The Danger of Befriending Your Children

I love my kids, and I am their friend. But, I’m not their best friend…and I don’t want to be. That’s because best friends are considered two people who are on the same level. They share confidential issues of their hearts with each other, and they may give advice. Yet, one friend is not in a position of authority over the other.


When parents attempt to be best friends with their children, then the adult comes down to the child’s level. As a result, it’s impossible to fully function as the parent, such as teaching and enforcing consequences. Yes, we are to love our children, hug them, kiss them, praise them, care for them, and bond with them in an appropriate way. But, a parent should not come down to their kid’s level for any reason. If we do, then we abdicate our position of authority and protection. Making an attempt to befriend children forces a parent to forfeit the honor, respect, and authority needed to bring correction and direction into a young person’s life.


For example, I’ve told my sons for years, “I’m your dad. We can be best friends when you are married and pay your own mortgage.” I have said this so many times that they now recite it back to me. Occasionally, my sons have joked around with me to a level that borders on disrespect. Immediately, I stopped them and said, “Hey guys, save that stuff for your buddies in the locker room. You aren’t going to joke around with me in a way that mocks me and my position. Remember, I’m your father.” Allowing your kids to treat you as their best friend subtly opens the door to disrespect, which is a door you definitely need to keep shut.


Are you trying too hard to be your kid’s best friend instead of their parent? For instance, are you:


  • Telling off-color jokes?
  • Watching inappropriate movies or TV shows together?
  • Hanging out with your kid’s friends?
  • Sharing your personal issues as an adult?


If so, then you’re setting the stage for major problems. You can be a parent in whom your child confides, but not the opposite. Let them know they can talk to you about anything in their lives. But, you must maintain a clear boundary, showing that you are their parent first and their friend second. Storm-proof parenting means raising kids to respect you, rather than lowering yourself to the child’s level just to be their friend.

Don’t Count to Three When Your Kids Drive You Crazy

After 25 years of working with thousands of families, I’ve found that many parents make the mistake of warning their children by saying, “I’m counting to three! One…two…” But, the warning rarely has the desired effect. Instead, it tends to exacerbate the situation even worse.

Doesn’t it feel sometimes like the popular “count to three” technique is more of an escalator of your own frustration than a motivator for your child? Children should be taught to stop appropriate behavior the first time they are asked. Counting to three actually trains them that it’s okay to keep doing what they should be doing until you get to three. “What a fun game to watch Mommy and Daddy get madder and madder as they count! As long as I stop before three, nothing happens to me!” Looking at it from a child’s point of view, you can see that it’s just not a productive form of discipline.

There are many strategies to discipline your children, including time-outs, removal of privileges, saying the behavior you want to see, or partnering correction with encouragement. But, at the foundation of any technique is the importance of correcting your kids with the right attitude – one of love and peace.

For example, when it’s time for my kids to clean their rooms, I usually incorporate a warning with positive instruction. I say something like, “Hey, I’m coming back to check your room in 15 minutes, and it needs to be clean. When it is, you can go outside to play.” I outline what I expect. I remind them of the privilege that is attached to the job, and I encourage them to get it done. If I come back and the room isn’t clean, then they lose their chance to go outside and they still have to clean their room.”

Don’t let your emotions take the lead in your discipline. The key to removing your frustration and anger from the equation is to plan your responses to disobedience in advance so that you can stay calm, cool, and collected. When yelling starts, teaching stops. Take your own time out if you need it. Or, “count to three” for yourself internally before your respond. Temper everything you do with wisdom and love – not emotions.

The Bible says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19, 20 NIV).