OPINION: Let your children choose their friends

Some parents use birthday parties as a sneaky way to meet their child's classmates and their parents.
Some parents use birthday parties as a sneaky way to meet their child's classmates and their parents. Deklofenak

PARENTS, take a step back. Yes, you over there, you might need to take two steps back. Your child will survive without you picking their friends, school subjects, hobbies and definitely without your set-up photo shoots. So just back off a bit, all right?

Most parents want their children to have a great childhood and to be the best they can be.

But often in doing so they are setting up their kids' memories and pushing them into a life they may not have chosen themselves.

I discovered recently how common it is for parents to push their children into friendships with certain "good" kids, in the hope they won't hang around with the riff-raff.

I've even heard of some parents using birthday parties as a sneaky way to meet their child's classmates and their parents.

This is used to test the water and decide who their kid should hang around.

You can just imagine turning up to one of these parties and getting checked up and down and being quizzed about everything from jobs and politics to food choices and your stance on reality TV.

We'd all love our children to have nice friends, and we can certainly guide them in making those sort of decisions, but we shouldn't be picking mates for them.

How are they ever going to learn to make friends for themselves if their parents are pulling the strings from such a young age?

Friendships at all ages can be hard to navigate, let alone if yours have been hijacked by your parents. Instead you need to let your child naturally find their friends and discover the highs and lows of friendships without you commandeering each step of the way.

Which leads me to another example of pushy parenting - the popular cake smashing shoot for little ones.

These are common for first birthdays and created to capture the natural joy of what would be for many their first taste of cake.

However, there is nothing natural about a set-up photo shoot. These are often not even held on the actual birthday, yet they will be the photos pulled out as recollection of the milestone.

The child subsequently grows up with fake memories, a life specifically constructed for them and captured on camera.

What is the point of this? What happened to capturing the moment, the real moment good or bad, as it happens? And this seems to happen for more than just birthdays.

Christmas and special events are another chance for these families to stage how they want their life to be remembered, even if it's far from the truth.

But I suppose living in a world of social media has helped feed the need for such things - a world where everyone is trying to outdo each other and convey a lifestyle that just doesn't exist.

Topics:  children mum's the word parenting weekend magazine

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