I love reading parenting books and blogs and spend a lot of time thinking about how I can get better at this parenting lark. Over the years I’ve heard and read loads of great advice that I’m sure has encouraged and supported me to be a better parent, and has certainly helped me traversing some pretty tricky waters.
But so too have I heard some shockingly bad advice about caring for children, often masquerading as good old common-sense. While pondering the good and bad that’s helped or hindered me over the years, I came up with a pretty long list of ideas that have been unhelpful and potentially damaging. But there was one that really stood out, the idea that as a parent, you shouldn’t be your child’s friend.
Hearing this makes me so sad. Surely being a good friend to our children is something we should all aspire to. Let me be clear here, I’m not talking drinking buddies or casual acquaintances.
Real friendships, with mutual trust and respect. Supportive, kind and reliable friendships. Where we have each other’s best interests at heart and care about how we treat each other and how the other person feels. Where we genuinely want to learn more about the other person and support them as they learn and grow as a person. These sound like a great model on which to guide our interactions with our children.
Of course we do still have to be the parent. Children don’t ask to be born. It’s our responsibility to provide for them and to look out for their safety and well-being. The effort has to start with us, we have to provide them with food and drink, shelter and comfort, affection and attention in order for them to grow and develop.
It is not an equal partnership but an evolving one that can be nurtured when we are open and receptive to learning how best to meet their needs. We’ve been around longer than our children and have gained experience, knowledge and skills that we can pass on. This doesn’t mean we always know best but it might mean we can offer thoughtful guidance and suggestions. We can provide insights into what might be considered appropriate or not in different situations and we can be a sounding board for them as they learn.
Our children can benefit from our wisdom as long as we recognise that it’s not a one way street. We have so much to learn from them too. We don’t have to tell our children what to do and we don’t have to be the boss. But we do have a responsibility to help them to learn about and negotiate the world and relationships with others. We can do this by being a positive role-model and by offering information, advice and coaching (there is so much good stuff around all of these issues here).
As our relationships grow and we nurture those friendships with our children, showing our commitment to supporting them, both practically and emotionally, on a daily basis, we will reap the most amazing benefits. I know this, I see this every day and it is truly a beautiful thing.
What is the worst parenting advice you’ve been given, or the best? I would love to know, please leave your comment below.
Wishing you a wonderful week and urging you to go forth and feed those friendships with kindness x