be a parent first

First Be a Parent, Then Be Friends

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a single mom and have an issue with my 14-year old son. For the past seven years, since my husband died, it’s been just the two of us. He’s quite independent and very smart and I try to get him involved in household decisions. For better or worse, I’ve always been pretty relaxed in my relationship with him and have made an effort to treat him like a friend and equal, rather than a child. Part of the reason is that I feel guilty that I work a lot and that he doesn’t have a traditional mom-dad family. In addition to all that, I’m getting married later this year and my fiancé will be moving into our house. I know that’s going to be a huge change for my son and I know that I need to change our relationship to create some boundaries, but I have no idea how or where to begin.

A: You’re in a tough spot. Fortunately, you already recognize that you’ve created a problem and you seem committed to doing something about it. Unfortunately, you’ve dug yourself quite a hole and it’s not going to be easy to get out of it.

Just so you know, the dynamic you share with your son is quite common. Like you, many single parents feel guilty about depriving their children of having two parents (this is a little more common among divorced single parents, but it also happens with widowed parents). Those feelings of guilt get even bigger if, like you, that single mom or dad works long hours, which also deprives the child of time with even one parent. To make themselves feel better—and to make it up to their children—those guilt-wracked parents let the kids get away with just about anything, and rarely discipline them.


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Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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