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Should parents be friends with their children? An expert weighs in on the long-debated question

RMIT University 2 mins read

Quality time with children over the summer break strengthens parent-child relationships – but is that a friendship? An early childhood expert from RMIT says parents should not be friends with their children and parent-child boundaries are important.   

Topics: parenting, children, friendships, authority, parenting styles 

Dr Elise Waghorn, Lecturer in Early Childhood 

“Friendships signify a willingness and choice to participate in a mutual relationship. Unlike parenting, where there’s no opting in or out.  

“When parents are friends with their children, they run the risk of children not being accountable for their actions.  

“Parenting requires a certain level of authority over children. 

“There are four main styles of parenting in child psychology: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and disengaged. 

“If parents were to have a friendship-like relationship with their children, it would be considered a ‘permissive’ style.  

“While this style tends to be very loving, there are minimal guidelines and rules. This ultimately will result in children struggling with self-regulation and self-control.  

“They also tend to lack self-discipline and have poor social skills, feeling insecure due to limited boundaries and guidance.  

"Most experts would agree that the ‘authoritative’ style is the most appropriate, as it is an approach that combines warmth and sensitivity but still enforces restrictions and limitations. 

“Authoritative parenting style is the ability to recognise the difference between being respectful, listening, and supportive and when rules and expectations need to be enforced.  

“Boundaries and limitations help children develop routines and rituals, which is considered a worthwhile life skill and will ultimately prepare them for adulthood.” 

Elise Waghorn’s research focuses on exploring the everyday life of children in Australia and their connection to policy and educational experiences in Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Contact details:

Interviews: Dr Elise Waghorn, +61 401 962 811 or  

General media enquiries: RMIT External Affairs and Media, 0439 704 077 or 

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