Friendship Based Parenting
Or (more contentiously)
Be a Friend Always, a Parent Never
Sometimes the criticism of the idea of friendship based parenting is that kids and their parents aren’t equals and therefore we shouldn’t treat them as such until they’re grown. That we have a responsibility to be parents first otherwise we’ll be neglecting our duties as guides and parents.
If we don’t control them, they will control us!
Treat Your Kids as Equals
I think the idea of friends being equals is important to examine.
Let’s use martial arts as an example.
(Because I use martial arts as an example for pretty much everything!)
Let’s look at two people who consider themselves equals as friends doing martial arts together. One of which has been studying for many years and one who has never done it before.
Clearly in this regard there are many things the experienced person knows that the other doesn’t and can guide the less experienced person. In fact they should guide them, teach them, advise them and be responsible for their learning to a certain degree!!
But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t equals!
Just that one is better at that particular skill set than the other. The less experienced person might be better at math, at cooking, at painting… or any number of things! If they then cook together or paint or do math together their roles would be reversed.
Friends Learn From Each Other
In fact in a good friendship we recognize the skills each of us has and learn from each other. We would accept each other’s guidance of depending on what we’re doing at any given moment.
Like if we were doing something you’re better at I would defer to your expertise and if we were doing something I’m better at, it might make sense for me to offer suggestions and guidance to you.
But at no time during those activities would we feel unequal as friends.
And at no time would we feel either of us has power or control over the other.
You Both Have Much to Share With Each Other!
In the same way, if you recognize that there are many skills, knowledge and abilities your child has that you do not and that you also have some skills, knowledge and abilities that you are better at… you can share those skills with each other as EQUALS.
You might understand more about not getting burned by stoves and crossing streets with cars rushing around.
Your child might understand more about play, joy and seeing the wonder of the world.
You might be better at walking, talking, working and taking care of money.
Your child might be better at using their imagination, at seeing things in unconventional ways, at hearing their intuition and divine guidance.
When you read this list of skills do you see one as more powerful or important than the other?
I see them all as part of living a balanced and fulfilled life.
Therefore you both have important things to share with each other and there’s no reason that can’t be done in the context of friendship.
Friendship Based Parenting Takes Work
Friendship isn’t simple.
It’s easy to be a bad friend,
but to be a really good one requires a constant attention to yourself and the other!
I have always allowed my child an equal leadership role in our relationship and in the family.
I choose to trust in her ability to guide herself, to listen to her inner voice.
I do my best to encourage her to keep trusting herself!
The idea that we have to have some power and control over our children is such an ancient idea and so deeply ingrained in society that for many people it’s hard to see how parenting can be done without it!!
Believing that we can use a friendship model of parenting seems crazy and even irresponsible. Part of that thinking comes from a highly mediocre idea of friendship. Part of it comes from the difficulty of thinking outside the traditional model (it’s always been done that way). Part of it comes form not knowing exactly what else to do!
Refuse to Exert Authority Over Your Child
I rebelled against authority in my teens and early 20s (just ask my mother and she’ll tell you!!).
Because of this I absolutely refused to have authority over my child.
I hated it as a child when adults had authority over me!! I never felt they knew more than me or were wiser than I was. I KNEW I had wisdom and it would drive me crazy when that wisdom wasn’t respected.
And then they’d say “when you’re older and have kids you’ll understand.”
I thought it was bullshit then and I think it’s bullshit now!
Kids will learn respect for self and others by how we respect them.
We must see them as equals.
We must value their perspective as equal to ours.
At least equal if not more so!
Friendship based parenting is powerful and compelling!
I definitely think that,
• non-hierarchical power sharing,
• freedom and
are much more powerful qualities than
• punishment (aka consequences)
• control and
It’s not easy, but it is possible to go all the way and be successful with friendship based parenting!