-my kid, my friend? what?-

family: where vintage monopoly meets legos

Recently I had a conversation with someone who told me flat-out, “Parents can’t be friends with their children.” He went on to make a valid point: children need their parents to be authority figures in their lives, not just fun playmates.

But the phrase has been stuck in my head ever since. “Parents can’t be friends with their children.” It’s a topic that I’ve been developing an opinion on for years now. And this is what I believe: Friendship is a very important part of parenting.

I believe very strongly that parents need to establish themselves as authority figures. We need to be consistent with discipline and always follow through with what we say we’re going to do. Children need set boundaries and they need to know that there will be definite consequences when they cross those boundaries.

But on the flip side, I can’t remember a time when my children and I didn’t have moments of just being relaxed and playing or laughing together. I tease them, they tease me back. They’re fun kids, with bright minds and great senses of humor; they get more witty and fun to be with every day. The older they get, the more often we have those relaxed “friend to friend” moments. I treasure that aspect of my relationship with each of them – because those are often the moments when they show me little peeks inside their hearts.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point my mom became one of my best friends. Soon after I realized that, I was hit with this revelation: I am raising people who will someday be some of my best friends. What a cool opportunity. It changed the way I parent. It’s a fine line to walk, and I’m sure my role as a parent will be a little different with each child. In the beginning the ratio might be something like 90% authority figure, 10% friend. But by the time they’re grown and ready to leave home, those numbers should have flipped. Judah is 13 now, and over half of our conversations feel more like friend to friend than parent to child.

Let’s be honest. I barely know what I’m talking about, right? I’ve been a parent for 13 and a half short years. None of my kids have “turned out” yet. But if they do grow up and prove me and my theories right, I’m going to write a book: The Common Sense, Full of Nonsense Guide to Raising Godly Children Who Like Their Parents and Who Are Liked By Other People. You’d buy a copy, right?

If you never run across that book in Barnes & Noble, assume that something went wrong and instead look for the book about all my inconsistencies and failures as a parent. That one will be titled Am I the Only Mom Whose Kid Got a Fruit of the Spirit Stuck up His Nose?


About ruthie.voth

Wife of one, mother of four, friend of many. Lover of details, color, good conversations, finding balance, and being honest. Passionate lover of a well-crafted sentence - even more so if it's witty. Weird blend of cynical optimist. I'm the worst kind of woman. I'm high maintenance, but I think I'm low maintenance. Somehow, people still love me. Must be grace.
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12 Responses to -my kid, my friend? what?-

  1. joycemoyerhostetter says:

    I’d buy the second book. Well, actually I’d buy any book your wrote!


  2. Meg says:

    I’ll buy it it. Actually, I’d buy both 😉


  3. Myxl Dove says:

    This was fantastic. I completely agree with you. I think parents can strike a healthy balance between authority figure and friend. I look at it like this… if I’m setting the example of the kind of men I want my sons (I have 4) to become, doesn’t that also include helping them develop into the type of men I’d want to befriend? I think so.

    My second oldest son, who’s 15 and seems determined to be just like me, said something to me a few weeks ago that really stuck with me. He said, “You know Dad, I brag about you to my friends.” I said, “Oh, really?” To which he replied, “Yeah, I tell them that my dad is the coolest person I know.” 🙂 Now that may not seem like much to some. But it was nice to hear that, in spite of the authority I exercise with constant prayer, my son sees me as someone he actually likes. And I do believe that as he grows up, gets married and has kids of his own… he and I will look back on his younger days with fond memories of our budding friendship.


    • ten4ruthie says:

      I think it’s amazing that your 15-year-old thinks you’re cool! How many dads can say that? It’s encouraging to me to see other parents out there who are finding that balance between authority figure and friend.


  4. mothersviews says:

    Your article interests me because I agree that friendship is important. But it is to be gained over time. Like you said those times have become more frequent as your children have got older. It is for us to first establish ourselves as parents not authority figures. We should be figures of support and encouragement. This comes naturally though instinct. We encourage our children though congratulating them as the grow. Cheering when your toddler uses the potty rather than the floor. If you child understands your purpose in their life is to support them they are more likely to respect you and themselves so the need for authority becomes one of mutual respect. Rather than one of control and so friendship comes from an understanding of the roles of both parties.


    • ten4ruthie says:

      You’re right – supporting and encouraging our children is an extremely important part of parenting. It’s not always my natural instinct though. I often have to remind myself that my children aren’t adults; and I can’t expect them to act responsibly and sensibly all the time.


      • mothersviews says:

        I would have to agree that it’s through acting irresponsibly we sometimes learn our most valuable lessons. After all life is about experiencing things and what you take from each experience. Creating a stable base environment that your child feels secure enough to fall back on makes all the difference.


  5. Mom says:

    My Daughter, My Friend – Very well said. I enjoy seeing you interact with your children and think I could have learned from some of your parenting skills:). Oh well, I’m thankful that our grandchildren have such good parents. I think you’ll write a book yet!


  6. Aims says:

    I’d buy both books! 😉 They may prompt me to write “Rocks up noses and other Kindergarten conundrums”. I agree there is that “fine line” between being the parent & setting the boundaries, and being their friend. I always thought the “friendship” issue was more a codependency thing – not being willing to do what’s best for the child in the long run because you want to be liked by them in the moment. But I agree it’s so crucial to have that friendship develop now. And isn’t it fun to see the people are kids are turning into? 😉


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