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.