How to Be A Parent And Not A Friend

By Michelle Johnson
Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

Too often, parents think their goal is to make their children happy. They assume they should give their children all the material things they want, let them do whatever they want and avoid disciplining them when they misbehave. However, parenting expert E.D. Hill points out that just because you love your children, your job isn't to ensure their constant happiness. Children need parents who will teach them proper behavior and right from wrong. By being a parent -- rather than a friend -- to your children, you give them the best chance of growing into "adults who can make good choices for themselves and society."

Establish appropriate rules and boundaries for your child. Decide on a limited number of rules that you feel are most important for teaching your child proper behavior. Focus on rules regarding safety, manners and treating each other respectfully. Phrase rules in a positive way: "Speak kindly to each other" rather than "Don't speak rudely." Involve your child in making the rules, so he understands them. Remember, though, that you are the parent and need to decide which rules you feel are most important -- even if he doesn't like them.

Discipline your child when necessary; children don't automatically follow rules just because you've established them. Be firm and consistent in expecting proper behavior from your child. If she does something wrong, correct her using disciplinary methods such as distraction, reasoning, removing privileges and timeouts. Allow her to experience the natural consequences of her actions. If she doesn't do her homework, she may end up failing a test. Reward positive behavior too, so she doesn't think the only way to get your attention is by misbehaving.

Trust that your child will love you even if you behave like a parent. Children need reasonable structure and rules to feel that their parents love and care for them. If you try to be your child's friend and never do anything that may make him unhappy, he will lose respect for you -- because you don't require him to treat you respectfully -- and feel uncared for and insecure.

Avoid making your child your confidante. Some parents use their child as a source of emotional support, expecting her to listen to their problems and settle conflicts between the parents. Playing the role of a parent's best friend can cause a child to feel lonely, sad and depressed. Instead of making your child your best friend, focus on supporting her and guiding her into a mature, responsible and self-confident adult.

About the Author

Based in southern Idaho, Michelle Johnson started writing in 1991. Her work has been published in the science fiction and fantasy journal, "Extrapolation." Johnson holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and a Master of Arts in fantasy literature, both from Hofstra University in New York.