The respect-based parenting style lets kids feel safe with to come to us – these children have fewer mental health issues and are more open with their parents as they become young adults.
And I will pray.
I will pray that she listens to me, heeds my advice, and learns quickly that while many life lessons can be taught through experience, many painful ones can be avoided by simply learning from those who have already made those mistakes.
Because at the end of the day, whether you are trying to be your child’s best friend or not, we as parents have no guarantees of how our children will behave.
We can teach them, we can guide them, and we can lead by example.
But much of what we will do is pray – pray that God watches over them. Pray that we have been good teachers. And pray that amid celebration and crisis, our children will turn to us.
So I will continue to raise my girls and remind them and show them daily that I am and always will be their best friend. Just as my mom was and is mine now.
Parents are friends they can turn to… always.
There is nothing that they can’t tell me – Nothing they could do to make me ever stop loving them.
And that, like any good friend, if some distance comes between us… be it the throes of the teenage years or graduation or whatever… that I will still be here.
Their best friend will always be at home waiting…