Being Friends with Your Kid

When to-be-parents ask what is the most important thing in parenting, my answer, without hesitation, is: being their friend!

Some parents, and parenting experts, warn against this – stating that kids have their friends and we are supposed to be their parents who have authority (and kids must not mix the two, otherwise, they will lose their respect for us and we will lose our credibility and ability to DISCIPLINE them).

Well, I respectfully, and strongly, disagree.

First, being their friend does not mean being body-body with them: our relationship with them, naturally, is one of parent and child. We do not have to put extra effort to show them who is the BOSS! There is just something wrong in even trying to do this. It does not feel right. In my opinion, it is a sign of something lacking in the parent (perhaps a lack of their self-confidence for being good parents?). But you will be surprised how many such books you will find on parenting – with the underlying message being: show them who is the boss!

Parents being friends with their kids has a unique, distinct dynamic than two, 3-year olds being friends (daa!).

So how do we be/become friends with our kids?

1- I think the most important element in this type of a relationship is to feel/think/treat your child as a separate, respectable person. A little person, but a person nonetheless. They have their worlds, they have feelings, reasoning (which at times may not seem too reasonable to us, but it sure is to them!), dreams, needs…etc.

If there was another adult in the room trying to have a conversation with us, would we completely ignore them and carry on with doing the dishes?

If there was another adult in the back seat simply noting that they are thirsty, would we disregard their need and carry on with our plans?

If there was another adult (be it even a complete stranger) in our circle of friends hanging our on a Saturday, would we not consult them what they would like to do as a group, or where they would like to go?

So, why do we treat our kids this way? Whey do we not realize that they too have feelings, needs, and wants – just like us… Howcome we do not show them the courtesy that we would show to another adult? Afterall, our kids are one, whole member of our family. They do not, should not, count as half a vote (or no-vote) in decision-making.

I understand that there are situations that require the parents to make the decisions – if you need to go grocery shopping that morning, you need to go. Period. But still this does not justify, not explaining why we need to go grocery shopping, and why then, to our kids. If they would like to do something else, we can/should talk with them about it and try to accommodate all family needs/musts and the wishes of all family members.

Living together is about compromise! Just like we compromise with our wife/husband (sometimes we watch a football game and other times we have a dad-kid day so mom can read her books…), we ought to factor in the needs and wants of our kids to the family equation.

So consult with them when making family-decisions. Ask them where they would like to go/what they would like to do over the weekend, and make room for it. Respect her wishes (and yes I know, sometimes they are outrageous, but they lighten up our otherwise boring adult lives!). Acknowledge her thoughts and feelings. And do this sincerely – not as a to-do item on your how-to parent list… If you do not change your attitude and actually own this character (respecting them as persons), it will show in your words and actions, and they will sense it. And ultimately, it will harm your relationship with your child.

2- Trying to enjoy what they enjoy: When you are watching football with your husband, if you huff and puff, I doubt he would appreciate your effort and enjoy the time spent together – as a family. You must put in the effort and enjoy the time as well. You may hate football, but you enjoy the family time. This is crucial. Some people simply love doing puzzles with their toddlers. I am not one of them. Doing kids’ activities bores me. But, I love spending time with my daughter. I love watching her, listening to her spit out the  most unexpected phrases and the most unexpected times. I love family-time.

I tell myself often: hey, lighten up!

Roll in the grass with her. Let yourself be silly. Do the funny dance with her. Eat with your fingers, who cares! Cook with her, even if she puts all 10 fingers in the cake mix… Let her wipe the table, even if it makes more mess. Act out the five little monkeys jumping on the bed, risking a broken bed (not to mention the neck). Play tennis with her, even if it means chasing a ball with a tennis/golf racket. Intrupt your senseless small-talk with a boring adult to acknowledge her nicely drawn picture (that you cannot tell what it is); she is more important, not to mention more fun than any adult!

The ultimate prize of being friends with our children is that we will have a positive, fun relationship with them (which is what anyone would want in any relationship) and they will want to be with us, spend time with us, and prefer their family over any potentially negative peer or activity as they get older.

I always tell my daughter: you are my best friend! And she tells me the same thing (that is, when she is not in time-out). And I really mean it too: afterall, she is my family. She is who will always be there for me and I for her. She is who I can/will share all my thoughts and feelings, and my life. She IS my best-friend.

Well, one of my best-friends at least, besides my husband…