Is it Okay to be ‘Best Friends’ with Your Child?  

By Shea Cruel, School-based mental health therapist at Oak Park School

As a parent or guardian it’s only natural that you would want your child to “like” you as a friend. We all inherently want to be liked, especially by the ones we love. It’s okay to want to be friends with your child, but when parents and guardians value their child’s friendship over respect, it can potentially cause problems.

Lines can be blurred, healthy parent/child boundaries can become unclear and household hierarchy can no longer be established.

The good news is that these two things do not have to be mutually exclusive; both can be accomplished simultaneously. You can have a friendship with your child while still expecting them to respect and listen to you.

Here’s how you can reestablish this chain of command without hurting your relationship with your child.

Set boundaries and stick to them. Your child should have rules and expectations they must abide by. Curfews, speaking to you with respect, cleaning up after themselves are just a few examples of boundaries that you can implement.

Communicate clear and concise consequences.  Loss of privileges is an effective way to enforce your boundaries. But, it’s important that the punishment fits the crime. Try not to be too severe or too lenient with a consequence and make sure your child fully understands why they are being punished. Miscommunication can lead to a repeat of the undesirable action.

Be sure to be consistent. Being constant and unchanging with your boundaries is paramount to the success of reestablishing your role as an authority figure. It’s not always easy, there will be times when it doesn’t seem worth the fight and it’s easier just to give in and go back to the way things were. Don’t give up; push through! The ends WILL justify the means and you’ll thank yourself for remaining steadfast in the future.

In the end, if you work on these three techniques, and you are consistently loving but firm in your approach, your children will learn to not only respect you as their parent/guardian, but will naturally like you and call you their friend.

Shea Cruel is a mental health therapist at Oak Park School. The Florida Center for Early Childhood’s School-Based Mental Health Program is a partnership between the Florida Center, the Sarasota County School District and Community Foundation of Sarasota County. It is meant to keep high-risk children in school and help them meet their academic milestones through multi-generational therapy for the students and their families.