A common adage in parenting circles insists that you shouldn’t be a friend to your kid. The thought is that being your kid’s friend will somehow usurp all your parental authority and your kid will not respect any of your rules.
I disagree. I think we should try to be friends with our kids.
The fallacy in the argument above is the assumption that you have to choose between being a friend and being an authority. That’s a fool’s choice. What if you could do both!
Indeed we can be both friends and authorities. I have a lot of friendships that transcend lines of authority. Pastor Kim Pagel is my supervisor and am one of his direct reports, yet I consider him one of my closest friends. Going the other direction, I’m the boss of my admin as well as the high school youth leaders and the students themselves, yet many of them are dear friends of mine. Similarly, I’m the head of our home and thus given the primary responsibility of leadership, yet in spite of this, my wife, Cindy and I are best friends. In all of these relationships there is no correlation between friendship and authority. So it makes no sense to insist that kids will necessarily rebel against parents who are friends.
Next I’d like to clarify what I mean by “friendship.” The kind of friend I’m talking about in this discussion involves much more than hanging out, kicking back, and feeling good. True friendship delights in the other person and invests time getting to know who he or she really is on the inside. A true friend — what I call a “Becoming-Good Friend” — shows genuine interest in the well-being of the other person, engages in heart-to-heart conversations about things that matter, utilizes tough love when needed, and gives constructive feedback. A true friend cares even more about the other person’s well being than they do about being liked. People end up better off due to friends like this.
Sounds a lot like the job description of a good parent to me!
Of course, many parents attempt to be “Feel Good Friends” to their kids. They try to “buddy up” to their kids as a way to build their own self-esteems, to attain a status of “cool” in the eyes of the kids, to avoid conflicts with their kids, or to fill some void in their inner world. Trying to be BFFs with your kids seems very unhealthy — as well as unwise!
So on the one hand, don’t believe the age-old adage that says you can’t be friends with your kids. And on the other hand, don’t follow the faulty friendship pursuits of those trying too hard to be a their kid’s Feel-Good Friend.
Instead, consider investing in a true friendship with your kids, which starts with time together, listening, understanding, loving, delighting, and helping them grow.
Counting your kids among your friends is a blessing worth pursuing. If you don’t believe me, just ask my friends — I mean my children!