Friend or Parent? 3 Reasons to be an Empowered Parent First and then a Friend
Being a parent is hard, wouldn’t you agree? There is a decision that has to be made that has become more complex to make in today’s world. If you peruse social media groups on parenting, you will likely find discussions on the topic of whether you should be a parent or a friend first? Empowered Parents know that they must be a parent first before working on the friendship part.
The relationship between a parent and child evolves as the child grows. When a child becomes an adult and starts moving towards their professional and personal goals, the parent-child power dynamic often changes. As children grow into adults, you often see more equality in the relationship, more openness, and a closer resemblance to a friendship. This is a helpful and applicable change in the relationship.
When a child is young and still in the home, they need their parent to be a parent. This can include being friendly, but it is risky when a parent decides to be only a friend. There are many different schools of parenting in today’s world, and some are leaning more towards being a friend. Again, we can be friendly as parents, but we need to be parents first.
There is a natural power-dynamic that occurs within a parent-child relationship. The parent is the person that has a leadership role, and that is not a bad thing. Children come into this world without a lot of tools and skills to navigate their journey. As parents, we have the responsibility to help teach them what they need to know, and that comes through our leadership role.
It is important to note that leadership means the ability to influence and guide people. It does not depend on positional authority only. Being a parent is the most important form of leadership, and we must be willing to stay in this role and make the hard calls at times. If we are focused on being friends, we are less likely to make these harder calls so that we do not upset our child, which only has long-term negative impacts for our child and their ability to navigate the world.
Empowered Parents understand their role and responsibilities when it comes to helping their children grow and develop. Do they always make the right call? Of course not, parenting is hard and does not always have one answer! However, they do seek to be positive leaders for their children and act accordingly.
There is a lot of responsibility on us as parents, and choosing to be a friend before a parent makes the job harder than it needs to be! The parent-child relationship is one of the most powerful and unique relationships that there is. Choosing to be an Empowered Parent, to lead your children and honor this role responsibly has a powerful impact on your child. With that in mind, here are three reasons why we need to be parents before being friends.
Reason #1: Your Responsibility is to Mentor and Teach
Empowered Parents understand that as a leader, they have the responsibility to mentor and teach their children in responsible and respectful ways. This means setting limits and enforcing them in the home, helping your children learn how to solve problems and think about the consequences of their actions, and let the child stumble and fail when reasonable.
Being a mentor has its hard moments when you know that the child is going to face a difficult task, and instead of taking over it for them to shield them from insecurity and defeat, you let them take it on. We must teach our children, through our example and the limits we establish, how to navigate their lives. If we let the world do it for them, you will most likely struggle with the outcome.
As their parent, we bring our life experience and our tools for managing our lives to the table. We hold expectations for our children, and then teach them how to reach it. We let them stumble to learn how to get back up. We do not bail them out of teaching moments because of their, or our own, insecurity. We do not necessarily turn to advice-giving right away; rather, we let our children work out their situation.
If we choose to be a friend first, we are less likely to let our children experience and learn from the more uncomfortable things in life. We might try to shield them from defeat, anxiety, rejection, or the scary F word of failure. This keeps our children from learning the skills they need and how to manage and cope with difficult situations and emotions. When this happens, our children will not maximize their talents and strengths and will instead rely on others to take care of them. That is the opposite of what Empowered Parents want to accomplish!
Reason #2: Children Need Structure
What does structure do for children? As parents, we know what it is like to set rules and limits, enforce them with consequences, and see the resulting tantrums and rebellions that can come with it. Building a solid structure in the home is a hard thing to do, and at times it is easier just to let things go and have fun because it seems easier. Unfortunately, this backfires terribly.
When there is a consistent structure in the home that is implemented respectfully and responsibly, it benefits our children. They learn to trust us and that we will follow through with what we say we are going to do. We become predictable and they know what to expect. This is powerful because they will not be scared to bring us tougher problems as they get older because they already know how we will be.
Structure helps us be more effective mentors and teachers for our children. This structure helps provide lessons in expectations and outcomes of what happens when certain choices are made. Being able to recognize the cause-and-effect of their choices and behaviors is an important skill our children can learn that can come from a solid structure in the home.
When we focus on being friends first with our children, our structure will probably be sporadic and unpredictable. We might set limits, and then find excuses or exceptions not to enforce them. We want to be seen as the buddy of our children, and enforcing rules and discipline is a threat to this. Let’s face it, children do not like to be disciplined. If we want to be their friend, then we must avoid this, right? The consequences are profound, and it leads us to our third reason.
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Reason #3: Benefit their Future
Our children form a blueprint of how the world works when they live in our home. They learn lessons about work, effort, receiving things, authority, relationships, patience, success, and so many other things. Our Parenting Style influences what lesson they receive on these topics based on what our behavior, actions, and words teach.
These lessons and the blueprint they create have a dramatic impact on the future of our children. If we decide to be their friend, we might be setting up unrealistic expectations. For example, if we bail them out of every problem, do not provide steady discipline, or give them too much freedom and responsibility before they are ready, we are depriving them of important lessons.
When we bail them out of every problem, they do not learn how to take accountability; rather, they expect that someone will always take care of it for them. They do not learn how to problem solve because there is no need to, someone else has that responsibility. When we do not provide steady discipline, they will struggle following rules in the workplace or other important social circles. With too much freedom and responsibility comes bad decision making, which doesn’t matter because the parent will take care of any problems that come from it.
Empowered Parents are influential leaders that mentor their children through the hardships of life to prepare them for being on their own. They make the tough calls and restrain themselves from stepping in when their child is struggling but can still manage on their own if given a chance. Children from this type of environment have a greater chance of navigating their adult world more successfully.
Parenting a child is an honor and the greatest form of leadership. Empowered Parents recognize they must be the parental figure first before being a friend. This does not mean that they are not friendly with their children, quite the opposite. However, Empowered Parents do recognize they have deep responsibilities to their children to help them be as prepared for life and future relationships as possible. It is a lot of work upfront, but when the child becomes an adult and the relationship evolves closer to friendship, the investment will have been worth it!