Parent and Child – “best” friends?
Choice theory emphasizes the importance of positive, caring relationships. In fact, our mental health is dependent on our having good relationships with others. So with this in mind, some might wonder how a parent being in such a close relationship with his/her child could be a problem. First, let’s agree that there is a difference between being a true best friend, who always has the best good of his friend in mind, and a “best friend,” who likes to hang out and “do stuff.” It feels to me that #5 – Being your child’s best friend – is referring to the latter.
The 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do
1. Baby your child.
2. Put your marriage last.
3. Push your child into too many activities.
4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life.
5. Be your child’s best friend.
From a choice theory viewpoint, this is a really important topic! So many good things come out of parents being in good relationship with their children, and so many bad things come out of that relationship being broken. The more important the relationship (I’m hard-pressed to think of a relationship more important than the parent/child relationship), the more important it is to stay connected. Connection is everything; because as long as we are connected, we have influence. For a parent, influence is like gold.
The “best friend” from childhood was often rooted in insecurity, and was more about what could be gotten from the friendship, over what could be given. “Best friends” were there for the moment, like flavor-of-the-month ice cream, they tended to come and go. They had our back, for a while. They liked the same things, for a while, too. There isn’t necessarily a problem with having a “best friend.” It seems to be a rite of passage to have a best friend and to learn about being able to count on friends, as well as being disappointed by them. This is part of growing up. Problems occur, though, when parents behave in a way that mirrors childhood friendships. Young teachers, not used to being the adult presence and wanting to be on a buddy-buddy level with students, sometimes learn about this problem the hard way. Most of them learn about what it means to be a professional and adjust their student relationships accordingly. A few do not make this adjustment and their careers can be cut short.
Parent and child have a special and unique friendship; theirs is a relationship like no other. Part of the uniqueness has to do with the challenge parents have to foster a warm, positive relationship, while also compassionately setting behavioral expectations within a consistent structure. Children want the warmth and acceptance that comes from a good friend, but they also want (yes, want) helpful structure and even limits in their lives. The warmth and acceptance between parent and child should last for a lifetime; the trick is knowing how and when to incrementally let go of the structure we have for our children and the limits we place on them.
6. Fail to give your child structure.
7. Expect your child to fulfill your dreams.
Friel, J. and Friel, L. (1999). The 7 worst things good parents do. New York: Barnes & Noble.
Parents as best friends. What a novel idea. 🙂 As Jim so beautifully shared, the dynamic is a very sensitive balance of multiple factors, shared by youth – time, presence, understanding, trust, boundaries, fun and a non-judgmental atmosphere to name a few. The interesting things is that this need on the part of youth is so valuable and cherished that it spills over into a need for extended family whether it by blood lines or community. The bottom line is that youth need, desire, and “covet” caring, compassionate adults in their life. No “program,” “agency,” “organization,” “technology,” “activity,” or “project” is a substitute. It requires “flesh and blood.” It requires YOU and ME being willing to take an “active” part in the lives of OUR KIDS.
I agree with the importance of the parent/child and teacher/student relationship. Connectivity leads to positivity for all. Both these relationships have an authoritative figure and they can still be best friends with boundries. But is it the same for employer/employee relationship? Can a boss/employee be best friends? It appears to be different at work than in the home or classroom. What do you think, Jim? Ed
I have been thinking more about this and your comments provide a good launching pad for all of us. The relationships we have been talking about – parent/child, teacher/student, principal/student, and supervisor/worker – are different, yet they have at least one thing in common and that is the element of management. The parent/child relationship, with its lifetime warranty, is cut from a different cloth than the others, plus we have discussed it already, but let’s consider the others? Effective managers seek to provide a need-satisfying environment and nurture warm, supportive friendships with those around or under them. This friendship is different, though, from what we refer to as “best friends.” At its core, management has to do with production and achievement. We want to be managed well, which always leads to better production and success. We want to be understood and appreciated. Yet, always lurking (I don’t mean to make this sound like a bad thing) is the idea of producing and achieving.
An example of a relationship we haven’t mentioned yet is a friend we have personally or socially. Another example is that of the counselor and patient. In both of these cases, management is not a part of the dynamic. If management does become a part of the dynamic, chances are we would find a different friend and the patient would find a different counselor. Our close friends become our close friends because they don’t attempt to manage us. We accept one another, faults and all, for what we are and enjoy each other in the process. If a friend tries to change (or manage) the other, the friendship will suffer. The usual coffee times become less frequent.
Managers at work can have, and even should have, good relationships with employees, but these relationships will (and should) be within a professional context. Teachers and students, or supervisors and employees, can be warm and nurturing toward one another, but always in that professional context. Close personal friends at the coffee shop are free from that.
I hear you saying friends but not best friends. I can buy that. Leadership research continues to show that referent or relational power is still the most effective form of power or influence in the supervisor/employee contact. Referent power usually wins or is more persuasive than positional or boss power. Whether you are a parent, teacher or boss, relationships continue to “produce” personal and professional positive goodwill.