A recent study revealed that 43 percent of today’s parents are seeking acceptance and friendship from their teens. Forty percent of these parents surveyed said they would buy their children everything they wanted to accomplish their primary objective: to be their child’s best friend. In theory this sounds like a good plan. Who doesn’t want their child to like them? To share private thoughts as a friend would? To hang out? To have deep, meaningful conversations and friendly fun?
But there’s an unintended byproduct to this desire: in order to maintain a position of friendship one must abdicate a position of authority. Friends are generally not instructional. Friendship does not discipline, set rules, protect, give insight, and seldom challenges incorrect acts. Parenting does. Friends don’t generally inspire and motivate you to become more in life. Parents do. By desiring to be a member of the friendship club these parents are missing a significant reality. A child will have many friends, but as parents, we’re it.
Whether you are a birth parent, a foster parent, an adoptive parent, or a stepparent, the privileged role you play in your daughter’s life is exclusive. You are not part of the team; you are the coach. You are singularly the most influential person in your daughter’s life.
I can’t stress enough how important this job is. No one can replace your role and make an impact on your girl the way you can. This relationship is vital. Without it, the effects on your daughter will be immense and will last forever. Does this bring fear? Indeed it should. But don’t let that thought paralyze you. Motherhood is a manageable task if you stay the course. And just wait—at times it’ll even be inspiring when you, as the coach, see your daughter make that winning play.
For all of you mothers, like myself, who experienced days (or months or years) of relational panic with your daughters, I have a wonderful piece of “after the fact” knowledge to give you hope. There will be times when you will wonder if your daughter will ever become your friend if you’re an effective coach. You’ll watch that daughter storm off toward her room and desperately wonder, Will she hate me forever? Am I always going to be the one who just doesn’t understand?
Real-life experience with both my daughters taught me that neither of those fears is real. If you’re committed to being a great mom and you maintain the position of coach that you daughter needs (whether she wants to admit it or not), you’ll become her friend. And the relationship formed will be a much deeper, more meaningful one than she’ll have with her peers. The kind of relationship transcending time, distance, and life obstacles. A relationship that runs so strong your heart will thrill with what you and your daughter mean to each other.
The mother who performs her duties from a fearful, pacifying place, always trying to be her daughter’s friend, will never have the privilege of experiencing this profound relationship because the daughter will never develop a healthy respect for her mother. But the mother who holds firm to the position of coach? She’ll experience lifelong benefits!
Adapted from Help Wanted: Moms Raising Daughters, © 2011 Darlene Brock.