be a parent not a friend

How to Balance Being Your Child’s Parent and Friend

Every good parent wants their child to like them. In fact, it’s a good thing if your children actually enjoy being around you, and you enjoy being around them. However, there’s a natural tension in families when childhood clashes with parenthood. And as we all know, they do, and will, clash. There will be times when our children will want their way, and as their authority, we will have to make a critical choice. To do what they want… or to do what they need. To be their friend… or to be their parent.

All parents struggle with this. And to get this right could be a game changer, but to get it wrong could be a game ender. Our children’s future relationships and our own future relationship with our children depends on this.

The Good News…

The good news is that it is possible and even important that we be both our child’s parent AND our child’s friend. But this has to be in the right order – parent first, friend second. The key word is to intentionally PRIORITIZE. Rather than trying to prioritize being your child’s friend no matter the cost, prioritize first and foremost your responsibility to be your child’s parent. Because anyone can be your child’s friend, but not just anyone can be your child’s parent.

The temptation is real for us as parents to cave into the desires and demands of our children, making sure they are never upset or never go without what they want. Because let’s be honest, no parent wants for their children to be upset with them. However, there is a great danger in this. If we’re not careful, we will neglect our primary role of being a parent in exchange for temporarily being a friend.

Oftentimes this is displayed by parents caving in to the wishes and whimpers of their child, or parents tiptoeing around being firm with their children when it is most needed.

Sadly, many parents get this wrong. I know I have at times. But trying to be your child’s friend first could actually make you their enemy in the long-run, by marginalizing your current authority and your child’s future respect for you.

I love the way my friend, Jeffrey Reed, put this… “If you act too strongly on your desire to have your child be your friend, you might actually make her/him an enemy. Lead well. Love strongly. Trust God that they will not leave “the way” when they are older. Friendship will come. For now, be a parent.” 

Frederick Douglass worded it well when he said, “It’s easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”

Important Reminders

Being a friend comes easy. It’s knowing when to be a parent that’s difficult. So here are some practical reminders for knowing when to be a parent, not a friend:

  • When what your child wants conflicts with what you know they need, be a parent.
  • When your child is being disrespectful, argumentative, or manipulative, be a parent.
  • When your child is being disobedient or misbehaving, don’t excuse their behavior. Be a parent, and deal with it.
  • When it’s more convenient to be a friend, but you know you should be a parent, be a parent.

I believe that every parent should strive to have an absolutely amazing relationship with their child if at all possible. But we all know there are times when being both a parent and a friend just won’t mix. We only have 18 short years to be our child’s parent. We have a lifetime to be their friend.Children often need direction and correction, and friendship just doesn’t cut it in those moments. Simply remember that you’ve got to care more about your child’s future than you do about your child’s feelings, and you will set them up for a lifetime of success.

We only have 18 short years to be our child’s parent. We have a lifetime to be their friend.

Sound off: How are you doing at balancing being a parent and a friend?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one way we can make our relationship better?”