The Importance Of Friendship In Parenthood

Children can feel like parents are being too invasive when there is a strong friendship involved in parenthood.

Many parents – both mothers and fathers alike – have been drawn into the topic of how parenthood has changed over time. In the last hundred years, completely new realities have been created online and different family dynamics have evolved. Whether this has affected the health of friendship in parenthood is up for debate.

Friendship itself is very important

Studies such as a 2008 longitudinal one published in the journal Child Development outline clearly how friendship is vital for normal development. A lack of friendship can be as detrimental as leading to psychopathic tendencies.

Friendship itself in a unique relationship, that is often not combined with familial ties by definition. The same can be said for parent-child relationships. Despite the culture of being friends with your children, it can often be easier to have a clear line between friendship and fatherhood. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • Unhealthy power dynamic:

Children need to feel a sense of authority from their parents in order to properly understand their parents’ role in their lives. Your child needs you to at least sometimes, exert authority to keep the house running sensibly. Developing a friendship with your child may confuse them into thinking there should be a power dynamic in later friendships, and can also lead to them partaking in violence later in life to solve problems, a study has found.

  • Children follow their peer friends more:

All parents can recall a time they tried their absolute hardest to convince their child to do something and failed. Then a peer friend came along and convinced them to do it effortlessly. This is explained with the theory of social proof. In this theory, the reason for children listening to their age-mates more is made clear, and it is perfectly normal. Above that, it is very important for normal development, both socially and mentally. Read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini for a better understanding.

  • Losing the ability to be a parent:

If you befriend your child, you are subconsciously letting them know that you have equal power to them within the household. When they disobey you, it will not make complete sense to them when you try to provide consequences for their actions. If they lash out or don’t take you seriously, this is not entirely their fault, but can be pinned to the dynamic of the relationship they have with you.

  • You will begin to treat your child as you do your friends:

This reason seems quite obvious, though when you look in on it, it becomes clear why it’s important to bring up. If you behave this way with your child, you run the risk of them losing respect for you. It isn’t appropriate to share all problems as parents with our children. This makes them think their parents are vulnerable and in need of support, and they end up taking on issues that are too big for them to handle. When in distress, it is important that parents turn to their own agemates.

Defining the relationship with your child

Children can feel like parents are being too invasive when there is a strong friendship involved in parenthood. It is important that you don’t take up every single weekend with family time, or every evening for that matter. They need time to spend with their peer friends, time to spend alone and time to spend away from you. This may be hard to read but it’s just a hard truth.

Knowing when your child needs space and allowing them to have it is part of your job as a parent. It will lead to them feeling like they can trust you more as well as feeling like they have a safe space at home.

Find a better way to describe the relationship with your child than as a friendship. This will make it more sensible to you to think of it in a way separate to friendship, too. Try to think of terms like guardian or advisor… terms that layout the way you take responsibility for your child, care for them, provide disciplinary action and also have fun with them. Though ultimately, you are not best friends with them, because that is a different relationship dynamic altogether.

What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.


Sign up for our Writing Prompts email to receive writing inspiration in your inbox twice per week.

Photo: Shutterstock