Thursday, October 11, 2012

Friend Me (Not)

Friend me, friend me not. 
Should you or should you not be your child’s friend is one of the biggest modern parenting questions. Many parents use the framework “Will my child still like me if I do X?” before making any decision, whether consciously or unconsciously. And having a child scream at you, “I hate you,” and run off crying to her room can devastate most parents.

Fifty years ago, parents didn’t worry about whether or not their children liked them. Fifty years ago, parents realized that being a good parent wasn’t going to be popular with the kids. Fifty years ago, parents knew that when a child yelled “I hate you,” it generally meant they were doing the right thing.

We need to realize that we shouldn’t worry so much about having our children’s approval. Keep in mind that by not concerning yourself with being liked by your kids, you will be a much more effective leader in your home. Someone needs to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the discipline and decision-making that is part of the growing-up process.  

Remember, the right decisions are not going to be popular. Who ever heard of a child protesting vehemently when you told him he was going out for ice cream? Children only protest when they don’t like the decision.

You as a parent should expect that one day, your child will shout to you the heart-rending words “I hate you”—because that’s what all kids do at some point. Children may say they don’t like you, but if you think about when they utter those words, it’s usually because they disagree with whatever decision (or consequence) you’ve just delivered. The reality is, you are giving them what they need, even though they can’t express it (and probably won’t appreciate it) until they are parents themselves.

Whenever the need to be liked by your children hits you, think about the future. Doing our job as leaders when our kids are under 18 lays the foundation for a lifetime of friendship. We only have a mere 18 years to train and mentor our kids, but many times over to be their friend when they become adults.

My mother and I clashed some during the teen years, and there were times when I—much to my embarrassment now—hollered that I hated her. Today, I’m grateful for the many years we’ve had of sweet friendship, of sharing and laughing and praying together, of being mother and daughter, yet friends as well. Years that I hope will continue well into the future.

So preserve in your calling as a parent, the authority in the home, by fixing your eyes on the long term goal instead of a short-term gain of being liked by your kids all the time. If we focus on raising responsible, caring, emancipated adults, we will have done our job well—and found a new friend in our grown children.

How do you handle unpopular decisions with your children?

Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the John Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coaching Institute. She’s also a freelance writer/editor, author of Hired@Home and her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at, and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach. 


  1. I often get yelled at, and then I cringe, because while I don't mind being called a name, I don't want my children harboring hateful feelings. Toward anyone, ever. That can turn into seeds of bitterness that will drive families apart. So I wonder how to correct my children's heart attitude in situations like that.

  2. I think it's okay to have rules about what a child can and can't say to you. Like in our house, we have banned the word "stupid" along with other name-calling.

    A good time to talk about the heart is a day or few hours after the encounter to allow for emotions to calm down. Then you can talk about the heart issues in a more calm setting.