Parenting for the parents, friendship reserved for friends
By Kate Soucheray
Being friends with our kids is often a temptation in today’s complicated world, and we may believe it will make the job of parenting easier. Choosing to parent in this way only confuses our children and blurs the lines for them about who is in charge, what the rules are and who is supposed to do what. It makes each day more difficult and sets up a future for them that may be marked by insecurity and boundaries that are unclear. So we might as well accept the difficult task of parenting our children while they are young, putting the relationships in right order from the beginning.
Choosing to parent in a way that conveys we are the parent does not set us up to be a friend. The Mayo Clinic websites for parenting tips for toddlers and teenagers offer two significant suggestions for both groups that are eerily similar. The websites provide specific ideas for each age group, but each begins with “show your love,” and ends with “set a good example.”
What if showing our love for our children and setting a good example for them were paramount in our minds each day as we interact with them? This would likely presuppose that the parents have taken care of themselves and not allowed themselves to get overly busy and preoccupied. It presumes they have met with friends and taken care of their own social needs, so their cup is filled and they have something to give to others, specifically their children. It also ventures that they are mature and stable, accepting responsibility for everything that relates to them. They do not shirk, or attempt to avoid, accepting what they must do, when they must do it.
When parents live in this way, they are demonstrating that they love and care for themselves, as well as their desire to set a good example of adult, mature behavior for their children. In order for children to grow and become adults who parent well, they must see it and experience it being done well. Therefore, this is also an opportunity to influence the future of your children, yourself and all of those who will come after you.
If you are parenting at this time, check to see that your own personal needs are being met so that you are more able to set appropriate limits with your children. In this way, you will be showing your love and setting a good example in a calm and loving manner. Check the Mayo Clinic websites for parenting of toddlers and teens to find more ideas and suggestions to help raise your children.
Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist