Many parents want to be their child’s best friend and also experience societal pressure to be the “cool mom” or the “cool dad.” We want to hear our kids friends whisper enviously, “wow, your mom is so cool.” For some parents, the urge to be the “cool parent” is so strong that we ignore or brush off negative behavior, confide inappropriately in our children, or allow kids to do things we shouldn’t in order to be their friends.
There’s something inherently wrong with this notion, as it creates a disconnect in the parent/child relationship. Children need guidance and structure; they need role models. They don’t need you as their best friend while they are growing up.
Lead by Example
As a parent, your main job is to lead by example, which means taking a hard look at your own life. You want your child to adopt certain kinds of positive behaviors which you will model.
Self-reflection is rarely comfortable, but it’s essential for creating well-adjusted, honest, respectful children. Ideally, you want your child to look at you and think, “This is what I want to be when I grow up.”
How to Improve Your Parent/Child Relationship
This is, of course, easier said than done. Here are a few simple ways you can improve your authoritative, positive relationship with your child:
- Take care of yourself. Your kids need to understand the importance of self-care, and they’ll follow your example. Get enough sleep, exercise, and eat healthy meals. Learn how to handle your negative emotions without lashing out. If you’re running on empty taking care of everyone else, you child will notice – and think that behavior is expected of them too.
- Know where to draw the line. Honesty and transparency are wonderful qualities. Unfortunately, there’s a line to this when it comes to talking to your child. For example, your children should never know the details of fights or conversations with your spouse or other adults. Your child is not your confidant. Save the adult conversations for other adults. Your children should feel safe talking to you about their issues, but not have to worry about yours.
- Encourage healthy independence. Some parent/child relationships become so close that a conflict or disagreement can destroy it. If you’re a parent first, rather than a friend, then the relationship becomes easier to manage. A child’s dependence on a parent’s “friendship” can seriously hinder your ability to communicate and discipline when it becomes necessary.
- Enforce consequences. As a parent, you must do more than establish consequences for negative behavior, you must follow through on them. Kids need consistency to learn and feel like they can depend on you. It’s an essential aspect of developing positive moral character.
Children and teens do need friends closer to their age so they can learn about societal norms and how to function independently of their parents. Your job is to be a positive guiding presence in your child’s life, someone they can respect, who can interpret the information the children get from their friends. Trying to be the “cool parent” will only backfire on you in the long run.