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How can I be both a friend and a parent to my child?

Hal Runkel
Hal Runkel on behalf of ScreamFree
Marriage & Family Therapy
You want to be both a friend and a parent to your child? Let's begin with two questions:
  • Why do you want to be your child's friend?
  • What do you believe friendship with your child will accomplish?
I’ve asked these questions to parents before and have found that their answers spoke more about their desire for approachability rather than what we think of as friendship. What they wanted was the type of relationship with their children where their kids know they can approach them about anything.

An approachable relationship develops over time and is built on mutual respect and trust. A child who trusts that his or her parent isn’t going to freak out over spilled milk will approach mom or dad knowing that enforced discipline and boundaries are to protect the child's best interests.

Seeking friendship may allow you to develop that type of relationship with your child, but it may also send mixed messages when you try to wear another hat. Mixed messages lead to confusion. Worse, mixed messages sometimes lead to distrust.

This is why I encourage you to wear only one hat: the hat of approachability.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.