Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Be a Parent First, Friend Second

Summer is a wonderful time to spend fun, quality time with your kids. You aren’t rushing to get to school, or trying to fit a million activities into each day. Take advantage of this time to really get to know your children. Take the time to discover what they love, what they really don’t like, and what makes them tick. The more you and your children talk now, even about mundane topics, the more they will feel comfortable talking to you when the topics get stickier.

Yet, never forget that you are the parent, not a friend, and your children must understand that line of distinction.

This brings to mind a lunch I enjoyed with my 21 year old son. We sat at a table next to two acquaintances, a 13 year old girl and her mother. My son and I were having a great time, sharing stories, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. While her mom and I were getting drinks, the young girl said to my son, “I know that’s your mom, but you act like friends.”
He told her that I am his mom but I’m his friend too. She was fascinated by that concept. She said, “I’m not friends with my mom. She doesn’t even know anything about me. She brought me water with lemon and I don’t even like lemon.”

Still fascinated by the concept, she asked him when he and his mother became friends. He told her that it was probably when he got older. She told him that her sister is 21 and her sister and her mother are definitely not friends.

As I thought about that conversation, I realized that is possible to be friends with your kids, as long as you parent first. My husband and I were fairly strict parents, and our kids knew the ground rules. As long as they stayed within the boundaries, we appreciated them for the people they became. There were certainly punishments along the way when our kids definitely didn’t consider us friends. But, there were never surprises. They knew the rules and they were aware of the consequences for breaking those rules.

Now, I am proud to consider my children friends. At 21 years old, my disciplining of my son is pretty much over. I can still provide advice and guide him through new experiences, but I adore the adult he’s become.

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