Friend, or Strict Parent – Which Works Best?

So I had a discussion with my son on various kids and what they are doing with their lives. Brett is in his mid-20’s and most of his pals are hard at work in their chosen careers. There are some that he knows of though, that are what you might call slackers.

I define slackers as the kids who take their time growing up, figuring out what they want to do, bouncing from job to job, or just living off the parents if they can financially afford that.

Some kids are hungrier than others, some lack motivation.

Our discussion had us dissecting the possible reasons for the lack of motivation in some. The only thing that we could pinpoint is that out of the two parents, it is helpful if at least one is an actual parent.

So many times, parents try so hard to be their child’s friend and give up on the tough part of parenting, such as saying NO when appropriate. I know plenty of families where both parents were “friends” rather than rule-making parents.

As a friend Ronnie once said to his teens: “I am NOT your friend. You will have plenty of those in your lifetime, but you will only have one Dad.”

I think that about says it all.

I was a strict and demanding parent. I wasn’t afraid to ground or otherwise punish. There was no doubt in my kids’ minds who was in charge. I set guidelines and values for their lives – education comes first, relationships second. No negotiations on that. I can’t say that about the parents of all of their peers, and it is no coincidence that the ones who had stricter parents are doing much better as adults themselves.

Acquaintances, and people in my community often comment how well my children are doing sometimes they add how “lucky” I am. And I think to myself, it was a lot of hard work, with just a little bit of luck mixed in. Yes, I am lucky they are smart and healthy, and I count my blessings for that. But also, I was willing to be the mean mom, the ONLY one who said NO on occasion. I endured years of being called out of touch, clueless, and otherwise not appreciated by my teens. I suffered then, but now look what I have to show for it! Some parents didn’t do the suffering then, but they are doing it now because their kids won’t grow up.

Plenty of people I have spoken to about this subject have regrets about their parenting. Many of us who grew up in the hippy and post-hippy generation found it impossible to give structure, rules and tough parenting to their kids. One mom told me that she loved her kids too much to punish them or be strict. My personal opinion is that it takes just as much love, if not more, to punish because you are then shaping their future as well as their present. It sometimes hurts to be a tough parent, but I would say strong love guides through those rough waters. And of course it also helps to have some common sense.

Children are our future. So that means it is not good enough for them to just be their adorable selves that we as parents, of course, love unconditionally. They need to be able to contribute to the world, support themselves, and eventually support and raise their own families.

What does everyone else think? Any regrets, observations? Is there luck involved? Click “Comment” below to leave your comments and to read what others have to say, too.

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  • I figure, nowadays, if your kids aren’t doing drugs, aren’t pregnant, and aren’t in a gang, you’re a lucky parent. I didn’t know if I would make it through the teenage years. Thank heavens I’m past them. My kids still flounder. I think they might actually be gone (in other words, not coming home to live anymore), but they’ve gotten past the partying and the silliness and are on their way to living their dreams. Yee hah! I think that rules and structure evolved as we were parenting, out of necessity. So, guidelines and boundaries, yes. But keeping an open mind and open communication lines – that’s what got us through to the other side.

  • I sent this to my whole family!

  • what a terrific article! So true.

  • this timely! So freaking timely! The whole world needs to see this, but I think it should be required reading for my son and his entire high school:)

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