Many mothers and their kids have a bond that goes far beyond sharing clothes and making TikTok videos together. I’ve heard many moms say that their daughter is their best friend. But, I’ve also heard parents say that their role is not to be a friend but to to discipline, support, and make sure they raise compassionate children.
The message around mixing friendship with parenthood is negative
I’ve always felt that the messages surrounding being your child’s friend are negative. People warn you not to cross that line; that letting your child slip into the friend zone is only asking for trouble, impaired judgment and mistrust. They say that acting as a friend does not give your child the sense of structure and boundaries they desperately need.
When my kids were small, I thought it would be easy to maintain the parent-child relationship without crossing the line. But, now I am the mother of three teenagers, including a fifteen-year-old daughter who’s going through many of the same trials and tribulations I went through at her age. And I wonder why we can’t I be both her mom and her friend.
There are days when my daughter is the only one who can cheer me up. We love to go shopping and hit Starbucks together. She likes to play new music for me in the car. If she knows I am upset about something, she will ask me about it. She will lean in for an extra hug. She will send me a text telling me she loves me. That’s when I feel like she is not only my daughter; she is my friend.
If I want my kids to come to me, I need to be a friend
I want all of my kids to come to me; to confide in me. I want them to know they can vent about anything and ask me questions whether it’s about anything. In order to do that, don’t we kind of have to get into their friend zone?
Don’t we have to be open enough to make them feel like they can talk to us, but be parental enough to make them feel like they can trust us to give them have sound advice.
Do we really have to choose?
There are times my kids know I am in full-on parent mode. Like the other day when they were lounging around while I was trying to wrangle six grocery bags into the house. At seventeen, fifteen, and thirteen, they still have to be reminded to help out around the house regardless of how buddy-buddy we have been.
When I mean business, my kids know it.
But there are times when I feel like they are my friends. Like when I was having trouble with something that happened between me and someone I love and I need a sounding board to help me hear a different perspective. I am careful not to overshare and tell them something that will change their opinion of someone they hold dear, but I do like to get their take on things. I don’t bad mouth their wonderful father even though he is my ex-husband, but I am there to listen to them if they are struggling.
I’m not going to be a doormat and allow myself to be taken advantage of. I’m careful with what I share with my kids because they are, in fact, still kids and they are looking for someone to lead by example.
But, we don’t have to skip over the friend part. There is a time and place for every role. There are days when my kids need me to be their friend because they’ve had a rough patch and they don’t need a parental lecture. But there are also times when they need a parent to let them know what is expected of them and what they are capable of.
Sometimes the line between parents and friend is clear, sometimes not
Sometimes the line between parent and friend is very clear like not allowing them to drink alcohol under your roof when they are underage. That’s a hard “no.” But then there are days when the line becomes blurrier. Like when one of my kids was having a lot of friend drama at school, and I let them stay home and we went shopping and out to eat.
What I’m saying is that I’ve learned that the parent/teenager relationship isn’t black and white. There are lines that need to be crossed depending on the circumstance and crossing them doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent.
We will always be their parents. But, we can also have a friend in our kids. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I stopped listening to all the mixed messages and I stopped wondering if I was ruining my children by leaning into one role more than the other. Now that I feel more confident in my parenting our relationships have blossomed.
Parenting teenagers is hard enough with worrying about labels. If you need to lean on your kids for a little emotional support when you are going through a rocky time, so be it.
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