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Parent vs. Friend: How to Keep the Lines Clear

When we were growing up, we all knew “those kids” who seemed to be able to do whatever they wanted. Their parents never said “No”. They were at every party, everyone’s house, able to stay out later than the rest of us and usually not the most respectful people. They had all the latest and the greatest and picked on us simpletons for having a curfew.

Think hard. Who were the “luck kids” of your day?

Ahh, now are their names coming to mind?

As kids, we saw all the perks of having unlimited freedom and wished our parents trusted us to have such perks.

C'mon, all we wanted was to have friends in our room with the door closed, no schedules and limitless time on TV, phone calls or video games.

Back then we were so closet-envious it drove us mad at times. But, how many of you found out later that all that glitters isn’t gold?

Fast-forward, some of the same kids without limits seem to be very limited today. I could be wrong (there are always exceptions to the rule), but the hard truth is that blurring the lines between parent and friend can do much more harm than good. Children feel most safe when they know what to expect. Sure, it may be fun at first but the novelty of being able to do whatever with no respect for boundaries grows old, fast.

“When you treat your child like a friend, you’re telling her that she is your peer, and that her power is equal to yours.”

So, here are five reasons you should not be your child’s friend:

  1. Treating them like a peer doesn’t allow them to just be kids.

  2. Not having boundaries makes it hard for your child to relate appropriately to other adults.

  3. When you really want them to take you seriously, they won’t. You will lose limit-setting power.

  4. Your children may do things before their time, robbing them of their childhood.

  5. You will overshare information that will make your child feel vulnerable.

Think about it! What would you say to your bestie if they told you they were going to give you a consequence for being tardy for curfew or for not doing their chores?

Precisely. You would let him/her off of the hook in .02 seconds.

Oh, but that’s right…you wouldn’t have to because he/she would laugh in your face before you could.

So, keep this in mind when you’re tempted to blur the lines and I am sure you will snap back into reality…stat!

Undoubtedly, we know that it is important to establish a parent-child relationship over a friendship. But, if you’re stuck at not know how to keep the lines clear, here are 14 ways to foster good rapport with your child while not becoming a friend?

  1. (Don’t hang out with your friend but do) spend quality time with him/her.

  2. Provide structure, consequences and age-appropriate boundaries.

  3. Ask about homework.

  4. Always require respect, inside and outside your home.

  5. Restrict excessiveness.

  6. Monitor behavior.

  7. Establish family traditions.

  8. Establish family daily routines.

  9. Collaborate with other adults who work with your child.

  10. Keep healthy lines of communication open; Ask more than you share.

  11. Save adult issues and news for your adult friends who can handle the emotional burden.

  12. Speak firmly without raising your voice.

  13. Be consistent.

  14. Forgive yourself for any guilt you may be feeling for making your child your friend and resolve to put an end to it.

The reality of parenting is that it is not easy! At any stage! If you think it is, you may want to ask yourself: Does my child need a parent or a friend?


Dr. Shekina Farr Moore is a passionate educator, gender advocate and certified youth and parent coach. She is the Founder and CEO of B2F Girls Worlwide, a gender empowerment incubator that produces advocacy initiatives, campaigns and events. She has spoken out against gender oppression and disempowerment since 1992, penning her first published article, "Blocking Out the Gender Gap", while a high school student. This article garnered the attention of the National Press for Women. She is also the author of Beautiful, Big-boned and Brown and co-author of When Dark Chocolate is Bittersweet: Controversy Within A Culture. ​ Learn more about Dr. Moore at

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