For some strange reason, parenting has changed.
Perhaps it's an inevitability of time, but holy smokes, some things should remain sacred, shouldn't they?
I'm talking about kids, parents and the relationship between the two. It seems that there's a lot more of a comfort level between mothers, fathers and their kids that, frankly, makes me uncomfortable. The once-expected and respected boundary between a parent and their child was clearly defined and visible for all to see. Now? Not so much. It's become "cool" to be "friends" with your kids. After all, celebrities seem to do it all the time. Just think about Dina Lohan and her daughter Lindsay or Drew Barrymore and her famous hard-partying ways as a youngster, which seemed to be sanctioned by her mom.
Go to the park or take your child to a play date these days and your child's friend may very well call you by your first name. This is the norm much of the time, yet when I was a child, it was unheard of to speak to any adult in what was perceived to be such a "familiar" fashion. It was always "Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So," and first names of adults were rarely known -- let alone used -- by anyone younger than 18.
Yet now, this familiarity is accepted as "the way it is," along with other formerly verboten words or activities. Some examples:
- Parents and children going to PG or R-rated movies together -- In these instances, the parent seems to see no problem in sitting through often violent, sexual or otherwise inappropriate content with their child.
- Parents and kids playing "Mature" or PG-rated video games separately or together -- If done separately, the parent has given the child approval to play the game.
- Parents taking their kids shopping and giving the kids considerable decision-making regarding purchases -- The mom or dad may be footing the bill but the child is often calling the shots.
- Parents taking their kids to adult-only functions despite the inappropriate nature of the event -- Haven't we all seen kids at late-night functions, adult-themed concerts or events, or similar, and wondered what positive value that the child was getting from their attendance?
Sometimes it's an instance of a parent trying to recapture their youth. Other times it's a precocious child testing their mettle, with the parents clearly following along behind them. The tail wagging the dog, so to speak.
This is just plain wrong, and I'll tell you why.
Children need a strong role model. They need boundaries and they need to know the difference between right and wrong.
Kids look up to their parents of beacons of intelligence (as wrong as they may be in some instances). Our answers have weight, and our guidance has merit. We are, after all, their first and, depending on their age, their only role models. What does it do for their confidence in our guidance when we are perceived to be unsure about what we're telling them? How can they grow up to have the strength of their convictions when we clearly don't have the strength of our own? Like all of us, we want to feel like there is someone in our lives who has all of the answers and who doesn't waver in their convictions. For us adults, it's another friend, for our kids, it's us.
It's never good to be "friends" with your child. After all, inherent in the idea of "friendship" is the concept that both parties are on equal footing. Call me old school, but my children are not on equal footing with me, as I am their mother. At the end of the day, what I say goes, and it's not negotiable. If it wasn't this way how on earth could I expect them to listen to me when they're older, in their teens and dealing with more serious and life-changing decisions?
If my advice had no value, weight or importance, it would be easy to imagine how they could make the wrong choices and go down the wrong path. I shudder to think about the consequences.
"It's never good to be 'friends' with your child. After all, inherent in the idea of 'friendship' is the concept that both parties are on equal footing. Call me old school, but my children are not on equal footing with me, as I am their mother."
As times have changes, so have our ideas about relationships between the generations. In many ways we've come a long way in terms of how we both view and treat children today. The old "spare the rod and spoil the child" adage that was once considered a standard tool of parenting has, for the most part, disappeared -- and thankfully so.
Ditto for the concept of a child being "seen but not heard." These concepts seem archaic now, as we realize the importance of treating our children with respect, as well as listening to their ideas and concerns. We've come a long way in that we now realize that in order for our children to flourish and grow into confident and happy adults, we need to provide them the environment in which they feel supported, understood and loved.
That being said, it's a long haul to equate this fostering of our childrens' collective spirits in a positive way for the purposes of building their confidence, and being their "BFF" to whom they casually relate to in a most cavalier and sometimes disrespectful manner.
No, children need to look up to their parents and have some degree of reverence and respect for them in order to truly take home the lessons that their mothers and fathers try so hard to teach them. For this and many other reasons, I won't be revealing my deepest, darkest feelings to my elementary-school aged child any time soon.