Should You Be Your Child's Best Friend?

Do you consider your children to be your friends? Do you think they think of you as their friends?

The actor and comedian Billy Crystal says he and his wife were good parents because they didn't want to be their children's friends. I absolutely want to be my children's friend. Don't I? I want to be their parent too, of course, but I don't think that precludes being their friend.

I think a lot about how my parenting is different from my parents' parenting. When I was a child, there was a definite adult and child separation that my husband and I just don't seem to have - we think of the four of us more as a team. But is that how it should be? Or is it more sensible to keep a certain distance?

My friend Tiffany's 13-year-old daughter tells her she's her best friend. "I love it," Tiffany says. "But I do warn her that she will grow out of me! We really do enjoy each other's company but I don't hang out with her and her friends when they come over."

Rowan Coleman, mum of four, says: "My daughter is my best friend, and I think I am hers, but I wouldn't want her to not have any best friends of her own age too. I wouldn't want to keep her to myself - I think its important that children develop their own social life. Bonding with peers is just as important for development as bonding with parents."

"I think the key is to be a friendly parent," says Alex, mum to Ramona. "So the lines of communication are open, but slightly one way - don't muddle their need to share with your own relationship crap (save that for your own friends. Or parents!). My mum is a wonderful friend, but with a difference."

From the late teen years until she died when I was 28, my mum was my best friend and I would never have wanted to change that, even though it meant that I lost my mum and my best friend at the same time.


​But sometimes she did cross a line in telling me things about my dad that I really didn't want or need to know. And I guess that's what Crystal is talking about: a friendly relationship may not have the boundaries necessary for a good parent/child relationship.


Father of five Jon Mayhew says, "I'm not sure its about boundaries so much as allowing space to develop and grow. I don't want to be my children's best friend. I have a close, loving bond with them but ultimately, they should fly the nest and live their own lives. Each generation has its own culture too. My kids need people of their own age to develop relationships with especially as they grow older."

Susan agrees: "I'm afraid I find it a bit creepy when parents say they are best friends with their children - 17-year-olds going clubbing with their mums, etc. Parents should have their own friends just as children should. When I was little my mum and dad always told me 'there is nothing that we cannot sort out between the three of us' and I want my children to feel like that. They can come to me with anything and I will listen and help. But I don't want to be their best friends because that's not my job."

I know what Susan means - don't we all know parents who try to insinuate themselves into parts of their children's lives they really should steer clear of?


But I do think it's possible for a friendship to grow organically. When my children are older, I'd hate for them to think I was embarrassing, but equally I'd hate it if they didn't want to spend time with me, if they didn't think we were friends.


Even now, I'm struck by how much I enjoy my 9-year-old son's company and he seems to enjoy mine - why shouldn't that continue?

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