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May 22, 2015

Friends with Kids?

Hal photo outside Feb2012“She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

There’s a very common parenting axiom thrown around these days. In an effort to reverse the trend towards over-involvement in our kids’ lives, we parents will proudly proclaim that “Kids need us to be their parents, not their friends.”

I get the sentiment. Anyone who knows ScreamFree knows that we often decry the child-centered family. But too often this axiom comes across as a defiant extremism, unaware of the ramifications: “Be someone in authority over your kids, not someone in relationship with them.”

This is not an either/or situation. The first second you laid eyes on your kid you knew you would be in a love-filled relationship with this new person forever. The first time your eighteen-month-old demonstrated her ability to exert her will, you knew you would be in a leadership role with this new person that would test you like no other. All of that together equals parenting.

The truth is something closer to this: We can be parents to our kids and friends with them, but only in that order. Take care of the business stuff (scheduling, structure, consequences, expectations) with enough calm and clarity, and you’ll get to experience the personal connection we all crave.

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