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Are You a "Parent"… or a "Friend"?

Friend, or parent? Which is it?

In my last blog I highlighted the GQ interview of Billy Ray Cyrus, Mr. Hannah Montana’s Achy Broken Heart. an insightful article, really. I mentioned that the article contained some great pieces of this interview worth discussing.


2. Friend vs. Parent

Part II is more of a discussion for parents to have with other parents (as opposed to Part I, which was a discussion that parents could use with their kids). I find this article particularly timely because last week, the day I read this Billy Ray interview, I had just finished blogging about our kids perspective and the balance between rules and a relationship. In that blog I brought up the fact that we need to listen to our kids, but at the same time know when to put our foot down and say, “Sorry, you’re not going to do that.”

Billy ray seems to be regretting his approach to parenting as he looks back with 20/20 vision. Here’s an excerpt from the GQ interview, where Billy Ray is wondering whether his lack of discipline was a mistake:

“How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough—it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t know the ball was out of bounds until it was way up in the stands somewhere.”
(GQ.com, Mr. Hannah Montana’s Achy Broken Heart, by Chris Heath, Page 3)

What do you think? Is Billy right? “You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.”

My quick take:

We always need to be ready to “be the parent” and be willing to put our foot down, even if it means sacrificing a little in popularity points with our kids. But, please. Don’t use this to swing so far to the polar opposite side of the spectrum so that we are never relational with our kids– talking, laughing, joking. It doesn’t have to be “either/or.” It can be “both/and.” You can be a parent, and still invest in your kids relationally. 

Last week in a youth ministry interview I was asked:

“In your book Connect you talk a lot about getting to know kids on a one-on-one basis. Do you believe it’s possible to become so connected with students that they see you more as a peer and you lose your influence in their lives?”

My response- edited for brevity:

I think parents struggle with this as well. “If I spend too much time being their buddy, will I not be seen as their parent?”

I wonder if Christ was accused of that when he descended to earth to become human.

There’s no danger in humbling yourself to be relational- to listen, to laugh, to play. The only danger would be if you lower your standards and try to be something you’re not, or allow yourself to do something inappropriate in effort to “be accepted.” This is a twisting of a good thing. There’s never anything wrong with a coach, a parent, a teacher, or a youth worker spending time listening to a kid share their heart…throwing a Frisbee… cheering together at a football game… laughing through a comedy. I bet more kids wish their dads would be there to do these activities. These activities actually earn trust and help the kid respect dad, or coach, or pastor Jason when he has to put the foot down and say, “Sorry, but you’re not going to do that.”

This is a balance we talk about in much greater detail in my parent workshops.

What about you? Where are you with Billy Ray’s statement: “You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.”

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Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to Four Battles Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources on TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan and his wife Lori live in Northern California.