Should parents be friends with their child? (a pastor’s wife’s honest answer)

This post: So your child is not your friend? Read this post from start to finish + let me know what you think.

My son was in a mood.

It’s not terribly uncommon. He’s a sensitive kid who tends to wear his big feelings on his rather small shoulders.

I watched from the kitchen sink as he jammed his feet into his mud boots + stomped outside to do his chores.

Part of me wanted to launch into full-on reactionary mode:

  • issue a stern reprimand
  • lecture about his bad attitude
  • hand out a punishment

Thankfully that part of me no longer calls the shots on how I parent.

I reached into the kitchen cabinet and retrieved a small plate, then pulled a carton of freshly sliced mangos from the fridge. I smiled a bit as I arranged four bright, orange pieces of fruit on the plate; his favorite color + favorite snack.

A few minutes later, my boy stomped through the back door; aggravation shot from his countenance like the summer thunderstorm brooding outside.

I waited.

Sure enough, it took about 1.007 seconds for him to spy the little plate of mangos on the table, next to a folded napkin and a tiny bowl of sprinkles (my kids put sprinkles on everything).

“I thought you might need a snack,” I said simply.

His face lit up.

“Thank you, Mom, I was hungry! Did you just buy these mangos? They look so good. Do you want one too?”

His usual prattle began as he eagerly slid into a chair and reached for a piece of fruit.

As I slipped into the chair beside him, my boy looked at me over a hunk of fresh mango and said simply, “I’m sorry I got in a bad mood, Mom. I didn’t mean to.”

I smiled and tweaked his cheek (because he still lets me do that).

“No worries, Buddy. We all get in bad moods sometimes. Even me.”

I winked + he laughed.

Something sweet. | photo courtesy

Just like that, the thunderstorm evaporated.

No need to scold, lecture, or punish.

No need to fight thunderclap with thunderclap.

I’m learning that, most days, a generous dose of empathy generally does the trick.

Should parents be friends with their child?

That’s a question I’ve pondered for years.

This post explains why every Christian parent should be asking it, and how I’ve come to my personal belief about it.

But first let me ask a favor—> Please read this post in its entirety.

And realize one thing: I’m coming from a background that cast parenting (and God) in a harsh, controlling role.

I’m more familiar with guilt than grace, with fear than faith.

If your journey has been different, I ask that you give me some grace.

Why am I writing this for pastor’s wives?

This question- should parents be friends with their child?- is important to every parent, but especially those of us who are ministry leaders.

ALSO READ:  How to Raise the Preacher's Kids Without Losing Your Mind

The reason: because people are watching you.

I know, that’s the last thing you want to hear, especially when it comes to parenting. Because if you’re anything like me, you know you don’t have this figured out!

But as women raising the preacher’s kids, we have a unique role of influence.

Bottom line: At it’s heart, parenting is very much about how we view God, and it’s important how we portray God to our kids + our church family. (We’ll talk more about that in a minute.)

I’m a mom of five, and three of my kids are teenagers right now. I know how hard parenting can feel.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of parents say,

I’m my kids’ parent, not their friend.

I want to ask, “Why aren’t you their friend?”

Kids listen to their friends.

And getting our kids to listen to us is part of, you know, our job.

So doesn’t it stand to reason that part of our job is also to be our child’s friend?

Here are two reasons why I say, Yes, it is.

#1 It’s Biblical.

This is hardly the narrative most of us in the Christian world grew up hearing.

Am I right?

I grew up hearing (+ believing) things like:

  • “love must be tough”
  • “spare the rod, spoil the child”
  • “you’ve got to ‘break’ a child’s will”
  • “because I said so”

Maybe you did too.

As a young mom, I began to question these ideas. Instead of mindlessly heeding the advice of parenting “experts,” I began to ponder the nature of God (who, after all, is our Heavenly Father).

What I began to see in Scripture about God slowly changed how I viewed myself as a parent, and how I viewed my kids.

(It’s so important that we understand how much our view of God determines our parenting philosophy.)

One of the changes I embraced is realizing that because God is a friend to us, we should embrace a friendship-oriented relationship with our children.

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.

James 2:23, emphasis added

The Pharisees accusingly called Jesus “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” because he was willing to live shoulder-to-shoulder with them, in their worlds.

In other instances, Jesus is found at weddings, funerals, with children, with the sick and pretty much anywhere that people were.

