Should you parent or befriend your child?

Millenial parents are constantly faced with the challenge of how best to raise their children. For most, it’s a matter of how different and better can they do it from their own parents.

Ultimately, it all boils down to; should I parent or befriend my child? This means more freedom with time, space, speech and also with boundaries for the child. The modern parent prefers to ‘dialogue’ with their child before making decisions as opposed to enforcing the law.

The child now has a say in how they are treated around the house, what or when they eat, what they watch and when they watch it, etc. There is this constant fear to upset the modern child or make them unhappy. We think because it’s something that our parents did to us before or during the early 1980’s, therefore, it’s something we should avoid by all means.

That being said, we need to ask ourselves some very important questions: Is it possible to be friends with my child and still maintain my parental role? Is my growing need to be a ‘cool mum’ overriding my duty to mentor, discipline and shape the future of my child?

When you befriend your child

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  • Parents that advocate being friends with their children argue that it’s the best way to allow your children to be free with you. They argue that in this fast-growing socio-complex world of technology, it is better for the parent to be at friends with their child. It is the only way of gaining their trust so that they allow you access to their ‘digital’ world that they would otherwise keep secret from you. In essence, it allows you to protect them.
  • When the parent and child share intimate details of their lives, it allows them to bond. This, in turn, strengthens their relationship.
  • Children that freely communicate and interact with their parents find that it’s easy to approach them when faced with challenges. Out of respect for the trust bestowed on them, the children will, in turn, honour their parent’s expectations when away from their direct supervision. This builds mutual trust and respect.
  • Unfortunately, parents tend to overburden their children with information that they might not yet be ready to handle. E.g, sharing their marital problems or expecting the children to act like adults when in essence they haven’t been taught the difference between being an adult and being a child.
  • No one is in charge, or more like, the child rules. Decisions are mostly made after discussion. Children determine how they’re treated. There is no set law, anything goes mostly as long as it makes the child happy.
  • When some boundaries are in place, it makes parenting fun!

When you’re a very permissive parent 

  • Children with permissive parents will have a tough time adjusting to the challenges that life outside the comfort of their homes presents.
  • It will be tough for the child to handle friendships and adult relationships as they’re used to getting their way.
  • Children raised by permissive parents tend to lack discipline in many aspects of their lives. Because they’re used to getting their way, they tend to lack commitment to a lot of things. For instance, they begin projects only to give up on them prematurely to start something else they consider more exciting.
  • Children with permissive parents mostly call the shots on the activities they want to engage in. Because anything goes for them, the children will have no sense of right from wrong. The word ‘No’ does not exist in their vocabulary. This might cause problems for them later in life as they try to navigate their way through society in their adulthood.

When you’re the parent/disciplinarian to your child 

  • Asserting your role as a parent to your child will show them who’s in charge. However, this does not mean that the child will have no say at all. It simply means that the parent will guide the child on the right path to take. This should be until such a time that they can bear responsibility for consequences of their decisions.
  • Parents that discipline their children teach them that things will not always go their way. They teach the child that there are consequences for certain behavior and they show the child right from wrong. The idea is to shield the child from a lifetime of pain and not to shield him/her from that momentary pain.
  • However, when a parent is too strict or too controlling, children will develop a dependency syndrome. They will always need someone to control and direct them. This will make it difficult for them to successfully integrate into society as adults.
  • They might lack decision-making skills, innovation, and will rarely take initiative on anything.
  • Children with over-controlling parents tend to be too resentful of their parents
  • Strict disciplinarians can also make parenting feel like a chore

Finding a middle ground

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As you’ve observed, there are both advantages and disadvantage to raising children a certain way. There is no one perfect formula without challenges. Therefore, it’s up to the parents at the end of the day to decide how best to raise their children.

The recommendation would be that parents draw a balance between being disciplinarians and being permissive parents. Remember, even though the kids are yours alone to train, eventually, you will have to let them out into the world. There, they will have to co-exist with other people. It might be at the playground, at school, at work and eventually in their adult relationships.

The questions parents should ask themselves are; have I raised my child well enough for him/her to stand on their own? Can my child survive in the world without my constant supervision?

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