Why I Want to be My Child’s Best Friend

September 5, 2017 at 9:22 pm

“You can’t be your child’s friend and their parent,” my dad advised shortly after my daughter was born. My heart sank, because that’s what I’d always wanted him to be to me.

By his reasoning, children needed “discipline” (punishment) and “guidance” from their parents, not the unconditional support of another friend.

How can you trust others, if you can’t trust your own parents? I thought to myself. How do you learn to love, empathize and show compassion, if it was never shown to you, especially by mom and dad?

I’m sure he had good intentions, but because my dad never built a foundation for friendship when I was a child, we don’t have much of any type of relationship now that I’m an adult.

I knew from that day on, I did want my daughter to be my best friend, to love me and feel safe telling me anything.

Fast forward 5 years and my daughter’s almost 6. She’s an absolute joy. She sings, makes up stories, and always has a million issues she wants to “discuss” with Mommy and Daddy. We try to foster openness and trust as best we can. We’ve given up many modern comforts and luxuries to enable us to spend time with her, and, most importantly, to listen to her.

Luckily, we found a book when our daughter was young that taught us the importance of active listening, which means reflecting back everything your child is saying without judgment, criticism or advice. Basically you say a lot of things like “sounds like you’re feeling this way” or “sounds like you’re wanting x,” allowing children to find solutions to their own problems.

Even though most mainstream psychologists agree these days that punishment doesn’t work, I still see some parents trying and failing to rule with an iron fist.

“You are much more likely to get a child to listen to you if first you listen to them,” Psychology professor Mark Kopta says. “My golden rule is, ‘when you have trouble with a child, listen to them first and then empathize with them.’”

Not only will this build a strong bond between you and your child, it will also give them the self-love and self-trust they’ll need to find their way. It’ll help them build confidence and strong relationships, rather than being scared, angry and insecure, like I was most of my adolescent life.

My lack of friendship with my parents might explain why it took me so long to find the person I now love, and even longer to learn to be vulnerable with her. I’m still learning to love and trust myself, so I can deepen my relationship with her, and develop more intimate relationships with others I meet in this journey that is life.

Listen to your child now, so he doesn’t have to spend a lifetime learning to trust himself. Make time for him now, so you don’t miss the opportunity to create a connection that could last a lifetime.

“Ninety percent of people on their deathbed say their biggest regret is that they didn’t get closer to the people in their lives,” says Dr. Laura Markham, founder of Aha Parenting. “And almost all parents whose children are grown say they wish they had spent more time with their kids.”

Don’t be that parent who regrets the lack of relationship with their adult child. Do it now because time is the only thing you won’t get back. As the days pass so does your chance at loving them and them loving you.