Parenting in the past was often characterized by an authoritarian and fear-based approach that enforced strict discipline at all times, prioritizing obedience over children’s emotional well-being. Discipline was enforced through punishments that included severe beatings. For this reason, many people had strained or non-existent relationships with their parents. When they became parents, many set out to do things differently, prioritizing building their relationships with their children. In some cases, this strict over-correction from the old mode led to the rise of the best friend parent.
Are you a best friend parent?
A best friend parent is a parenting style where a parent seeks to be more of a friend than an authority figure to their child. This approach prioritizes a close relationship with the child, with the goal of creating a strong bond of trust and mutual understanding. These parents often try to be more relatable to their children and may avoid using strict discipline or setting clear boundaries. They want to be seen by their children as fun and non-judgmental. In some cases, they make their children their confidants, going so far as talking to their children about their adult problems, concerns and other sensitive issues.
The problem with it
Many experts express concern about the rise of the best friend parent, insisting that it is set up to benefit the parents
Loss of authority
Children need boundaries and structure and an authority figure gives them a sense of safety. In a best friend parent situation where the parent and child now appear to be on the same level, children can become anxious and unsettled. Children need reassurance that you love them but they also need to know that someone is in charge, someone who is in control and can protect them. Taking on the role of their best friend takes away from their perception of you as a protector and guardian.
Sacrificing your authority at the altar of being friends with your children also makes it difficult to raise healthy, competent kids. Children need their parent’s guidance. They need someone to draw lines in the sand and say no to things and give them advice. They need limits that can only be enforced by a parent, not a friend. Choosing the ‘best friend parent’ method can make it difficult to offer parent-level support and guidance particularly when it comes to emotional or behavioural issues.
Strained parent-child relationship
The reason many parents gravitate towards this approach is in an attempt to connect with their children and be closer to them. Ironically, one study found that when a parent disclosed their personal concerns and worries with their child as one would with a friend, the daughter ended up more distressed with no greater feelings of closeness between mother and daughter. Trying to be your child’s best friend can put undue pressure on them because these are concerns they are not mature enough to handle.
Tips for avoiding the best friend parent route
- Be friendly to your children but don’t try to be their best friend.
- Enforce boundaries and limits and discuss them with your children.
- Expect your children to do age-appropriate chores.
- Don’t share deep personal problems and issues with your child.
- Develop meaningful relationships with the adults in your life.
- If you are over-involved with your child, being the process of reestablishing boundaries in a thoughtful and caring way for both of you.
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