Be your child's parent, not a best friend

Career & Education

Be your child's parent, not a best friend

Dr Karla

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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IT is a misconception that a parent can be a child's best friend. Friends are a group of people that generally have the same ideas and notions about life and are considered equals. Children and adults almost always have different ideas about what they should be doing, and are certainly not equals. Children will have many sets of friends throughout their lives, but they will have only one set of parents.

An adult confiding in a child is unwise, as a child lacks the maturity and experience to comprehend adult matters. All children need guidance and correction. Children need you to be the best parent possible, not their best friend. Friendship, in lieu of good parenting, leads to confusion and insecurity.

Parents have the mandate to prepare kids for life. We must be our kids' first teachers and teach life skills so that they are able to make smart and safe decisions as adults. We must also protect our kids and be role models. Setting limits, boundaries and expectations are part of the parent's responsibility. It gives your child a sense of security. You must be able to say “no” even though it will upset your child. When you parent your child effectively, you lay the foundation for a beautiful and true friendship with your adult child.

Striking a balance

While friendship with your children is ill-advised, a close relationship as parent to child is definitely encouraged. Treat your children with love, compassion and respect. Here are some tips to help you establish strong bonds with your children:

• Set boundaries. Clear boundaries between yourself as an adult and your child must be set. Do not share intimate details of your life with your child. You and your child are not equals.

• Communication. This is a two-way street. Establish trust between yourself and the child so that relevant information is shared and your opinion is valued.

• Allow mistakes. Do not hover over kids, preventing them from making mistakes. Guide decision-making, but allow them to make their own age-appropriate decisions. Failure is part of the human experience and they must be able to deal with it.

• Do not control. Explain to your kids the reasons behind your rules and regulations. This shows that you respect them. When you respect your children, you earn their respect. You do not want to be seen as a dictator. This only leads to rebellion.

• Make the tough call. It is inevitable that you will have to make decisions that are unfavourable and unpopular with your child. Your child may even say he or she hates you. You must be courageous and steadfast with your decisions, knowing that his or her 'anger and hate' will dissipate, and that you have acted in your child's best interest.

Friendship with your adult child

It is possible and recommended to establish a friendship with your adult children. Building a strong relationship with them is largely due to how they were parented as teenagers. The challenge becomes how to find common ground with your adult child without overstepping boundaries.

Transparency is critical to a good parent-adult child relationship. When you are able to admit your own shortcomings and failures, your children will grow to love and respect your honesty and integrity.

Bear in mind that your kids are not replicas of you and will have their own values and expectations of their lives. Do not be tempted to give unsolicited advice. You need to be their supporter, encourager and a trusted advisor when asked. You must be a good listener, be non-judgemental and be empathetic.

Carve out time to spend with your adult children doing fun activities

If your adult child is married, you will have to learn to respect the boundaries that marriage represents, and work on creating a good relationship with your child's spouse.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success, and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, or

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