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How I Explained To My 6-Year-Old The Difference Between A Parent And A Friend

Flickr / Mario Antonio Pena Zapato

The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

I told my 15-year-old daughter I want to be her friend. She replied, “I want you to be my parent, not my friend.” What does this mean?

When my son was 6, he was mad at me for refusing him something he wanted badly, and he scrunched up his face and hissed, “I hate you!”

I could see from his face that he was startled by the vehemence of his own outburst, but he couldn’t retract those words. I told him. “I will always love you. No matter what. But that doesn’t mean I will do what you want, just to make you love me back.”

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He stomped out of the room, stomped up the stairs and stomped into his room, slamming the door. About 10 minutes later, he came back down. He walked up to me, put his arms around me and rested his head against me. “I don’t really hate you, Dad.”

“I know,” I said. “You were just really, really angry.”

“Yes,” he said.

“Just know that I meant what I said,” I said. “I will always love you, but I’m your father, not your friend. Maybe, when you don’t need me to be your father anymore, I can be your friend, but for now I have to make decisions concerning your well-being, and they won’t always be the popular choices.”

“That’s okay,” he said. “You have a job to do.”

“Yes,” I said. “But I love that job and I hope that when you are older you will realize that I did the best I could.”

“Can I have some ice cream?”

Evidently the parental discussion was over. I shook my head. “No, but you can have ice cream for dessert. Right now, if you want something sweet, you can have a cookie. Is that good too?”

“Yes,” he said and ran to the kitchen.

They say, when the student is ready, the master appears. When the parent is ready, the friend appears. But it will be your child who tells you what she needs from you. And right now, she still needs you to be the parent, not the friend.

Martyn V. Halm is a fiction writer and professional confabulator. You can read more from Quora below: