Be Your Child’s Friend

Swimming and playing in Upper Michigan last weekend.
Swimming and playing in Upper Michigan last weekend.

Back when I had first heard about unschooling and was reading everything I could on the subject, I came across a post about the phrase, “You’re the child’s parent, not their friend!” The post discussed the importance of being your child’s friend, not by acting like a six year old or teenager or whatever age your child is, but by treating them with the same consideration and respect that you would show your friends. Don’t try to be that “cool” parent that ends up just acting really immature, because most everyone agrees that that is kind of pathetic. But focus on being a true friend to your child by earning their trust and by being respectful of their thoughts and feelings.

Here is a snippet, but I encourage you to read the whole post.

What is a friend? I’m not talking about the schoolmates teenagers go out partying and drinking with. Not talking about the 5 year old kid your child happens to play with at the park that day. I’m talking about real friendship.

a*friend:* one attached to another by affection or esteem

Knowing what I know now, with my kids grown, I strongly feel that that that one line, which permeates parental consciousnesses, should be quickly and actively contradicted and rooted out like a pernicious weed every single time it sprouts up.

Instead of “You’re the parent, not their friend,” substitute, “Be the very very best friend to them you can possibly be.”(Read more.)

Yesterday evening I was reading a little story about Saint John Bosco to my children as their bedtime story, as I often do on Sunday nights. The story is from Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welborn. I’ve read some things that Saint John Bosco has said here and there as many Catholic Unschoolers have taken him as their unofficial patron saint. Last night, however, I learned something new about him. I read:

John Bosco grew up on a farm in Italy. When he was just nine years old, he had a very strange dream. He was in a field, surrounded by crowds of other boys who were all behaving very badly. Suddenly, the figure of a man appeared, glowing with light, and told little John that he was to be the leader of these children […] John Bosco told the man he didn’t see how he could help all those boys. The figure, still shining with a peaceful, clear light, told John something very important He said, “Not with blows will you help these boys, but with goodness and kindness.” After he said this, the boys in John’s dream stropped misbehaving, and they became calm.

Further on, I read about an incident that happened when Don John Bosco was an adult, an after he had been ordained a priest. He was in the back of church and heard one of the church workers yelling. When John Bosco went to see what was wrong he found the worker yelling at a boy who had come into the church to warm up. I continued reading aloud. “Don Bosco had never seen the boy before, but he told the man to stop yelling. The man wanted to know why, ‘Because,’ said Don Bosco, ‘he’s my friend.’ From that moment, Don Bosco decided that the best way to help the poor boys of Turin was to be their friend.” [Emphasis mine]. Eventually Don Bosco ran a boys’ school and an orphanage and his many students that he taught over the decades remembered his great kindness and gentleness. Although in the mid-19th century corporal punishment in schools was the norm, Don Bosco wouldn’t allow it in his school. Instead he encouraged his teachers to treat the boys with kindness. “He wanted the teachers to be a part of their students’ lives, not only by teaching them but also by joining in their games and listening to their problems.” That is, he wanted his teachers to be good friends to the boys.

So today, as I begin my day, I’m going to re-focus and consider how I can be a better friend to my children. Today I’m going to remember that amid all the tasks that call out for mothers to do — the long, and at times overwhelming list — nurturing our relationships with our children is the most important one.



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