Is it your goal in life to be your child’s best friend? If so, that’s honorable. But do you sometimes allow your friendship to take precedence over being a good parent? Out there on the far end of the relational spectrum are parents who place so much value on having a great relationship with their child that they do not take the appropriate position of authority in the life of their child. When parents abandon their parental role to become more like their child’s friend, they are more like a peer than a parent, or “peer-ents.” They’ve relinquished their parental role.
Peer-ents tend to refrain from correcting or disciplining their children out of fear that it will hurt the relationship. Peer-ents have an intense need to be loved or accepted by their child, and avoid conflict. Like a peer, they’ll often defend their child’s behavior to the other parent, to teachers, and even to law enforcement.
The role of a good parent is to provide instruction that leads a child to understanding.
The goal of parenting is to build maturity and self-reliance in your children for when they eventually leave home. The process may be more difficult than you first imagined. Getting the kind of understanding that leads to maturity takes refinement and discipline. It is something only a parent, not a peer-ent can offer. Your teen may not welcome such “instruction” or training and may not feel all warm and fuzzy about your relationship when they are grounded or lose some of their privileges for stepping over the line, but they will someday thank you for the “understanding” they received from your discipline.
Like good exercise for the body, a parent may need to willingly allow their child to experience some discomfort for a time in order to help them build their maturity muscles. The result of good discipline may mean your child is temporarily unhappy, and he may not like you in the process.
By the way, for teenagers, discipline should never involve inflicting physical pain. Unlike younger children, teenagers have the ability to reason, and reasonable consequences should be applied, not “the rod.” Consequences can include losing the car for a time, an earlier curfew, loss of their cell phone, or anything that they would miss having for a time. Consequences can also include added work projects around the home or to help a neighbor.
Your child needs you to be their parent, and not their peer. They have plenty of peers, but only you as a parent. If you don’t help them move toward maturity and responsibility, no one else will. They are counting on you to discipline and train them to meet the demands of adulthood.
How to Build a Healthy Relationship
One of the most helpful things you can do to build a healthy relationship with your children is to create a roadmap for how your home and family will operate. A Belief System is a clearly defined determination of how the relationships in your home function, and is reinforced with rules and consequences – based upon your beliefs.
It’s never too late to share with your child your longing for better relationships within your family, or that you believe relationships do best when everyone knows what to expect.
So, begin right now to think about what you want to be different, and start to write those things down. Would you like to have more respect? Would you like your teen to have better time management? Who pays for their telephone, gas, or insurance? Would you like everyone to stop yelling, and start listening? What takes priority, driving to work or driving elsewhere?