Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Parents or Friends

I always enjoy time with my grown children who are both married and have children of their own. However, we all realize that we don't have these times too often so we enjoy them as much as we can. The time together is wonderful.

But Jackie and I have been reminded again that we now relate to our children more as friends than parents. Yes, I hope we will always provide them a sense of support, wisdom and leadership, but they are nonetheless now adults in their own right and that's a good thing. It really is fun to be more friends to each other than parent and child. And you, too, can anticipate that you can enjoy a friendship relationship with your kids someday.

However, when our kids are young and in our homes, we're to be more their parent than friend. Yes, we should be loving and we can be friend-ly, but many parents make the mistake of trying to be their child's friend in inappropriate ways. And when they do that several things can begin to happen.

First of all, some parents will not do much of anything if it will cause their child not to like them or to be angry with them. As a result the kids get most of what they want, make key family decisions and become the center of attention. Some parents don't ever want their child disappointed with them so they give in to them most every time. Parents who live this way end up with children who think the whole world revolves around them. They begin to believe that everything in their home must be done to please their wants and needs.

Second, parents can start to act like a child instead of an adult who has fun interacting with their child. This next week we'll be traveling to Illinois to see our son, his wife and their two sons. Jeremiah turned two in July so he'll be ready for grandpa to play all sorts of games, read books, help him ride his bike and build with Legos. I can't wait! But if you came to watch us and I were acting like a two-year-old myself you'd be calling for the mental health police to pick me up! And you should.

Too many parents try to still be a teenager by dressing, talking and acting like them in general. Teenagers don't want us to be their friend. They want and need us to be their parents who act towards them and their friends in friendly, but age-appropriate ways. If we try to somehow be cool we're going to be grossly uncool. Trust me.

Third, parents who want to be their child's friend don't think clearly about discipline and their child's best interests. There are things in life that we as parents must simply enforce. Our kids will not naturally gravitate to the right and best things. So we'll have to set rules, say no and make decisions that they won't like. For a time they might not like us very much. You'll survive and so will they.

I can remember one or both of our kids saying something like "I hate you," when they were little and had to do something they didn't want to do. My response was typically, "Really? You know I don't hate you right now. But I'm sorry you hate me tonight. There's nothing you could ever do that would cause me to hate you. However, you still need to go to bed. Hopefully you'll feel different tomorrow."

On those nights, I was clearly the parent and my child didn't need me to be a friend. It was best for me to lovingly, graciously yet firmly be the parent and have them learn to obey. And now as I watch our two kids parents their kids, I'm pretty sure I was right. They're terrific parents.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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