Parent VS Friend: Why My Children Aren’t My Friends (YET!)

Parent VS Friend: Why My Children Aren’t My Friends (YET!)

Often in our society today the lines between parent and friend become blurred.

On social media, I often see “My daughter is my best friend!” or “My little BFF!”

While there is nothing wrong with saying that, is it really our goal as parents?

My Parenting Goals

My personal goal as a parent is to raise my children in the Lord and to raise them to make good choices in their lives.

To be examples to others and to be positive members of society as adults.

It is a struggle as a mom to not give in and become a friend.

I love my children so much and it’s not easy to tell them no.

It’s hard not to buy them every toy they could ever want!

Sure I’d love to stay up late giggling with them.

It’d be so relaxing to let them watch tv all the time!

It would be far, far easier to let my children rule the roost.

Keep them happy by giving them everything they desire.

Be their friend by letting them have everything they want, whenever they want it.

I have been through times of personal struggle in my life that has made it even more difficult not to look at my children as a source of love for me.

But that is not their role.

They are not the parent, I am.

And it’s important for me to always keep that perspective.

They need my love. They need my protection. They need my wisdom and guidance. Always!

parent vs friend: why my children aren't my friends (yet!)

Why It’s Tough To Not Become “The Friend”

I think it’s important to share when parenting moments are difficult for us.

And truly it is HARD for me not to live my life in a way where I cater everything to my children in order to ensure they will love me.

I fear rejection in relationships and I often catch myself giving-giving-giving in relationships I have and feeling like I have to show up in every single way possible or else the other person will no longer want me in their life.

I feel obligated to do all the things in fear that if I don’t show up at a level 10 that the other person will say “see ya!”

It sounds silly when writing it out or reading it back, but it’s something I’m on a mission to work through and as I work on healing tough wounds I find myself better able to step back a bit and allow people to show up for me too.

How I Avoid Being the Friend Rather than Parent

In learning more about my worldview and personal struggles with relationships I have realized a BIG reason I’ve been able to avoid “the friend” trap with my kids is that I have followed a guidebook for my parenting since early on.

I know I talk about Babywise all the time and I truly don’t think I’d be the parent I am today if I hadn’t read the book early on in my parenting.

It has been a benefit for our family in countless ways – including in keeping a clear line between parent and friend.

The schedule my kids have had since they were born helps us have structure and order to our day, every day.

Our children do not decide when they eat or when they sleep, we do.

Babywise is family-centered, not child-centered.

So much of the “friendship parenting” that takes place today is due to child-centeredness parenting styles.

That is something we want to avoid in our home so we have focused on establishing Babywise principles from day one. 

Many aspects of Babywise help us to keep that balance of parent over friend.

From the scheduling to the eat-wake-sleep cycle we put in place, even to independent playtime.

While my husband and I are always the leaders of our home, that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have fun in our family! 

Being the Parent still Means Having Fun

Using Babywise and having that structure in our day actually allows us more freedom and more ability to be that fun Mommy and Daddy we want to be!

Yes, structure and discipline are so, so important.

But so are creating loving, fun, lasting memories with our children.

Since our children have structure in their lives, we know they will be happy when they are awake!

They will be well-rested and have full bellies and better be able to have those exciting memorable times with us! 

We travel a lot as a family and even when traveling we maintain our structure and routine and our expectations for behavior.

We spend a lot of time at home building forts, playing pretend, and even watching movies together.

Even while doing those fun things, it is always clear that Mommy and Daddy are the decision-makers while having fun together too!

Sure, occasionally we let our children stay up a little late.

Or let our older children skip nap.

We are a Disney family and tend to have a more flexible schedule when we visit the parks.

But it is not the norm in our home and is always because the parents discussed and decided it, not the children.

parent vs friend - why I'm not friends with my children yet!

Being the FUN Mom while Still being The Parent

As the product of a more relaxed parenting environment myself, I know I look back and wish my parents had provided more structure for me in many ways.

Sure we had plenty of fun, but there wasn’t a clear parent/child relationship.

Those friendship vs parenting lines were very blurry and I personally would have benefitted from a more clear distinction between the two.

As an adult, I am not what I would call “friends” with my parents in the ways I’ve seen other people my age be with theirs.

There are many reasons for this but I also fully believe that if they had a more clear line as I was younger, then we would have a better relationship now that I’m older. 

I love being the fun parent. I love doing fun things, sharing fun experiences.

I love laughing with my kids, being silly with my kids.

It’s possible to be a super fun parent and still be a firm parent too.

It’s a balancing act and as my children have gotten older I’ve found the groundwork we put in when they were little has already allowed more flexibility and freedom as they’ve gotten older.

They know right from wrong. They know our expectations. They know the lines not to cross.

I also know as they enter the teen years it will be a new level of balancing between friendship and parenting.

Even now, with a pre-teen, it’s tough to have to say “no” to things that I WISH I could say yes to.

Things his peers at school are allowed to partake in that I wish I could allow him to enjoy as well.

Communication is so crucial at this stage. It’s important to me to always explain the “why” in my “no.”

Most often at this delicate pre-teen stage? My “no” is a no to keep them safe – physically or emotionally and to protect them from outside dangers or temptations that may occur within.

We have those tough talks and have that understanding that the “no” Mommy and Daddy sometimes have to give is because we love them enough to say “no.”

The “no” I give today paves the way for our kids to be making choices and decisions on their own that will, hopefully, align with our family values, beliefs, and the path of righteousness.

Friendship in the Future

I do not consider myself to be my children’s friend, and I do not think others view me as a “cool mom,” but I am okay with that.

I know that years from now my children will respect me for putting these boundaries in place for them and for raising them to follow the Lord’s path.

I know as they get older we will have plenty of time to be friends.

My days of having to discipline, of needing to structure their days, of having to make their decisions will fade and then we will be able to be truly wonderful friends.

I am looking so forward to that phase of life!

Our hard work will pay off and we will get to enjoy our children as adults!!!

My girls tell me all the time how excited they are for girls’ trips and shopping outings when they are grownups.

I look forward to grandbabies and sitting around with my adult children sharing stories and laughter.

Most of all though I look forward to eternity with my children in Heaven! There is no bigger blessing as a parent than to have that faith and trust that my children will be there with me when the time comes.

It is a constant balancing act when choosing to be a parent to my children rather than falling into the friendship cycle.

It is not easy to say no, not easy to see my children disappointed or upset in the moment, but I know it’s worth the hard work today to ensure them the best possible tomorrow!

And even when we enter the stage of life where our kids are adults and we have a more friendship type bond?

Even then I will always be the parent. Always there to help guide. Always there to listen and offer support. Always there to love!

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Love What Matters, Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

1 Comment

  1. ChelleyN
    March 4, 2014 / 6:32 am

    I always think about how it would SEEM easier to give in and let the kids run the show, but in reality it's not. I've seen too many families struggle constantly because there are no boundaries set in place. They are miserable in their day-to-day life, and forget having any kind of special moment/activity without a meltdown! Really, being a friend parent more than a parent-parent makes everything harder. Are my kids perfect or free of meltdowns? Of course not. BUT, we have so many good moments and "easy" transitions and experiences because they have boundaries that they know they must respect.

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