Parenting 101: Treat your child like a friend

family parenting
The Travelling Squid may not have been around… if not for my dad…

During a meet up session, Friend G shared about her mum’s recent annoyance with her rather expensive haircut. It had set her back by more than $500, and her mum was of the opinion that a haircut should cost no more than 10% of one’s income.

Immediately, my response to that was, “Oh, why did you tell her then!”

Friend G’s response was that she would never want to lie to her mum, and it was a question that had naturally popped up during conversation. The four of us suddenly had an epiphany.

Friend G’s mum was not just a mum. She was more than that. She was a friend. So much so that Friend G would share her life with her. Disagreements do happen, but at least she had the opportunity to share her views with Friend G on the things that matter.

In comparison to Friend G, I try to keep the interactions with my mum to the bare minimal. Since I was in secondary school, a disclosure that I was about to head out to watch a movie or go out with friends would be met with a disgruntled expression, “Why are you going out? Why not use the time to study? You know, studies are very important. You want to fail is it? I cannot afford to send you to an overseas university…”

Back then, I could only roll my eyes, and to ensure a smooth exit out the door, I would usually add, “Oh, it’s for project work as well.” It was a lie, but to me, a white lie which absolutely did not prick my conscience, as I thought it was perfectly reasonable to head out with friends.

Naturally, when asked where I was going the next few times, I would say, “Project”. In my more rebellious state, I would say, ‘Out’. Until today, my mum has no idea who I hang out with, apart from the one or two close friends who are brave enough to venture into the messy abyss of my HDB flat.

I then realised, that among my friends, the most effective parents are the ones who are the most supportive. The ones who are there for their children, not just financially, but those who have supported them in their interests, friends and hobbies. For instance, Friend G’s mum supports her in her love for Mayday and the Germany soccer team, and these end up being common conversation topics.

Personally, my travels in India would never have materialised, if not for my dad’s encouragement. It’s hard to find that many fathers in Singapore who would allow their daughters to take a 6-month internship in India. But my father believed in me, and let me go. (Perhaps, some place in his mind, he knew that his feisty daughter could fend for herself.) In fact, of the three countries available for internship – Vietnam, China and India, he encouraged me to go to India. He said, “You’ve been to China and Vietnam is so small. Choose India.” I am grateful for his support.

family parenting
Being a good parent, is like being a good friend.

So a piece of advice for all parents – don’t try to dictate how you want your kid to be. Find out what they like and dislike. Be supportive. Listen, and try to understand what they want to do in life, and why. Be there for your kid when they need you. It’s really quite simple. If you’re found to be reasonable, relevant and rational, they will naturally turn to you for advice.

It’s really not about you. What you think is perfectly good for your kid, may not be met with similar enthusiasm and interest. And you’ve just got to accept that. Repeated renditions of why it’s so good will only turn your child away from you.

Who says a child has to be different from a friend?