Ask the Expert: Wear Only One Hat
I want my child to feel she can see me as a friend, but at the same time, I need to wear other hats such as the disciplinarian. How can I balance the two? (Laila in Kentucky)
I believe you can find the balance you seek, but I want to invite you to see the issue from a different angle, which, instead of having you wear many hats, may reduce your headgear collection.
Let me begin with two questions:
- Why do you want to be your daughter’s friend?
- What do you believe friendship with your daughter 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 their parent isn’t going to freak out over spilled milk will approach their mom or dad, as will one who trusts their parent has their best interest at heart as displayed by enforcing discipline and boundaries.
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.
One hat is a lot easier to wear than many. It is far more fashionable as well.