Child Rearing: Should you be the parent, or the friend? 

Child Rearing: Should you be the parent, or the friend? 

Can a parent be both the best friend and their child’s guiding force? There’s no need to pick a side, because what’s important is to have a child who is nurtured, accepted, and guided. Read more here.

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Parenting styles have vastly changed in the last decade. It is the age of Attunement Parenting (where the parent knows what the child needs prior to them asking for it) and Attachment parenting (where the parent cultivates communication and trust). But does this close, nurturing relationship mean that we have to act more like our child’s friend? 
Why being the “friend” backfires 

Some parents actually want to be like their child’s best friend, and there may be several reasons behind this goal. Maybe they grew up in a strict household or didn’t feel heard or seen as a child, and promised themselves to raise their own children differently. It could also be triggered by a fear of being cut out of an older child’s life with a notion that being their “friend” might keep them in the loop.

However, in both these situations, the reasons stem from fear, not love. We’re afraid of what our child thinks about us. We’re afraid that we won’t be the first person they’ll share secrets with. We’re afraid that they’ll get “mad” or that we make them “feel bad.”

That can interfere with our ability to make good decisions and raise them well. Psychologist Nicole Beurkens says, “Parents need to be firmly in the role of guide — and be willing and able to set whatever rules and expectations are needed, including appropriate consequences, for the good of the child.” 

Take on the main role 

How do you know if you’re more of your child’s “friend” than a parent? The biggest sign may be a general lack of respect for your authority. You need to resort to shouting to make them realize you’re serious. You often back down when they get upset, or feel guilty when you have to say “No.” 

Set healthy boundaries and consistent rules. When children grow up in a stable, healthy home, it shows—they trust their family members, they trust themselves to make the right choices, and a stable environment makes them feel like they always have a strong foundation to go home to, no matter what.

Authoritarian vs Authoritative 

Authoritarian parents are cold, distant, and uncommunicative. They set rules – and that’s all. There are no positive or encouraging interactions.  

Authoritative parents are firm about rules, but still develop close relationships and a warm, secure and loving home environment. Their children grow up respecting rules and learning how to communicate their problems and emotions. Why? Because their parents kept the communication lines open, and valued their child’s experiences, problems, feelings, and all else in between. 

Dr. Joanne Stern PhD says in Psychology Today, “A parent who is approachable, accessible and has their kids' best interests at heart grows a close bond with them. We just call that a friendship. And you can set boundaries and have effective discipline – because your kids respect you enough to obey you. ” 

How to build good communication with your child

How do you become approachable and accessible, while remaining firm about rules? It boils down to how you communicate with your child. Here’s how to begin: 

  • LISTEN to their concerns 

What looks like a small problem for you might feel like the end of the world for your preschool-age child. Rather than jumping right into a solution or brushing it off, acknowledge your child’s feelings by asking about how they’re feeling right now. 

  • GUIDE their decision-making 

While you need to set rules, the goal of discipline is to teach your children to make good choices independently. Start this now by encouraging them to figure out problems. Dr. Joanne Stern from Psychology Today says, “The more you guide them in decision-making, but allow them to make their own – in age appropriate ways, the more mature and wiser they become in making good choices. ”

In this process, you are like the coach or mentor. You don’t give them the answer, you teach them to find the answers on their own. 

  • BE 100% PRESENT 

In the age of smartphones and endless distractions, most parents are guilty of not being fully present when they are with their kids. The next time you’re with your child: put the phone down and talk to them about their day. Ask open-ended questions to show that you’re interested. Tell them about your day, too—communication is a two-way street. 

Don’t be the best friend; be the best parent
You don’t need to be your child’s best friend to have a special relationship with them. You can be firm and fun to be with. You can correct behavior and still give unconditional love.


The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.


About The Writer



Maita de Jesus is a mom of one 6-year-old girl. Maita started her writing career as an intern for a popular local women’s magazine back in 2004. She went into freelance writing back in 2015, to focus more on raising her daughter as a single mom. She specializes in parenting, lifestyle, and personal finance. 







The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.

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