Why Parents Shouldn't Be Friends with their Children

Parents shouldn't be friends with their children, as they could lose all control over them and would no longer be seen as parents.
Why Parents Shouldn't Be Friends with their Children
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 04 July, 2024

Why shouldn’t parents be friends with their children? Because if they did, they’d cease to be parents and would lose control over their children. It’s true that parenting methods used to be much more authoritarian. This is why we now seek closer ways of relating to one another, based on trust and respect. The problem is that we run the risk of falling too much into permissiveness and that children end up exceeding certain limits.

Today, the education of our children is based on respectful parenting, but we must establish limits and incorporate discipline. Otherwise, adults put themselves on the same level as their children, which will end up producing doubts in them. Therefore, we must be very careful with this relationship. Respectful parenting, yes. Friends, no.

Parents should set limits

Friendship between parents and children is a mistake. Parents shouldn’t be friends with their children, as for children, a friend is a confidant to whom they can tell everything. On the other hand, adults have to fulfill their role, set limits, and not be too permissive or too strict. If, from an early age, we provide our children with a good education, this will ensure that the relationship is based on trust, affection, and, of course, respect.

Currently, respectful parenting has been confused with letting children do whatever they want, and that’s where the mistake lies. There are parents who find it harder to set limits or say no, even if it’s with affection, than it is to say yes to everything and look good. This is a mistake. We may think that this will improve the bond we have with our children, but it’s not real. When we do this, we fail to play our role as parents.

A mother and her daughter are friends.
If parents pretend to have a bond of friendship with their children, they’ll only achieve a symmetrical relationship and will lose authority.

Being role models for our children

There’s a compelling reason why being friends with our children is a mistake, and it’s the type of bond we form with them. Parent-child bonding is much easier if both parties have secure attachment styles. This is based on getting children to see their parents as their role models. They should be able to approve their needs, seek the best for them, guide them, and always be available.

This disappears if we base our relationship with our children on friendship. From that perspective, our children will see us as someone who’s in the same position as them and with the same insecurities and needs that they may have. What happens then? Well, all this leads to insecure attachment, which will make them feel disoriented and without knowing how to face the world.

Therefore, the upbringing and education of children have to start with knowing how to position ourselves and assume our role. We mustn’t forget that we’ll always be the best support for our children.

What does it mean to be respectful parents?

Respectful parents maintain an honest, close, and loving relationship with their children. In this connection, adults always take their children into account when making decisions regarding their education. Yes, they must always do it responsibly and make clear the rules and limits to be respected. What can we do to have a relationship with our children based on respect? These tips can help you:

  • Dedicate more time to your children, but without giving into their every whim.
  • Establish routines and guidelines so that they can face their environment in a safe way.
  • Be clear about when and how to set limits. We should adapt them to their age.
  • Make your children comply with the established limits.
  • Teach them discipline so they can know what they can and can’t do.
  • Know how to listen to them when they have something to say. Setting limits doesn’t mean that you should blindly prohibit everything. It’s important to negotiate with them.
A child isn’t your equal and, therefore, they’re not your friend. Instead, they’re a person who’s in your care and whom you must help to grow independently and maturely.

Trust yes, friends no

Not anything goes when it comes to establishing a bond with our children based on trust. We must have fluid communication and a close relationship, but never compromise our authority to set some limits.

  • The relationship must be based on trust. In this way, our children will be able to tell us their problems. Even so, as parents, we shouldn’t tell our worries to their children, as we’d be burdening them with our anxiety, worries, and fears.
  • It’s important that we establish bonds based on warmth, affection, trust, security, and companionship. However, we must always establish limits.
  • The trust we have with our children must be oriented to promote their emotional maturity, responsibility, and self-knowledge.

Generate a secure attachment

You’ve already seen why parents shouldn’t be friends with their children, as it’s not a relationship among equals. Children always have to know and take into account their position and ours in a respectful way. We have to help them by setting boundaries so that they feel safe. If our relationship is based on friendship, we’ll confuse them. Instead, adults should be their role models.

Now you know why friendship with children is a mistake that can end up in an insecure attachment style. And this brings the consequent negative consequences for the emotional development of little ones.

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All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sánchez, G. (2012). La comunicación entre padres e hijos. De Esperanza para la Familia, 1-6.
  • Nardone, G., Giannotti, E., & Rocchi, R. (2013). Modelos de familia: conocer y resolver los problemas entre padres e hijos. Herder Editorial.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.