Parenting by the Example of Our Heavenly Father: Should You Be Friends With Your Children?

Parenting by the Example of Our Heavenly Father: Should You Be Friends With Your Children?

Submitted by Jennifer Power

I often hear (good intentioned) people and parents say parents should not be friends with their children. I came across an article called Your Child Is Not Your “Friend” which talks about appropriate boundaries between parents and children and about parents not making their children their confident. I very much agree with the main point of the article – children are not emotionally capable of carrying the burdens of their parents, and such behavior is unhealthy, inappropriate and can lead to children feeling responsible for their parents’ emotional well-being their entire lives.

Should You Be Friends With Your Children

That being said, I want to examine this question “should you be friends with your children?” in light of scripture and in light of the example set by our Heavenly Father. Let us first examine our common understanding of friendship.

When we think of friends (especially when considering friendship with our children), we might think of lack of accountability – after all, a good friend would never tattle on a friend. Or, we might think of a common sharing of burdens (as discussed in the above mentioned article). When we think of parents who are friends with their children, we likely think of parents who allow their children to do whatever they please with no discipline, instruction, or consistency.

With that concept of friendship in mind, I agree parents should not be friends with their children – such a relationship is not healthy for parent or child. Even still, I pause when I hear people adamantly insist parents not be friends with their children, and my pause comes from consideration of God’s relationship with us. With that in mind, let us consider a few scriptures about our friendship with God:

  • Psalm 25:14: The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
  • John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
  • John 15:14: You are my friends if you do what I command you.
  • John 15:15: No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
  • James 2:23: and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

These are simply a selection of scriptures which contain the word “friend” to describe our relationship with God. These do not even include all the references to the close relationship we are to have with our God who is always with us and will never forsake us – who is our counselor, our helper, our companion, our comfort, our strength, and our joy.

Though I come to this conclusion and present it with care, I come to it nonetheless: we should be friends with our children if we are striving to model our parenting after our relationship with our Heavenly Father. This friendship should not be a selfish one and should also be appropriate to the child’s age and maturity level. It should be for the child’s sake (though parents can find joy in it as God delights in our relationship with Him).

Here are a couple more points for consideration on this matter:

  • God invites us to share in His burdens with Him (gives us eyes to see the world through His eyes and to respond accordingly).
  • God gives us the gift of His friendship despite the fact we are closer to the maturity level of our children than to His maturity level.

What does this mean on a practical level? Here are some do’s and don’ts when inviting your children into your friendship.

Do:

  • Create a safe and loving environment for your children. Provide for their needs (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.) and treat them with respect.
  • Allow your children to regularly see you delight in them.
  • Use grace-filled discipline, not punishment when they make mistakes.
  • Have appropriate boundaries with your children (and do not share with them things which are not age-appropriate or beneficial to them).
  • Tell them who they are in Christ and that you love them.
  • Tell them how much they mean to you.
  • Teach them how to live as followers of Christ and model that life for them.
  • Be consistent.
  • Serve your children and teach them to serve others.

Don’t:

  • Do not engage in power struggles with your children. Even in a state of friendship, you are the authority figure (as God is our authority figure even in our friendship with Him).
  • Do not break your children’s trust. Trust is an important element to any relationship, and breaking a child’s trust can negatively affect their life-long relationship with you and other authority figures (including God).
  • Do no provoke or exasperate your children (Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord).
  • Do not permit them to engage in behaviors which are harmful to themselves or others.
  • Do not give in to your children’s demands (serve them on your terms rather than on their insistence).

In This Together

Parenting is hard work. It is my prayer that we can support and encourage one another as parents even when we disagree with one another. It is certainly important to respond to our children’s inappropriate behaviors – and it is our job to do so. My hope is that as we seek to respond to our children, we will look to God and how He treats us and consider how we might model Him and His ways.

If you ever desire prayer or someone to talk with about parenting challenges, I would love to pray and talk with you and provide any support I can. You can email me at jennifer@spldecatur.org or call (217)423-6955.

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