By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
To be both parent and friend is an honor and a blessing. However, it requires a careful balance of the two. If we are always our child’s friend without exercising parental authority, we blur the lines of the parent/child relationship. On the other hand, if we are focused only on correction without connection, we will likely push them away.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This verse is a great example of how to parent with loving authority while also being their friend. It encourages us to take our parenting role seriously while also being mindful of our children’s emotional and spiritual well-being.
Yes, we can be both parent and friend, but there is a God-given order to things that helps us balance the relationship properly. Here are three things to consider.
Be a Child First
Let your children see that you are not only their parent; you are a child of God. As a believer in Christ, you have been accepted into the family of God and purpose to live according to His Word. It’s important for your children to see that your relationship with the Lord is what guides you as both parent and friend. This is foundational to our children’s understanding of God’s beautiful design.
Emphasizing our obedience to the Father will help our kids see the proper order of things and hopefully give them a deeper understanding of why we parent the way we do. The prophet Isaiah said, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” This imagery is a wonderful way to help our kids understand that we are children of God first and accountable to Him. And hopefully, it will encourage them to seek a relationship with the Lord as well.
Here are a few verses to discuss with your children in regards to being a child of God:
“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:5-6)
“The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)
Be a Parent Second
Once you have emphasized your accountability to God first, it is essential to establish your parental authority second. This creates a healthy framework of trust and respect so that the friendship side of parenting can be built in the best way possible.
Being a parent before being a friend means:
-We set healthy boundaries
-We make the final decisions
-Our decisions can be trusted
-We should be honored and respected
Many parents are tempted to be their child’s friend first, but this can cause a dangerous pattern of disregard for healthy authority. Children might not take parents seriously if they are used to being “buddy-buddy” all the time. This can lead to unfavorable consequences, especially during adolescence.
Being a parent before being a friend means we set the rules based on what we know is best for them. We avoid “keeping the peace” when we know something needs to be addressed. We do the hard things that will guide them in the right direction - even if they don’t like it.
Here are a few verses that emphasize consistent parenting:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV)
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24)
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
Be a Friend Third
It truly is a blessing to be our children’s friend. This aspect of the parent/child relationship is not only fun; it’s a precious bond that is hard to break. Think about it this way: When children know they can confide in their parents as they would a friend, it creates an extra layer of safety and security. They grow up with the assurance that someone has their back, is there to cheer them on, and can be counted on to help.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
Developing a “teamwork” mindset with our children is beneficial in more ways than one. It lets our kids know we are doing life together, figuring it out as we go, and ready to offer grace when the other one makes a mistake. What a beautiful dynamic!
Of course, as our children grow up, our relationship becomes less about parenting and more about camaraderie. It doesn’t mean our parenting days are over - as we still have wisdom and experience to share - but we move into more of a friendship role that gives our grown kids someone to depend on.
Here are a few verses that speak about friendship:
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (Proverbs 27:9)
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
There is a beautiful order to things established by our Creator - to be His children first, parents second, and friends third. When we get this right, our relationships with our kids can flourish in the way they were intended. What an honor it is to be both parent and friend.
A Prayer for Parents and Children:
Gracious God, what a privilege it is to be parents. We often take this divine calling for granted, but truly, it is a blessing from Your hand. Please help us be faithful in parenting - to follow your commands as we raise our children in Your ways. Show us the proper balance of being both parent and friend. Help us discern when we need to do the hard things and set healthy boundaries for our family. Prevent us from being harsh with our children, and instead, lead us to parent with calm authority and love. Father, keep our children moldable in Your hands so they would have open hearts to receive Your Son as their Lord and Savior. Help them see that we are Your children first, parenting them from a place of obedience to You. Create in them a longing to be in a relationship with You as well, and let our faithful example lead them to that decision. Please, Lord, bless every parent who is reading this today, giving them wisdom to know how to balance parenting and friendship. We look to You to guide us in one of the most important roles on Earth. Thank You for this incredible privilege. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/evgenyatamanenko
Jennifer Waddle is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.