We all want desperately to be loved by others. We want the unconditional love of parents and siblings, spouses, friends, coworkers, strangers, and pets. Most of all however, we want the love of our children. We want to be their whole worlds, at least partly because we know what it is like, we have been. When they get older though and become more independent, we settle for being their friends, playmates, and compatriots.
Our children love us for that, but there are times when the role of best friend is simply not enough—times when it comes into conflict with our primary role of best parent. In those moments having the strength to give up what we want and to choose the role our child needs most is all that determines the best parents from the rest.
The role of parent and the role of friend are not always mutually exclusive. The two jobs share many important skills. Both should be loving to your child and look to their welfare. Both should be good listeners, should be empathetic and respectful. Both should be willing to tell you when you’re wrong, should support you when you’re down, should be there to play with you when you’re happy. A parent can do all of these things. What they cannot do is allow themselves to be held hostage by their children’s affections.
No parent can afford to fall into the habit of ignoring parental responsibilities simply because they want their child to love them. You may worry that a choice or action made you make on their behalf will cost you their friendship, but you cannot allow that worry to guide your parenting choices. Otherwise you risk leaving your child without the guidance and care that they need most.
The things your child needs from you as a parent include things that they will not want and may never acknowledge. Structure, rules and supervision, but most especially discipline You will have to provide them without giving into fears that the parenting you do out of love will cost you your child’s love. You will have to learn to say no to them when it is best for them and when it is hardest for you. The good news is that no amount of parenting will destroy your relationship with your child while they know that they are loved and respected.
You may fight, but you will still find yourself loved and appreciated and maybe even better friends as a result of good parenting. Certainly, many children come to regard their parents as their first and best friends once they have grown mature enough to understand them. In any case, though you may want to be liked by your child, your job is to help them become the best adult they can be. Being their friend when they need you to be their parent can cause irreparable damage to that process. On the other hand, knowing which role to assume and when can bring surprising gifts.