Friend vs mom: Ways to be both

Jun 20, 2011 at 10:47 a.m. ET

Being a mom isn’t easy. You love your children more than life itself, and you want them to want to share their lives with you, but you also know that you have to set boundaries and limitations that may cause frustration and tears. Is it possible to be both mother and friend? Professionals indicate that it’s both possible and healthy, as long as you establish clear parent-child boundaries.

Mom and teen having coffee

Define "Friend"

A child and a parent are never on equal ground, and that's a good thing. You have a wealth of knowledge and experience that should be used to help shape your daughter as she grows. You hold all the cards – the money, the transportation, the power - to expect her to ever be able to view you like she would her best friend, but this is not reasonable or healthy. What is reasonable and healthy, according to Psychology Today, is to make every effort to be approachable and accessible while making decisions that are in her best interest. As a result, a special kind of bond, or friendship, will grow.

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Put her first

When approaching friendship with your child, you need to modify John F Kennedy's famous quote, "Ask not what your [child] can do for you – ask what you can do for your [child]." Some parents try to fulfill their own needs for friendship, acceptance and love through their child, but this ultimately alters the relationship. Your focus needs to be on what actions you must take to help her today, tomorrow and into her future. Sometimes this will mean laughing together during dinner, but other times it will mean providing much-needed discipline. Consider the following ideas for enhancing your bond while still maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship:

1Set aside time

Set aside time each week to do something fun together. Maybe you choose to take a bike ride together or you hit the mall for a shopping spree. Whatever it is, the time is sacred – you can ask her about her week, how school is going, what she sees in her future. She'll know that you care intimately about the details of her life and she'll learn that she can trust you with her hopes and share her fears with you.

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2Use logic

Children are not stupid – they don't like being yelled at, grounded or disciplined, especially if they don't think the punishment fits the crime. If you can learn to discipline your child with logical reason and care, she'll develop a greater respect for your decisions and your bond will continue to grow. This isn't an easy concept, but it's one you can learn. Consider enrolling in a Parenting with Love and Logic class, a system designed by doctors to teach parents how to interact with their children with love while still teaching responsibility and respect.

3Learn to let go

As your child enters late adolescence, your relationship will begin to change. She'll need to develop independence, and you'll need to allow her to strike out on her own. This doesn't mean you're not needed, though; a grown child who feels loved by, but not babied by, her mother is more likely to turn to her for advice and support. Don't be afraid to let go little by little; chances are it will afford you the opportunity to develop an adult-like friendship when she's grown.

Tell us

Should parents be 'friends' with their kids?

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