Do parents make the best buddies for kids?
15 Apr 2008, 1644 hrs IST
Be it a chat about their daughter's new date or sharing a glass of beer with their teenage son, parents of generation X have come a long way from being just parents to being friends with their kids. But is that the ideal style of parenting?
While the 'generation gap' between parents and children seems to be diminishing over the last few years, the extent to which the bond of friendship between children and their parents should exist is a question that often comes to mind. Friendship can be a wonderful source of strength and an excellent way to satisfy the emotional needs of children, but where should one draw the line?
According to Manuj Arora, a student, "Friendship between parents and children helps to minimize the communication gap. Whenever the child has a problem, parents should be there to guide them and solve the problem. A child is more honest with his/her parents if they are more like friends than just parents", he adds.
In fact, experts are seeing increasing instances of parents, especially mothers, who want to be friends with their children. According to clinical psychologist Stephan Poulter, author of The Mother Factor 'this style of mothering had been on the rise for about 15 years'.
The question is: Is it necessarily the right style of parenting?
Abhimanyu Kukreja, a college student believes that it is good for parents to be friends with their children but only to an extent. He says, "There are some things that one cannot share with parents."
Experts too feel that 'kids need their parents, not another friend' as it is important to keep the boundaries. A serious consequence of the parent-child 'friendship' is the diminishing respect that children have for their parents.
Rose Rock, the mother of US comedian Chris Rock, who has laid down the 10 commandments of parenting in a new book, Mama Rock's Rules: Ten Lessons for Raising a Houseful of Successful Children , states that you should not let your children think they can disrespect you or treat you like a buddy. She also talks about the need for parents to play the role of a protector and a guide rather than letting children lay down their own rules. She lays stress on the need for parents to take back to traditional roles.
Anudita Prasad, who is a mother of two sons says, "Friendship between parents and children should be such that the child does not hide anything from his parents and feels free to share his beliefs and opinions. But this doesn't mean that the child does not respect his parents". "Parents should also spend enough time with their children, interact with them and know more about their peers and whereabouts", she adds.
Where should you draw the line?
Bharat Mishra who has a son and a daughter says, "Parents should know where to draw the line. There are certain things like discipline, studies and mannerisms that one cannot compromise with. If it is not so, children will cross their limits and will not respect their parents. Parents can be friends but should also let the child know his limits."
Most of the time parents justify their approach towards their kids saying that they are afraid that their children may hesitate to discuss their problems and challenges if they don't share an intimate relationship with them. However, it is also important for children to have their own circle of friends, have their own confidants and learn to be social by interacting with their peers.
Poulter believes that because of unresolved issues with their parents, some parents today don't want to be harsh and just want their children to like them.
V N Pandey, a father of two children says, "When a child is young, parents need to be strict. But during a child's teenage years, parents should be more like a friend in order to build trust and understanding with the child. At the same time, parents should also retain their authority and superior position to draw the line where it is necessary."
Dr Samir Parikh, a psychiatrist says, "I think we have a misnomer attached to friendship between parents and children. We think friendship will result in parents becoming more lenient. If it is just about being together and having fun just like friends, it is absolutely okay. Anything that will have a positive impact on the child and the relationship should be encouraged. Parents should be like a friendly guide for their children."
When children begin to shoulder responsibilities, what they need most is guidance and support. Parents can be good friends and guide their children but the bond shouldn't weaken the parents' authority as this might lead the child to take wrong decisions at times. Perhaps an important way to strike the right bond with children is through communication.
While there are many contradicting opinions on this issue, what matters most is striking a balance between parenting and friendship when raising kids.