Is it healthy to be your child’s “best friend”? If you want to love your child in a way that is good for him you need to avoid things that may harm him. Being his “best friend” is one of those things you need to avoid.
Being your child’s “best friend” is not a part of healthy love. Your child needs you to be his parent. You are not equals. You are the authority for your child and both of you should always understand that. One day you may become your child’s “best friend” but this is reserved for a time when you are both grown and they are no longer under your authority.
This may sound harsh but it is for your child’s good that you not make decisions based on whether or not he/she will agree with or like you for what you do. Your love for your child should have a balance of friendliness and firmness. Going too far in either direction,crossing either of those boundaries creates problems for your child.
Your child is probably very winsome and adorable. However, they do not generally look out for their best interest. No, they learn how to charm and manipulate rather early in order to get what they want when they want it. Don’t take seriously their promise to” be your best friend” if you will let them have what they want. They’re not capable of being a real friend to you. Neither are they very capable of judging what is healthy for them.
If you are somehow wanting your child to be your best friend you may want to ask this question: “What is this about?” There could be many answers to this. You may be divorced or in a lonely marriage. You may not like do deal with confrontation with your child. You may feel it’s your role to make your child happy. The list could go on and on. Remember, trying to make your child happy with you may ultimately lead to their ruin.
Keep the lines clear as to who is the parent and who is the child. Your job is to be an adult and to assist your child to grow to be as healthy and functional as possible. Sometimes this will mean your child won’t like your decisions and will not claim you as their friend or parent. You must be emotionally mature enough to deal with their displeasure without giving in to their threats and demands.
Do you realize your fears can hinder your child’s physical development? Yes,that’s true and your child’s inability to accomplish certain ordinary things can work against his confidence and positive view of himself. Let me explain.
Several years ago Joey (not his real name), about ten, was brought to me because he had almost become paralyzed by his fear of bugs. He didn’t want to play outside and, therefore, avoided it whenever possible. Instead of engaging in outdoor activities he developed a strong attachment to video games he could play inside. The parents did little to counter his fears until Joey insisted he wanted to join the Boy Scouts. That’s when they brought him to me.
The parents were concerned that “scouting” would put him in situations where he would encounter bugs and many different kinds of critters.(I believe, in his own way, Joey was asking for help).After building trust with him, we did activities to ally his fear of bugs. Through much work, he actually came to the place where he could hold a bug in his hand, a great accomplishment!
The bigger issue I found was that Joey was severely limited in many things a ten-year-old might do. He could not ride a bicycle and was woefully behind in his ability to hit a ball or play other games boys his age could play. The source of Joey’s problem was his mother’s fear which resulted in over-protection. The father, to this point, had been complicit in that he had not pushed back against her emotional control of Joey. The road ahead for Joey and the development of a good sense of himself would be more difficult than it had to be because he was physically behind in several skills. Of course, this delay affected his confidence in social relations as well.
As a parent you have lots of influence on your child’s physical,emotional and social development. You must realize what your fears are and not impose them on your child.While it is your job to protect your child from situations they cannot handle you must also realize your child needs to be allowed to do things that can be hurtful. Of course, your child could be stung by an insect. Of course, he could have a wreck on a bicycle. Yes, he could be hit by a ball. However, taking risks is a part of the process of growing up. It is your job to encourage certain risks which can lead to skill development and the building of confidence. Choose activities that are age-appropriate and do what you can to keep your child safe.
Allowing your child to acquire game skills and other individual physical skills is part of helping him develop a good sense of himself. Being able to participate in things other boys and girls do also has the potential for building social and emotional skills.
What dream or expectations do you have for your kid? Caution. You are probably well-meaning and only want the best for your child but be sure you know if you are imposing your dream on your child. When you put you child in a position to repeat your accomplishments or to accomplish something you did not you are using him for your own end. This is unhealthy love. Please allow me to share with you a very common way in which this can happen.
Healthy love does not attempt to fulfill your dream through your child. It is easy to understand how a parent might unconsciously try to live his life through his child. Most parents want the best for their child. Many want their children to have life better than they did growing up. They want them to have opportunities for education and success that they struggled for. The bottom line is they often want life to be easy for their child.
There is nothing wrong with wanting good things and success for your child. But, you may need to think hard about your definition of success and what is involved in accomplishing it. Parents tend to define success according to our own struggles and experiences. This can be a real trap as we think about dreams for our child. This can set us up to try to live out our dreams, accomplish things we didn’t do, and build a name for our self through our child.
Here are some reminders which may help you avoid trying to fulfill your dreams through your child.
