Things I want to say
Published on June 21, 2008 By charliemama In Parenting

This is an article I wrote and posted on BFDs site last year.  Now that I have my own site, I think it should be here.

Thinking Things Through

August 27, 2007








This is an article written by MamaCharlie:

Often lately I hear the statement, "Your child doesn't need you to be his friend, he needs you to be his parent." I assume that I am supposed to agree unquestioningly, thinking, "Of course!" But I don't. This one isn't true.

A friend is a good thing. A real friend encourages you to do right, is on your side, cares about you, and would never let you down. We are not talking about the kids on the street, now. We are referring to loyalty, faithfulness, rock-solid support. The implication of our original statement is that "friends" - kids from your child's school or neighborhood - won't be a good influence; they'll be immature, they'll encourage irresponsible behavior, and they'll demand his cooperation in enterprises less than uplifting - read "peer pressure" - all the while splitting him away from his family...and that if you try to be your child's best friend, you'll be too lenient, lax, and permissive. But the prescribed antidote for this is something sometimes called "tough love" or "being a parent". Wrong!

Who's side are you on? If your idea of being a parent is arbitrary meanness, autocratic pronouncements, or smacking your kid around, I promise you, it will backfire on you. You'll get resentment, discouragement, and disobedience in return. In addition, his bad behavior will seem justified to him because of your bad behavior. (Back talk may be wrong, but sometimes it is richly deserved!)

If you withhold affection or respect because your child needs a "parent" rather than a "friend", he may become convinced that you do not love him. And if you don't love him, what possible reason would your child have for doing anything you ask? Family life might then be reduced to an unequal negociation for food,. clothing, and shelter. If, on the other hand, he knows you love him, there isn't anything he wouldn't do to please you.

There's no guarantee - whether you're a benevolent parent or not - that your child will turn out the way you would wish. When all is said and done, we cannot - and should not - force other people to behave in certain ways - even if they are our kids. But here's the deal - you have a better chance that your child will make good choices in this life if you teach him the best way you know how and don't make an enemy of him.

Be honest; be loving. Be at least as polite to your child as you would be to the clerk at Walmart. Being a good parent is wonderful, and firm is fine if attached to an increase of love. But I fear that lots of moms and dads out there use the rationale of "tough love" as an excuse: "I don't have to be kind - or even civil - to my child. I can correct him at the top of my lungs or with belittling sarcasm anytime I like, in public or private. He's my kid. He needs a `parent' ."

Got news for you - love has to go hand-in-hand with respect. I know what you're thinking; but you don't have to placate, spoil, or let your child run the family. Your authority is safe if you think things through. Remember what you are trying to accomplish. It won't do you any good to alienate your child. He'll go elsewhere for a "friend" and you'll be sorry.

Try to be a good example. Many a kid has been disillusioned by a parent who lives by the axiom: "Do as I say, not as I do." I once attended an assembly at a middle school where the subject was drug abuse prevention. The speaker that day asked if any of the kids there had parents who didn't smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs. A very few kids stood up. "You kids are lucky, " the speaker said. "Kids who's parents are a good example are much more likely NOT to use and abuse any harmful substance." Now that's being a friend.

If you're wrong or make a mistake and your child knows about it or is the recipient of it, apologise. A little humility goes a long way. It shows respect to your child, and makes him respect you more, not less. What makes you think you are better than he is? You're not. You're responsible for his raising but your own character is still under construction. Give him a fighting chance to honor you as he should. Be don't have to be perfect to be a good parent; just an honest, loving, "Friend".



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on Aug 27, 2007

Not being a parent myself, MC, I won't comment on the contents of this article, but I did want to stop by and say welcome to JU!




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on Aug 27, 2007

I believe the phrase is an analogy, not a literal. I agree in all you said in regards to the parent child relationship. There are times though when we need to step half a pace back and be firm - note I didnt say beat he living c$%p out of them, as you say, there's no excuse for that. My belief is that the analogy is a comment on being too friendly, too accomodating - there are times when we have to say no, even somewhat firmly, and anyone not prepared to do that when necessary, does not do the child any favours, in fact they do them a great diservice.

As in all things there is a balance, its never a simple clear cut scenario. There are too many examples of both extremes. Its easy to take an all accomodating liberal view in all circumstances, and take a harsh over baring attitude. Respect, tollerance and a rounded charactor comes from parental example as you rightly point out. That includes understanding that no means no, not 'well maybe if you ask often enough'. Too many examples of the latter these days.

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Big Fat Daddy

on Aug 27, 2007

From MamaCharlie:


I did want to stop by and say welcome to JU!










Thank you, Little Whip. BFD and I have shared many of your articles and enjoy your candor.

And Zydor, thank you, too...we seem to be on the same page.


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on Aug 28, 2007

Welcome to JU Mom! I am trying to take your advice with my kids...after all, I think you did a great job with yours!




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Dr Guy

on Aug 29, 2007

First, welcome! It is good to see you post.

As for the article, I will not disagree with what you said. I think you are right. The area that I disagree with (well, not actually, but just want to clarify) is in your definition of a friend. While your description is a good one, and one we all think should follow, the reality is that the definition of a friend in the common parlance of usage in this country (and perhaps others) is different.

That is where the idea of "a parent not a friend" comes from. We do not see a friend disciplining us for doing something wrong or stupid. Instead we see the friend accepting us for faults. A parent has to work to correct those faults, at least in the early years.

Your idea of a friend is a good one, as is your whole article. But I understand the "parent not a friend" because today's society does not look at a friend as you do, but as the one who is there for a good time, not a learned lesson.


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Big Fat Daddy

on Aug 29, 2007

From MamaCharlie:

Dr Guy, You are right. That's why I wrote the article. Thanks for the welcome.


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