Wildflowers for Jade: Why You Absolutely Should Be Friends With Your Child

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why You Absolutely Should Be Friends With Your Child

“Am I scary?” I asked my son.
He wrinkled his brow. “Only when you mean to be,” he answered.
That seemed appropriate.
It was random question inspired by a somewhat disturbing novel I was reading, but I do like to check in with him from time to time. I like to get his take on how I’m doing at this parenting thing. Even if I were to disagree with some of the finer points of his perspective, it’s good that he feels safe enough to be honest. And sometimes he has a valid point. I’m not perfect. There’s still room for improvement.

The art of raising a child is in keeping the end goal in mind – while cherishing every moment of the present. The end goal is that we are raising them to be adults. In every act of discipline, teaching, admonishing, there has to be that question: how will this best shape their future selves?

Like every one else I’ve seen the parenting advice making the rounds on social media; the ones that say you should absolutely not be friends with your child. I say that’s absolutely wrong. That’s a terrible way to approach parenting; to keep your child at arm’s length, practically insuring that that distance will widen to an irreparable gap. Who will they turn to if they can’t trust you, or feel that you don’t trust them? They will either turn inwards, to their own inexperienced council and lies bred on insecure identity, or peers who are equally inexperienced and of questionable loyalties, or both.

Why not you?

The advice seems to grow from an erroneous belief that to give your child the gift of friendship will erode our position of authority. And I suppose if your goal is not to raise stable adults but raise fearful subjects, that will be true. If you want to keep yourself on a pedestal as long as possible, if your desire is for your children to bow in submission to your god status, then continue shutting them out. But really, you’re not that special. And really, your kids should know that. Otherwise, every parenting mistake you make, every insulting slip of the tongue, roll of the eyes, or temper tantrum you have, they will turn inward on themselves.

That’s why therapists get paid $150 an hour.

Because we’re all human and make mistakes, insult, roll our eyes, and have temper tantrums, the least we can do is save our kids twenty years of ‘self-discovery’ and tell them upfront that we’re idiots, we’re sorry, and it’s not their fault. We were idiots even before they were born. Humility is not a thing that will knock you down. When you show your child that level of respect, your god-like status may crumble but you will earn so much more of something real.

And, really dude, this parenting thing isn’t about you. It’s not about us. If you need it to be about you, you might want to try the therapy thing.

I am, however, reaping the most amazing benefits from deliberate parenting. I have the coolest kid. He’s bright, articulate, kind, and polite. He still likes me better than chocolate cake. We respect each other. When discipline is needed it’s like a quickly passing cloud on a sunny day. We never let it last long, never let things fester, because we’re friends.

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