As a psychotherapist, I am becoming more and more aware of parents trying to be friends to their children rather than responsible parents, resulting in dysfunctional home environments. This is manifested in many ways including the following.
There is the parent who treats the child as a confidant, sharing personal information with the child who is too young and ill equipped to handle. There is also the parent who allows the child too much unearned freedoms. There is also the parent who attempts to align the child against the other parent when there are marital difficulties.
I have found that being a responsible parent consists of basics that are doable for those parents mature enough for the task. I am including a few to be considered and implemented by both parents.
- Be able to say “no” to the child without allowing guilt to take over.
- Be a consistent, positive role model that conveys appropriate values.
- Set realistic expectations of behavior without unhealthy pressures.
- Be in agreement as to expected behavior and logical consequences for inappropriate behavior.
- Effectively listen and clearly communicate to the child. Double messages only confuse the child.
- Spend more family time with the child. Doing things of interest with the child will enhance the relationship and be better able to detect budding problems.
- Encourage exercise, socialization and time for reading rather than excessive TV watching and video game playing.
Being a friend or buddy is not parenting. Parenting is a balance nurturing with firm, not ridged, limits. Parenting is focusing on educating the child with necessary tools to successfully maneuver through the ambiguities of life. The rewards to parents may be slow in coming. However, the end results will be seeing the child grow up to be a healthy, well adjusted adult.