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Why We Can’t Be Friends With Our Kids

... No matter how much we love them.

Honestly, wouldn’t it be great to be truly friends with our kids? After all, they’re our children and we want them to feel close to us; we want them to enjoy spending time with us, right? What’s wrong with that?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a close relationship with our kids. It’s a good thing. In fact, we can be as close and as friendly with our children as we’d like. We just can’t be friends with them. Why? It’s for one simple truth: We are responsible to help keep them safe. This means, that at times we have to “pull rank” on them and override their decisions. That’s what makes actual friendship impossible. Friends don’t override their friends’ choices. They may give their advice, however, friends are free to make their own decisions, and sometimes your kids are not.

For example: If I tell my best friend I’m going to go cliff-diving off a 100-foot cliff my friend would most likely tell me I’m nuts, or that it’s unsafe. Clearly, he would have a lot to say about why this is something I should not do. After all, I’ve never gone cliff-diving before, and chances are it’s not recommended you dive off a hundred-foot cliff your first time out. However, with that said, ultimately I would be able to make the final decision myself. My friend would have to resign himself to the fact that this was something I chose to do and once he said his piece about it, I had the free will to do what I wanted.

That is why he is my friend and my kids are my kids! When my 14-year-old daughter tells me the same thing; that she’s going to go cliff-diving with her friends and jump off a 100-foot cliff; that’s just not going to happen. I will withhold permission, put my foot down, and make it clear she’s not going to do that. The child may be upset, however, the child is in my care and I’ll do my best to keep her out of harm’s way.

That’s really the only reason we need to know as to why we can’t truly be friends with our children. Of course, I’m referring to our kids while they are children. Once they become adults, the rules can change and at that point, real friendship can occur. After all, once they’re grown we can give all the advice we want, however, they can then make their own choices.

I am sure there are other reasons why we can’t truly be friends with our children. However, the fact that we have authority over them and can veto their decisions makes all of the other reasons unnecessary. While we should all enjoy our children while they’re growing up and be the best parents we can be, we also need to recognize that they are still children. We are at different stages of our lives than they are. Our kids need our guidance and protection to help them grow up safely. They have less life experience and this sometimes requires us to make choices the child doesn’t like. We may have to override their decisions at times and have them comply with what we feel is best, and this creates an unequal power dynamic between us.

The good news is, when we establish limits to their behaviors and boundaries of what’s acceptable in our households, we are helping them to have a clearer understanding of what it’s like to be part of a healthy family. This awareness, that there are limits to their behaviors, while initially upsetting them, can ultimately lead to children feeling safer and more secure. This in turn leads to healthier, more secure children, which is hopefully more than enough compensation for not being able to truly be friends with them.

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