First, true and lasting success is found only in our relationships with God, our self and others ( Matthew 22:34-40).Does this biblical concept guide your understanding of real success?
Second, your child is a gift to you. He is not your property or an instrument you can use to fulfill your dreams or make up for your disappointments in life. He belongs to God and to himself.
Third, God has a plan for your child and has chosen you as his parent to help him become all God intended him to be.
Many children grow old striving to fix that deficit in their parent’s life but never receive the sense of approval and acceptance they so desperately seek. A child needs acceptance and the right to be himself and pursue his own dreams rather than to feel obligated to fix the disappointments or fulfill dreams of his parent. To attempt to live for a parent is an emotional dead-end street.
What messages does your child get about himself from you? The most important factor in your child’s personal sense of value is how significant others, especially you, view him.
As his parent you have a uniquely influential role in how your child values or devalues himself. No one’s opinions and attitudes (messages) are as important as yours in the life of your young child. The early impression he gains about himself from you tend to be very powerful for most of his life. Why do you play such an important role in the way your child sees himself?
Try to imagine yourself as a large mirror into which your child is constantly gazing. In that mirror (you) he is picking up attitudes or feelings about himself. To a large degree, this is what is happening on an emotional level between you and your child. Your child has an uncanny ability to interpret the meaning of what you say or do at an emotional level.
Don’t be alarmed by this and think you can never make a mistake with your child lest you ruin him for life. You can, and will, say and do things you regret but it is the repeated and uncorrected errors that do the most damage. If you have a negative way of talking with your child he will eventually believe what you keep saying about him. He will believe himself to be what you say he is.
Good parents understand their need to discipline themselves in the way they treat their children. They know their words and actions have the power to bless or curse their children. Good parents also know they are human and make mistakes with their children. And good parents apologize and change their behavior when they mess up.
Can your child be who God made him to be and still be loved by you? Unconditional acceptance of your child is a major ingredient in his healthy view of himself. But to accept your child unconditionally isn’t as easy as it may seem on the surface.
What does unconditional acceptance mean? It basically means you accept the totality of who he is. He or she has a physical body which means you must care for him and nourish that body until he can adequately care for himself.
For example, some folks”love” babies at a distance; they are repulsed by dirty diapers and other messes they make. Accepting your child unconditionally also means you must accept and adapt to their emotional, social and intellectual immaturity.
Another critical part of unconditional love is to accept your child’s gender. You may have “ordered” a girl and got a boy. What do you do with that? The healthy and loving thing to do is to be happy and celebrate what God gave you.
You do yourself and your child a great disservice by denying reality and secretly wishing for a different result or, even worse, openly stating your displeasure with the child’s gender. Do not allow your child’s gender to affect the way you treat your him/her. It’s amazing how little children can pick up on the feelings of their parents. So, be careful.
Your unconditional love accepts your child as a work in progress. He needs to grow physically and in all other aspects of his life. While you accept him for where he is now, you also accept him for what he can become. That love creates an environment which challenges and encourages him to grow.
He is acceptable but his bad behavior and attitude are not. As your child grows, incorporate loving discipline which will guide him to a more mature handling of his feeling and actions.
Unconditional acceptance will create in you a healthy tension between accepting him for where he is and his need to continually grow toward maturity.
Were you unconditionally loved by your parents? If so, how has that sense of being loved blessed you and freed you to be yourself? If not, how has that lack of acceptance troubled or hindered you?
While working as a therapist I saw many adults who were still seeking their parent’s approval; in some cases, the parent was deceased. This feeling of ” not quite good enough” often leads to all kinds of dysfunctional behaviors.
Some are “driven”to succeed while others seem determined to fail. The common denominator for these folks is a void that only being unconditionally loved can supply. Parents may have died years ago but the adult child , often very accomplished, still strives for that elusive sense of being unconditionally loved.
The struggle to feel accepted just as you are is often a long and difficult one. To break this negative way of thinking and acting you must accept the fact that all your efforts to get your parent’s approval have not worked. More importantly, you need to come to realize the problem was with your parent, not you. When you break this pattern, you can do for your child something very important to his well being. You can spare him the futile searching for approval by letting him know you accept him unconditionally.
Do you want to take some steps to help your child feel unconditionally loved? Here are some practical things you can do to help your child in this area. All this may seem counter intuitive if you have been reared in a negative, critical environment. But, do them anyway and you will help your child develop a positive sense of him self.
Emphasize the positive. Your child will make mistakes but your emphasis needs to be on how to learn from those mistakes.
Be patient with his childishness and gently help him grow and make good decisions.
Expect good behavior and look for ways to compliment him on his good choices.