Jesus Christ never told his disciples, “I’m your teacher, not your friend.”

He was lowly of heart + humble; willing to help carry the load+ to teach us the Father’s ways.

ALSO READ:  The Brutal Truth About Ministry and Loneliness in Marriage

God is not our buddy or peer, but He is for us. Jesus Christ advocates for us + came into our world in order to reach us.

Because of that, I choose to be for my kids. To advocate for them. To be interested in their worlds so I can reach their hearts.

Do you see the picture of friendship God’s narrative reveals?

At it’s heart, parenting is very much about how we view God. 

So maybe the real question should be, “Is God our friend?” 

#2 Friendship is Necessary for Influence

As Christian parents, our goal is to raise our kids to love + follow Jesus Christ.

But the process takes lots of

  • loving
  • supporting
  • understanding
  • forgiving
  • trusting
  • listening
  • sharing
  • growing
  • encouraging

Sounds a lot like friendship to me.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get tripped up in thinking that

  • rules +
  • methods +
  • discipline

are the only thing that will help our kids stay on the straight and narrow.

That is fear-based parenting and, in my experience, it leads to being overly controlling.

God, who possesses ultimate authority, chooses to woo us with unconditional love + undeserved grace; his kindness brings us to repentence; his joy is our strength.

Relationship draws us toward God + away from our sinfulness. Not guilt or rules or fear.

It will never be any different for our kids.

They are more likely to want what we have if we love them like God loves: generously, unconditionally.

What being your child’s friend doesn’t mean.

  • Being your child’s friend doesn’t mean you are their peer. Respect for authority is important (equally important is that we model what respect looks, feels + sounds like). Kids need to know that when they push the boundaries, the boundaries aren’t moving.
  • Being your child’s friend doesn’t mean there are no rules or consequences. Every relationship needs boundaries. The parent-child relationship is ideal training ground for learning what this looks like. Childhood is also an important time for kids to learn that every choice has consequences: good + bad.
  • Being your child’s friend doesn’t mean that the home must be child-centered. I’m not a fan of the old mantra, “Children should be seen and not heard.” But our present child-centric culture has swung too far the other direction. Kids who are not the center of their parents’ universe are more likely to grow into emotional healthy + mature adults.

Ultimately, being your child’s friend means that he or she knows you’ve got their back.

There is unconditional love + lots of grace.

Your child or teen feels emotionally safe with you + secure in the relationship.

You are adulting like you should + modeling what boundaries + respect look like in the home.

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Even on days when your child doesn’t necessarily “like” you (because those days happen), they know they are loved + secure because you aren’t going anywhere.

This is the kind of love God models for us.

Understanding this has transformed how I parent. I’m more apt to hand out grace (and a plate of mangos) to a kid who’s having a bad day, instead of launching into a lecture.

Does our family have boundaries + consequences? Absolutely.

But I’m after my kids’ hearts, not their performance.

What This Means for Preacher’s Wives

Influence: As women who are raising the preacher’s kids, we have great potential to impact the kingdom when we commit to learning to love like God loves.

We don’t have to get this perfectly right; in fact, we’re not going to get it all right.

But understanding how God “parents” us it foundational for parenting our own kids well, + for giving other moms a safe space to learn + grow too.

Freedom: When I realized that God is after my heart, not my performance, it totally changed how I viewed Christianity. As I mentioned earlier in this post, that truth transformed my parenting + brings great freedom to me as a mom raising kids inside the dynamics of ministry life.

I don’t feel pressured for my kids to be perfect, or to be some kind of “example” for everyone else.

The perceived or actual expectations of being a ministry family don’t call the shots on how I parent.

I’ll say it again: I’m after my kids hearts, not their performance.

And I believe that the road to their hearts is the pathway of friendship.

Are you raising PKS?

Let me send you a free printable.

1. Click here.  2. Drop your name + email.

  1. Download the freebie. Join my weekly-ish newsletter and as a bonus, you’ll get the printable!
  2. Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.  
  3. Use your printable to remind yourself that being in a friendship relationship with your kid(s) is a good thing.
  4. Keep your printable somewhere handy- on the mirror or fridge, or frame it + hang it on the wall- as a daily reminder of practical ways to engage with your children.

Here’s a sneak peek:

You might also want to read:

Your turn.

Should parents be friends with their child? What do you think?

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