My daughter, all of 10 years old, had always been the little angel everyparent dreams of. Always ranking top in her class, obedient to the bone,keeping us abreast with everything that was going on in her life, and for thatmatter, even her friend’s life. It was perfect, that is, until recently! Offlate we have been things like “Its private” and “you wont understands” from ourvery own sweet angel. We knew the change would come one day, when she wouldn’task mommy and daddy what to do and where to go. Instead she would ask herfriends, but how can one ever be prepared for it!
Just as we were grappling with this newfound personality and her closed roomrendezvous with her friends, my darling daughter went on and pulled the laststraw! You see, it was a ritual for either her dad or me to take her to themovies, whenever the latest kids flick hit the halls, followed by a lunch, wedid this together each time, it was our way of spending time with our daughterone-on-one. However, this time when a new kids movie hit the screens mydaughter asked me to go to the movie hall, but only to drop her off with herfriends! That’s when I knew my cuddling days are over – I could almost hear hersaying, “Move over mommy, I have friends now!”
Distressed as I was, I knew I had to accept this change, but I was at sea onhow to still be an important part of her life, where she felt comfortabletelling us everything under the sun, just like earlier times. In fact it becameall the more important for me to know what’s going on in her life, especiallyduring these delicate years, when peer pressure takes on a whole new meaning.Feeling anxious, I turned to the one person I knew who would be able to help methe most in this situation, and that’s my mom! After all, I am sure she wentthrough this awkward phase herself, and I wanted to understand how she masteredthe art of transitioning from ultimate authority to being a friend cum motherin my brother’s and my life.
She began with a hearty laughter of course, poking fun at how stressed Iwas, and it was only a movie, its not like she has decided to move in with herbest friend (apparently something I had insisted on doing at one point).However, by the end of the evening she did leave me with a few gems, on how todeal with this transition and how to become the friend she had always managed tobe with us.
So, here’s my mom’s version of a cheat sheet on befriending your child, forthe better:
• You may not be his/her best friend all the time and don’t try to be: Firstthings first, you will never be best pals all the time; so don’t put yourselfin that position. You will always be a special kind of friend to your child,not the pre-teen that he/she chats for hours with. Your friendship will haverespect, support and love in equal measure. For instance, whenever you conversewith you child or if you child comes to you to share his/her feelings be afriend. That is not the time to be authoritative, or wag your finger and say,“I told you so.” Of course you will have to be assess the situation and switchback to being a parent, when they have crossed the line and done somethingagainst your wish.
• Allow your child to take decisions: When you develop a friendlyrelationship with your child you need to give your child his/her freedom ofdecision making. As a friend you can actively take part in the decision-makingand offer him guidance and counseling till you feel you have helped him/hermake the right move, but ultimately let the child decide. He/she will feel moreconfident confiding in you, when he/she sees you placing your trust in him/her.
• Enjoy healthy conversations and discussions: Allow the child to expresshis/her thoughts and ideas and don’t just impose your views on him/her. You’llbe amazed to see how differently your child thinks, and will also help buildhis/her self-confidence, by providing a platstrike for him /her to providehis/her opinions.
• Keep an open mind: Just as we don’t always agree with our friends, withour children too we need to be more flexible and open-minded. This attitudewill encourage them to believe that you are likely to listen to their problemswithout judgment. It may be a hard thing to do, as we want to jump to theirrescue every time we feel they are bound to fail/get hurt, but we must allowour children to learn from their own mistakes too. Of course you need to take acall as, as to when you need to switch back to being a parent, and what is justnot acceptable!
In the last month I have tried to implement these simple modifications inour day-to-day life. For example, I ask for her opinion on what I should wearfor a meeting, or I watch a TV show that she likes with her, and engage her ina conversation about it. She has even taken over some of the responsibility inthe house by deciding what will be on the dinner menu on Friday nights, andhelping me make the same.
As a result, not only do I enjoy my daughter’s company more, but also itgives me a peek into the young woman that she is slowly turning into. And guesswhat, she suggested that we go out for coffee together and shop a littlesomething for her upcoming school event. I am now slipping into my friendlyavatar, and gearing up to have a great time with my daughter, oops my friend,this weekend. If you have any more tricks up your sleeve to befriend yourchild, as they grow older, I would love to try them, and in the process enjoymy found friendship!