Here is a final word on this. Give your child a good example to follow. Your child’s sense of identity and emotional development are greatly influenced by who you are. You are their first and most powerful image of a man or woman. Your loving, encouraging character can be a lifelong inspiration for them to be the best person they can be.
Most, if not all of us, would say we love our child. I certainly hope you do because love is what a child needs most. If you provide the kind of healthy love your child needs you will give him a foundation which will bless him his entire life. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, ” Is my kind of love healthy or unhealthy?”
What KIND of love does your child need? There is only one kind of real love, a healthy love. There is a kind of attachment that masquerades as love but it’s not real love. This is an unhealthy” love” that refuses to be tough when necessary and often seeks to meet the need of the parent.
This unhealthy “love” can be seen in all types of relationships; marriage, parent-child, child-parent, teacher-student, friendships, dating, etc. This unhealthy “love” can exist in almost every human interaction . Unhealthy love is marked by selfishness and lack of regard for what is in the best interest of the other person.
We can have caring feelings for our child, feel emotionally close to them but hurt them in the name of love. Yes, there are bad or unhealthy ways to “love” our child and the toll on them can be severe and long-term.
What is a healthy kind of love? Think a moment about something it is not.
Healthy love is not a feeling or emotion. There is no question that strong feelings are attached to love but love is much more than a feeling. Feelings can change quickly but love stays put. Feelings are the emotional response we have to an event or something a person does. Healthy love is disciplined to not be controlled by anger,fear or any other negative emotion.
Parents who rear their children by the kind or mood they’re in or the emotions their children evoke in them can do great damage to them. A child reared by such an emotionally immature parent must “walk on eggshells” so as to stay in their good graces. He cannot risk being himself and being real because his parent cannot handle it. Do you have a healthy or unhealthy kind of love for your child?
How can you really love someone without “knowing” them? If the ultimate goal of love is to do what is in their best interest, how can you love someone well without”knowing” them? You can have an attitude of acceptance and tolerance or an emotional connection with people which could be interpreted as love. However, loving someone as intimately as you should love your child is a different kind of love.
“Knowing” your child is vitally important to loving him well. How well do you know your child? While your child has similarities to his siblings or other children, in general, there is a real sense each child is unique. Knowledge of your child’s uniqueness is an important key in how you relate to him and how you provide loving discipline for him.
Children reared in the same home often experience that environment differently. This is true for various reasons such as personality differences, birth order, and your growth in being a good parent. The implication of all this is that you need to be a student of each child and not assume that when you have “figured out” what makes one child “tick” the others will be like him. Not so.
Discipline is an important area in which you need to know your children individually. Parents sometimes make the mistake of assuming one method, such as spanking, is the best solution for all their children and for all offences. The reality is that what may prove effective for one child doesn’t really work for another. Why? You know the answer. Your children are different.
If one of the purposes of parental discipline is to bring about self-discipline doesn’t it stand to reason that you need to consider what method reaches your child’s heart? Any method of discipline we use to correct or encourage our child’s behavior should pass two important tests. Does it show I know and love my child and will it, if used consistently, bring about the change I desire ?
How well do you really know your child? The answer to this question probably indicates the health of your love for him.
Sometimes love says “no.” It is our job to decide what is best for our child. This is one of the reasons God gave children parents ; because children aren’t equipped emotionally or intellectually to always make good choices. As parents we need to teach our child how to make choices and to weigh the consequences of those choices. This is why we must learn to say “no” at times. Your child won’t agree but sometimes saying “no” is more loving than saying “yes.”
Healthy love doesn’t always give a child what he wants. Children can be very fickle. The toy they couldn’t live without; the toy they ranted and scream for; the toy that would make them happy and stop the flood of tears is often abandoned for something else in a few days. They have no regard for how much it costs. Their concern is immediate satisfaction.
Why do we give in to this immaturity and nonsense? There are at least three reasons for such behavior on our part. First, we can’t stand to see our child so upset or unhappy with us. After all, our job is to make them happy, isn’t it. This is pure foolishness.
Second, we may give in to prove we are not a bad parent. Our child may have the unfortunate circumstance of divorced parents. This can give your child some leverage of playing one of you against the other. Don’t fall for this and let your child manipulate you into proving you’re as good a parent as your ex-spouse. By the way, children will try this where marriages are intact, also.
Third, we may want to give our child what he wants because we are confused. Confused about what? We are confused in our thinking that love means you get what you want. What if what you want is not really good for you? What if what you want is not in the best interest of others? Always giving a child what he wants can be a sure way of helping him to grow to be a narcissistic, self-centered and destructive human being.
Love is doing what is in the best long-term interest for your child. Think about it.