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Parents as Friends? Not Always…

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Parents as Friends? Not AlwaysCome to think of it, why should there be any reservations about the concept of ‘Parents as Friends’? Especially in the present day, when we have grown out of the parental generation of disciplinarians or those who set down rigid rules for the family. Parents today have grown up themselves with a mother and father who lavished them with love and only wanted their happiness and satisfaction.

Some of these parents underwent awesome sacrifices in order to send their children to the best schools and colleges. So why should the new generation of parents bring up their children with any different ideas? After all, if anything, there is now more money, more comfort and more luxury available. So shouldn’t this environment of plenty promote more ‘friendship’ among the two generations of kids and their parents, rather than reinforce older, more traditional power equations?

And yet, even with all the above, parents as friends can never be a concept in absolute terms. It has to make way for the more correct evaluation of the parental role that sees parents as safety nets. In short, if anything can describe what parents today need to be for their children, it is this:

Parents have to be the space in which it is safe for their children to be whatever they choose – and have the dangers pointed out to them when their choice is inappropriate.

Friendship, or friendliness, in the final analysis, can only be an approach that parents have towards their kids. In such a situation, communication is open, honest, friendly, and disagreements, fights and conflicts can be quickly made up and resolved. This is fine. But if having your child perceive you as a ‘friend’ means making special efforts to pander to his or her demands, sometimes this friendship may be a slightly compromised one. Trying to be your child’s friend does not mean succumbing to a desire for cheap popularity through over-indulgence. In real terms, which ‘friend’ can afford to buy us all we want?   

The safety net concept is much easier to practice in actual every day living. It is also more difficult, because it demands that one constantly keep an eye on one’s own value system and priorities. It lays the foundation for trust and responsibility in a later age. When children are young, they know that we have the power to pull them out of any scrape they fall into. This is the basis of trust. But when they grow older and want to test the boundaries of our safety net behaviour, we owe it to them to come down hard on any violation of our trust in them.

Just because a parent is rich and powerful enough to pull a child out of prison if he or she gets into trouble, can such a parent really condone drunk driving? And if such a parent is keen to continue being perceived as a ‘jolly good fellow’ and indulgently puts down the drunk-driving incident to the follies of youth, he or she is actually endangering both – the child and those in the larger society who are vulnerable, like poor pavement dwellers. If you must be your child’s friend, make sure you are a real one – who can dish out the tough love as well as the soft caring.

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