A good friend once told me that she and her daughter were best friends. She bragged that her daughter told her everything. I wondered in that moment if perhaps being the “best friend” parent was the way to go? It sounded like she never had to worry what her daughter was up to or wonder if her daughter was lying. She described a carefree parenting style which she believed still helped her daughter develop an independent personality and gain responsibility. She admitted parenting with boundaries is a struggle. My friend often gets the “typical teenager attitude” which made me wonder if being the best friend was really the best approach.
Everyone has their own views on how to parent and there is no “one size fits all” but it did make me curious if my friend was on to something. A 2015 study revealed that 46% of parents considered their children to be their “best buddies.” Parenting Science discussed studies indicated that this type of permissive parenting style can lead children to have a lack of self-control, little to no respect for authority figures and in some cases emotional stress when introduced to adult issues.
So what is a parent to do? How do we encourage social and emotional support but also be a parent? How do we be there for our child, listen and encourage sharing and bonding while still maintaining healthy boundaries with our children?
Four Steps to Parenting with Boundaries
Parents can (and should) still provide rules, structure and age appropriate limits while fostering a healthy emotional bond. Actually, setting limits with our children helps them feel safe and trust us more. While they may initially bulk at the rules and push boundaries (this is all normal childhood development), in the long run they will recognize their parents loved them enough to set firm and healthy boundaries. It’s important to remain sensitive to a child’s needs by listening, reassuring and validating them while still maintaining consistency and structure. Just because they share that they don’t like the rules, doesn’t mean you have to give in. Encouragement, listening and hugs go a long way!
Discipline follow through is important to enforce rules and consistency. Once this is carried out (i.e. a time out or grounding), take time and talk to the child about what occurred and the reason for the consequences. If you go back on your word and don’t follow through, your child will learn that there are loopholes and if they push hard enough they can find a way around the consequences. Even if you made a decision and think maybe it wasn’t the right one, it’s okay to follow through with it anyway and learn from it to do better next time. No one is a perfect parent!
Have fun together
Take special moments with you and your children. A park, zoo, picnic or riding bikes together can be a great release from every day stresses and can provide some healthy bonding moments. These are moments where you can develop an appropriate friendship with your child – allow time to have fun, laugh and share with each other in a healthy way.
While your children may want to tell you less and less as they get older, make sure they know who they can talk to if they don’t want to talk to you. For example, your son may feel more comfortable talking to his father about sex, a child who is scared at school may feel more comfortable talking to his mother or a teacher about his fears. Let your child know who can be a safe person to talk to and that it’s okay if it’s not you. Make sure to discuss safety situations in which it is crucial for them to talk to a safe person and remind them you are there to support them and love them no matter what the situation might be.
Parenting is hard and there is no perfect way to parent. Don’t we all wish there was one big golden rule book to reference? The reality is that different situations and struggles can occur at any stage of parenting. If you are struggling with your child or feeling overwhelmed in this season of parenting, this group of therapists can help. Click here to read more about the therapists, their passions and specialities and schedule your appointment today. This team can help you nurture your relationship with your children and build a strong foundation for their future.