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‘Be the parent and not the friend’: Experts discuss the benefits of leading children


Many parents like to say that they are friends — even best friends — with their children, but in the parent-child dynamic someone needs to be the boss.

It may be easier said than done, but an assertive parenting boss allows a child to flourish with support rather than dominance and pushiness.

Of course, a parent and child have an emotional bond, but if you try to be friends with your child, it comes at the cost of your authority and it undermines your role as a parent, said Kimball Lewis, CEO of EmpoweringParents.com and father of two teenage boys.

“You are your child’s authority. That’s your role and responsibility,” he said.

Don’t strive to be your child’s friend.

“Your job is not to please your child, nor is it to make them happy. Your job is to provide for your child and raise them to be a functional member of society,” Lewis said.

“Kids need their parents to be competent leaders of their family,” said parenting expert Kathy Slattengren, CEO of PricelessParenting.com.

Ideally, parents can establish themselves as loving authority figures within their family, she said.

“Practically speaking, your child can find another friend, but your child can’t find another parent,” Lewis said. “You and only you can be your child’s parent, and that’s why you need to be the parent and not the friend.”

Parenting styles change with the times.

“Parenting is evolving to be more kind and respectful towards children,” Slattengren said. “For example, corporal punishment like spanking is against the law in most developed countries.”

Fathers are now more involved with parenting, and both moms and dads rely on healthy communication and interaction.

That can lead to power struggles. Common problems parents may face include disrespect, defiance, backtalk, lying and tantrums, Lewis said.

Effective parenting is a skill that can be learned, he said.

Parents can work to develop the traits of a good boss, such as being honest, empathic, generous, consistent, fun, positive and fully present, Slattengren said.

Establish yourself as a loving authority figure when your child is young so that it will be easier to parent effectively when they hit the teen years, she said.

To become a good leader, Lewis offers these tips:

• Don’t over-negotiate the rules.

“Kids can have a voice as long as they speak appropriately, but parents make the final decision.”

• Steer clear of fights you don’t want.

“If your child is being disrespectful and yelling at you, disconnect and walk away. Don’t let your child drag you down to his level. An effective boss keeps their composure, and so does an effective parent.”

• Avoid power struggles.

“Know that the more you engage your child in an argument, the more power you’re giving him. So again, just walk away and declare victory.”

Developing leadership qualities as a parent can be a lifelong process, but will help build a stronger family, Slattengren said.

“Prioritize your own self-care so you can be at your best for your kids,” she said.

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