It is important for parents to establish a close bond with their children, however, it is necessary to set rules and principlesfor them to follow that best ensure their safety and well-being. Here is a quick guide on how to strike a balance between being a friend and a disciplinarian.
Parent-child relationship is purely built on love and affection. Nevertheless, as time goes on, parenting should be a functional role, not just an emotional one. The emotional side of parenting is when the child’s mother or father demonstrates their love by holding, talking and singing to the baby, while the functional role involves feeding, changing diapers and bathing the baby. It is important for parents to understand that one without the other is damaging for their children. If parents just loved their children and didn’t do the responsible things, the children may be at great risk of being harmed and neglected. If it was vice versa, then it may stunt the children’s emotional growth and have ill effects on their development.
Dr. Sangeeta Madhu, Founder and Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Chennai Institute of Learning and Development (CHILD) says, “It is imperative for parents to understand that as the child grows older, their roles become more functional and less emotional. It is a hard lesson to learn for parents who want to be their children’s best friend. As a parent, you may feel mixed emotions inside, but you have to think of your children’s wellbeing and set limits.”The emotional and functional parenting roles go hand in hand. It’s not healthy to emphasise one at the cost of the other.Bengaluru based child psychologist, Dr. Sulata Shenoy says, “There are a few misconceptions about setting limits and there have been arguments regarding the same. There is nothing wrong with setting limits. It is how children learn to figure out what’s safe and not safe and what’s appropriate and not appropriate.”
Don’t make your children your confidante
More often than not, parents make the mistake of making their children their confidante and that is against the rules of being functional parents. Dr. Madhu says, “As a parent, the feeling that you need to be a friend to your child is good, however, most parents misunderstand this and make their children their confidante. Being a friend and making your child your confidante are two different things. Your children are not morally, emotionally or intellectually prepared to play the role of your confidante.”
What you should not share with your children
+ Your children need not know what you really think of your neighbours
+ Don’t talk ill about your relatives in front of them
+ Never discuss money matters in front of your children
Always support authority figures
Dr. Shenoy says, “If your child complains about a teacher from school and you think it is the teacher’s fault, keep it to yourself. Do not put down authority figures in front of your child, as at a later date, your child may disrespect you. Instead, you can always say, “I hated that too, but one must follow the rules.” This is more effective because,children know that you understand their feelings and that you empathise with them.”
Seek your child’s opinion, not advice
When you make your child your friend, you think that you and your child are co-decision makers. But the fact is, you and your children are not co-decision makers in any realistic way. Children can offer you their opinion and they can tell you what they like and dislike. However, decisions – minor and important ones – have to be made by you as a parent. Children have to understand that adults make the decisions in the family.
Don’t try to parent your child the way you wish your parents had parented you
Dr. Madhu says, “If your parents were rigid, or seemed uncaring or self-involved and didn’t give you the guidance you needed, you shouldn’t overcompensate for that by violating parent-child boundaries with your own child.”The biggest problem with parent-child friendships is all the unforeseen consequences. Parents tend to look only at the foreseen consequences; for example, my children will like and trust me more if I’m their friend. Parents don’t look at the unforeseen consequences such as they won’t listen to the word ‘no’ because I have never used it with them or taught them how to deal with certain situations.