Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I am my Child's Best Friend

They wear the same clothes, have the same interests, have the same mannerisms and tell each other the most intimate secrets and thoughts. Their lives are so connected they believe they could not live without each other.

These are not the behaviors and feelings of lovers but is becoming more common between parents and children to the detriment of both. When a parent says to a child, “Wow, he’s (or she’s) hot!” to their child or sets up and joins a pre-teen drinking party, modern parents are crossing the line, becoming one with their child. It is nonsensical to give a child equal status with the parent.

Syrupy friendship between parent and child is unnatural and unhealthy. A parent should have a different agenda than a child. Objectivity and firmness are necessary for a parent to shape the child. Parents have a sacred duty to assist their children’s optimal development, not to selfishly focus on their own perpetual youth and their need to be accepted as “cool equals” even by their child.

A parent is potentially the most important adult role model in the child’s life. A parent going down the friendly path squanders their power. A reluctance to naturally do their duty as a parent for fear of losing their child’s favor leaves the child handicapped to face the hardships of life. The experience of the adult parent cannot be abandoned without the child’s future suffering. For a parent to lower her standards to relate with a child on his level does nothing to prepare the child for his future and everything to make him feel and think he is smarter and stronger than his juvenile acting parents.

The adventure for the child of growing older is smothered by a super agreeable, overly involved parent. The child’s excitement for life is sacrificed to fulfill the missed fantasies or to decrease the guilt of being an off and on again parent. A parent’s attempt to micromanage the child’s every action and thought leaves the parent frustrated and the child confused in this unrealistic and inconsistent environment. Neither the parent nor the child has the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.

Children are attracted to each other. They learn how to share, play, communicate and become friends. Children learn from each other. When the relationship is no longer mutually satisfying children find new buddies. These break-ups are often emotionally painful although they are opportunities for children to develop emotional maturity.

A parent’s maturity has the most influence on the child’s emotional development. In the same way a child’s best friend and certainly an adolescent’s best friend should be a peer, a parent’s best friend should be a healthy adult. Adults in an addicted lifestyle or abusive relationship or have little adult support have little stability and balance in their lives to share with a child. Their own unfulfilled existence leads them to overcompensate with their child. The child is used to supply the parent’s needs instead of the parent being authentic in the role. The parent pathetically clings to the child for her own survival rather than giving energy and knowledge to the child.

Healthy adult relationships are essential to parent’s emotional stability. A parent with adult friends will be less enticed to share their past mistakes with their children since it would be an emotional burden for the child. As the parent’s maturity increases they would inevitable realize what to and not to say to their child. A negative revelation gives the child license to attempt dangerous actions before being emotionally ready or use their parent’s failures as an excuse for not working as hard at learning new skills.

As modern parents realize the negative influence of attempting to be best friends with their children, the life of both parent and child improves. The parent is motivated to be more spontaneous and honest with their child when he acts abnormally. The word “no” is said more often setting boundaries for the child. The guilt felt by the parent when following their own natural instincts decreases and their confidence in their child’s ability to function on his own increases. The parent has more time to develop the relationship with the spouse. The child gains the wisdom of the parent’s experiences reducing the need to test the limits. The youngster is free from having to attempt to be an equal or even to counsel their parents, allowing them more time to be a kid. Everyone wins when the parents and child return to the traditional roles.

“I am my child’s best friend” should raise a red flag for everyone within earshot. Concerned adults should assist these unfulfilled parents to obtain a healthy life of their own. This can be accomplished by balancing their lives with productive adult friends and lifestyles for their sake as well as that of their child.



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