Parents and children: parents, not friends! Parents and children: parents, not friends!

When it comes to raising children with rules and values, having authority and being able to teach are non-negotiable aspects, and are things that friends cannot provide.

Medical Advisor Gloria Hurtado Castañeda – Psychologist

To say that parents from this generation are unlike those from the one before would be a redundancy. There is something to be said, however, about one of the main differences between the two: the type of relationship they have with their kids. Older generations had a completely hierarchical relationship, one of authority and subordination. This has become more relaxed over the last generation, however, turning more into camaraderie and almost friendship. But can parents be friends to their children?

Children can have many friends. Just think back to your own childhood and you will realize all the children that were in your peer group with whom you exchanged secrets and got into mischief with. That is what friendship is about; they are partners in crime and the ones who have each other’s backs.

There can only be two parents, however. No one else can play this role, whose purpose is to set limits and give them a pathway they can take, one that comes with rules and privileges. The main role of parents is to support, guide, raise and teach their children; while the role of friends is to be a partner in crime and a companion to go on adventures with.

Psychologist Gloria Hurtado believes that for several years, there has been an effort to try and dismiss a concept that has served every society well: the notion of the authority figure. “We are creating societies without hierarchies because they scare us and we think they are dangerous. We live in a society that seeks equality and wants to be equal, but we forget that hierarchies give structure to the organization of any institution.”

According to our expert, while we are all equal in regard to our identities as human beings -and in that sense, no one is above another- we are different because we play diverse roles so that we can live easy-going, successful, interrelated lives. “We are not all equal, not because we are more superior or inferior than others, but because we each have a place, offer a skill and play a role in the structure of society. This goes for family as well, as not all members are equal, and not all have the same position.”

A good example, Hurtado explains, is when two family members work together at a bank; one may be the manager and the other, a teller. The teller confesses to his brother (the manager) that one night, when everyone had gone home, he took advantage of the situation to steal some money. How should the manager react? Should he report or protect him? Of course, he should act ethically: report him. First comes the authoritative relationship, then the parental one.

“When parents try to be their children’s friends, they fall into a trap, as they are sending the message that they are their confidants, who support them in their mischievousness. The simple fact that mothers and fathers are born before their children, naturally puts them in a hierarchical position. When we try to be equal to our children, parents and children then become the same, which is when children begin to set rules for their parents, something that shouldn’t have to happen. My children can have 500 friends, but just one father or mother.”

When the role of the authority figure in the family disappears, so does respect for the rules, Hurtado says, “…which is why we have so may kids throwing tantrums, shouting at their parents, or even threatening to hurt or sue them.” If there is no authority, the child also loses the opportunity to learn social protocol to live well in society •

A relationship based on mutual respect sets the foundation for ties of trust to be built, which does not compete with having authority.