Being a parent doesn't mean being friends. Beyond the biological link, these are two totally different relationships that when confused we leave a void that our children need to fill.
Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.
Last update: 15 November 2022
Why can't we be friends with our children? Many parents are still surprised when they are told that it is not appropriate or advisable to be best friends with their children or teenagers. Aspiring to become their equal limits our authority and puts us in a contradictory, uncomfortable and counterproductive position for them and for us.
However, many strive to do so. Mothers want to become their daughters' best friends in the hopes of becoming their confidants. Fathers also want to be well-rounded figures capable of being excellent playmates, friends with whom to talk about everything and to joke about anything. All of this, of course, is positive and rewarding. Nonetheless, there are limits that cannot be overcome.
Parents cannot be on the same level as their children because this could harm their authority. As their status weakens, the rules no longer have power and there are no more limits, children may think it is all right. In a world where everyone is friends, there is no reason to follow the rules.
Because we can't be friends with our children
In the book The Epidemic of Narcissism, authors Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell reflect on this topic. For them, one of the reasons for the increase in narcissistic profiles in our society concerns the greater symmetry between parents and children. If we ask ourselves why we shouldn't be friends with our children, this is an important part of the answer.
It is easy to lose authority in this attempt to approach them as we would with a friend. An authority that will then need to be imposed to set those limits that will serve as a reference for their growth. In this sense, it is necessary to have recourse to confidential and affectionate paternity or maternity, but also to know how to maintain parental authority, as necessary for the development of the little ones. Let's see why.
Definition of friendship, definition of parenthood
Before trying to answer why we cannot be friends with our children, it is worth considering one aspect: definitions. Being friends with someone means maintaining a selfless emotional bond between two or more people. This relationship is also based on a sense of absolute equality in which no one exercises control over the other.
Now being a parent means loving, educating, protecting, guiding and caring for a child. All this is exercised from an authoritative position. To be valid and rewarding, such care requires the application of a set of rules. These rules offer certainties to the child because they remind him at all times of what is expected of him. Thus, the person who only tries to be the best friend of her children will be highly negligent.
Psychological distress and parents acting as friends
A study conducted at the University of Illinois by Dr. Susan Silverberg offers interesting data on this. Some divorced women see their teenage daughters as their primary support to the point of wanting to be their best friends. This prompts them to turn their worries or apprehensions towards their daughters.
The study reveals that many mothers routinely talked about their financial problems, job ups and downs, or emotional issues with new partners with their teenage or preteen daughters. What they didn't know, however, is that this confidence generated a strong psychological distress in the girls.
The kind of intimacy in which children become "fictional friends" on which to project worries and fears is highly counterproductive. Our job is to take the anguish out of our children, not to intensify it.
Confidence with children, yes, but “it's not okay all"
When it comes to establishing a bond of confidence with our children, not everything is allowed - in this case, not even the end justifies the means. There are clever strategies that allow us to keep communication open and a close relationship without compromising our authority.
- It is advisable to establish a bond based on tenderness, trust, absolute affection and companionship, but without ceasing to set limits.
- This trust built up with our children should be geared towards fostering responsibility, self-knowledge, and emotional maturity in them. A child is not our equal, he is a person who is under our care and we must help him become mature and independent.
With these points in mind, it is always advisable to keep certain topics for ourselves. A child does not have to put up with the anxiety, fears or emotional worries of his parents.
Why can't we be friends with our children? Because in doing so we build an insecure attachment
If we ask ourselves why we cannot be friends with our children, there is another compelling reason. A good bond between parents and children is easier when both parties develop a secure attachment. The one where i children see in us a reference able to satisfy their needs, someone who guides them, who is always accessible and who seeks the best for them.
If we base the relationship on friendship, a lot of it comes down to it. The child or adolescent sees us as an equal, someone who is in the same position as him, who may have his own insecurities and needs.
This favors a insecure attachment, constant contradiction and a prison without bars that do not allow you to move freely in the world. The training and education of a child requires, whether we like it or not, the ability to act in a way that is their primary support.