Over the past little while I have taken up the practice of looking at my children and thinking of them as I would think of one of my very best friends.
I can tell you that it has been an eye opening experience for me.
For some reason that I have yet to comprehend, I am very selfish and prideful when it comes to interacting with my children.
Viewing my children as I view my best friends has helped me see them from a different perspective.
In the past I have heard it often taught that parents should not be friends with their children. Perhaps the thinking behind this is, “parents are the leaders, they are in charge, and there should be a clear separation between parents and their children, because kids will not listen to someone who is just their friend”.
Thinking about that advice now, I see it as plainly illogical (even silly).
Who do people listen to? I mean really listen? I listen to my friends. People I look up to. People I respect and spend a lot of time with (or want to spend time with).
My children listen to their friends. I hear my children talk and they have learned many things that I know they did not learn from me. Who do they hang out with? Who do they play with? Who do they trust? Their own friends.
It makes much more logical sense for me to be friends with my children, if I actually want them to listen to me.
As a parent when I say I want my children to listen to me, I often mean that I want them to mind me (aka “obey me”). Is that really my goal though? Do I want my kids to grow up always needing to have me around telling them what to do? No way! That is the last things I want. In fact, that is not even on my list. What I want is for my children to make good (reasonable, kind, wise) choices so that they can live a happy and fulfilling life for themselves and be helpful, respectful, and compassionate to others.
I tend to parent as the benevolent (too often tyrannical) dictator. Dishing out rules and trying inconsistently to enforce those rule by meting out unbalanced punishments.
What I should mean by “listen to me” is, “be my friend”. If my friends ask me to do something, even something challenging, I will do it, or at least give it careful consideration. If my children saw me as a friend, does it not stand to reason that they would also be more willing to do things that I asked of them? If I was a friend to my children, I would be more likely to ask them to do things out of love for them than out of a desire to maintain the rigid processes and system of government that have been established in this government (I mean, home).
Another aspect of being friends with my children is something I recently heard in a religious conference. Richard G Scott counseled me to, “Become friends with your children’s friends.” (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/for-peace-at-home) That struck a chord with me. I have never really taken the time to be friends with the friends of my children. In fact I have treated them in much the same way as I too often treat my own children. As peons of the working class generously allowed within my borders until I grow weary of their jovial sounds and mess making.
As I have started to be more social with the friends of my children, I have found that I am also better able to find ways to communicate on a friendly level with my own children.
I want to be a friend to my children. I want them to enjoy being with me. I want to think of my children as friends. I want them to be able to learn from me the many life lessons that I have gain from experience so that they do not need to struggle through some of those same challenges.
Several sayings come to mind:
“People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
“The more you serve, the more you love. The more you love, the more you serve.”
It is a new goal of mine to become a friend to my children. Not for any of the other side benefits which will surely come from being their friend, but because I really do love them and they deserve to see that love in my words and my actions. Not just in a phrase thrown at them as I send them off to bed.