Parenting on Purpose

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Bigstock Photos

Is it possible to be your child’s friend and be a good parent at the same time? Or are these roles completely at odds, forcing you into a more authoritative relationship than you would ever have imagined when you were dreaming of what your family life would be?

Being a friend and being an authority figure are two different aspects of the same role, but there is a time and a place for each of them to be expressed. It is possible to switch between them, but it requires a desire to recognize which of these roles is the most appropriate in the moment. There also has to be a willingness to shift from one role to the other.

With young children, you can often be both parent and friend simultaneously. Because young kids relish your attention and being with you, being their friend can also come easily, as it is natural to offer advice and be their friend in fun activities.

For some parents, the friend role is still an adult figure, listening and encouraging their children’s ideas and emotions. Other parents will also be able to play with their children, expanding the friend role to include more childlike fun and games.

Trying to maintain these dual roles once your kids become pre-teens and teenagers can be more of a challenge.

Older kids need your guidance. You can teach them about their Internal Guidance System (IGS) when they’re young and help them learn to use and trust it, but they may need reminders and guidance on how to listen to their internal self when they are older and more distracted.

It’s important for you to check in with your own IGS to help you in coaching and mentoring your children, no matter their age. This will help you to know the best way to approach each child as an individual, to be supportive and loving, and to help you guide, but not try and control them.

Children need to have some rules and boundaries, as well as a parental figure in their lives. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a supportive friend, listening and accepting them for who they are. This includes sometimes engaging in playfulness no matter what their ages,or your age for that matter. This is an important role for you to fulfill in addition to providing advice and serving as a positive role model.

Another important way to wear the two hats of parent and friend to your kids is by getting to know their friends. When your kids are younger, this is pretty easy, if for no other reason than the fact that you have to drive them to and from everywhere they need and want to go. You may also be involved in their school activities and class parties. Once they get a driver’s license and have more freedom to travel on their own, however, it takes more of an effort to get to know your kids friends,but you can be the home their friends love to be at.You can do this, first by offering and giving them space in your home to be themselves.

The effort is well worth it. You won’t be a friend to them in the same vein that the kids at school are, but by treating all these young people with respect and honoring who they are, you can be a great adult friend and role model not only for your children, but for their friends, as well.

When you demonstrate that you value their friends by listening to them,and not judging them, your kids will learn that you value their choices, even if you don’t always agree with these choices. You will show your children that friendship can be a part of your family life at any age.

Please feel free to comment.
© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.

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