Everyone wants to be liked, including parents.
As a dad, I much prefer my 12-year-old son and I to get along than to be at odds.
But the chummy times don’t always last. They’re broken when I have to correct him, enforce a bedtime or holler at him to wake up.
I remember years ago, I did something my son, Connor, didn’t like and he let me know.
“You’re not my friend anymore!” he blurted out.
I’d anticipated this line at some point, and I had a ready response.
“That’s right,” I fired back. “I’m not your friend. I’m your father.”
End of exchange.
At other times, however, I’ve caved in and been too lenient, opting to be more like a buddy than a dad.
When you’re a single father, it’s tempting to avoid conflict with your child. You don’t have any parenting backup in the house, so you take all the unpleasant pushback from a disciplined child.
Sometimes I just want to say, “Can’t we get along?”
The truth is, good parents often must sacrifice harmony at home to set proper boundaries.
I think single dads, in particular, need to talk regularly with other parents. We need to get encouragement and share our struggles. Otherwise, we’ll grow weary of being a parent and want to be a friend with our child.
Kids shouldn’t always like us
Children, at some level anyway, want us to be in charge and show the way. They may not want a drill sergeant as a dad, but they don’t want a pushover either.
“Limit setting is a very healthy function,” wrote child behavior therapist James Lehman, who died in 2010. “It’s how kids learn to figure out what’s safe and what’s not safe.”
No matter how bad your child reacts to correction, eventually he or she will calm down. You will have enforced the ground rules of your relationship. In the future, your child will likely test you less, and your father-child relationship will improve.
When Connor is grown, I hope we can act more like friends. I like to think of us taking trips together or just hanging out without me always wearing the parenting hat.
For now, though, I have to wear that hat constantly, even when it’s restricting and uncomfortable.
If you need a friend, turn to someone besides your child. Parents and kids can certainly be friendly, but they’re not equals. Establish the proper relationship early on, and your child will respect you more. And he or she will become a better adult.