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Friday, 16 March 2012 09:41

Avoid the Buddy System

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Let me address what I believe to be a prevailing myth in parenting today: that to truly empower your child you must prematurely become his or her “buddy” or friend. I say prematurely because I believe that our children can become our dear friends when they are fully grown adults. Indeed, this is one of the greatest rewards of successful parenthood. But in the meantime you do not need to be your child’s buddy to empower him. In fact, you may unwittingly do just the opposite. 

The Buddy System of parenting did not exist in the culture in which I grew up. I got to know it as I watched the parents of some of my daughter’s friends, and frankly, I found it disturbing.  

The essence of parental mentorship is modeling and teaching how to be a responsible adult. If you become your child’s buddy too soon, you will in effect lower yourself to her level. You will not be modeling adulthood, but instead will be acting like a child yourself. How is this possibly helpful?

As the parent, you must be their trusted, honest—often constructively critical but never judgmental—mentor to whom they can feel comfortable to turn with any issue. You will not hold their hands every step of the way. You will not simply tell them what to do or how to do it, but you will give them the tools and the guidance of your experience and insights that will enable them to choose the right course of action for themselves.

Remember that kids naturally think they know more than they do. Empowering them means giving them opportunities to gain knowledge and experience so they will actually know what they are doing, not pretending they are as clever as they think. You wouldn’t hand a teenager the car keys if he had no driving experience and call that empowerment. You would make sure he passed his driver’s education class and take him for behind-the-wheel hours. The same instruction and mentorship goes into every part of life.  Too many parents are so concerned with their children liking them that they shy away from giving clear instructions or enforcing rules which all children want and need.

Think about how this plays out in a typical office environment. A boss who is so eager for all his employees to like him will rob himself of his ability to lead and will soon lose their respect. Before long, all the workers are doing whatever they want and chaos ensues. It is OK not to be liked sometimes. Not being respected is never acceptable, and trading respect for popularity is always a losing proposition.

The same goes with our kids. Every child is born wanting to please his parents. You do not have to win your child’s approval, but you can never risk losing his respect. Even a grumpy teenager wants your love whether she admits it or not. So stick to the rules you have carefully established for your family, keep a good sense of humor, and don’t forget to tell them that you love them. Next time I’ll share with you a personal exchange with my daughter which will illuminate this point.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Chris Efessiou

About Chris Efessiou:  Chris Efessiou is an entrepreneur, business leader, educator, mentor, international speaker, radio show host, and best-selling author of CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood  based on his own experience from raising his daughter as a single dad by applying his business knowledge to the business of parenting.  Listen to Chris’s weekly Radio Show Straight Up With Chris:  Real Talk on Business and Parenthood on Voice America Radio.  You may connect with Chris on Facebook, follow on Twitter and visit

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