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Should You Be Friends With Your Kids?

Is it ever a good idea to be friends with your children?

In our new "Eye on Parenting" series, "Early Show" contributor and child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein said parents who become too friendly with their kids are in "dangerous waters."

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She said, "I think in a lot of families there's a lot more in common. Kids are waching the same shows as their parents, listening to the same music. But as a result, there's this really fine line that's being crossed. It's good to be friends with your kids, but the best friend -- being involved in everything -- it's a little dangerous."

"Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill pointed out parents often feel tempted to become a child's best friend because they want their child to feel comfortable enough to tell them anything.

But Hartstein warned, "You're never at the same level at your kid. As a parent, there's a power differential. I don't ask my friends to buy the dress from the store. I ask my friends to talk to me about the problems in my life. I don't ask my friends to tell them what to do all the time as I might ask my mom. There's a difference. There's a boundary issue there. Once it's crossed it's really hard to go back."

So how do you know if you're crossing that line from parent to friend?

Hartstein said, "It's a tough thing and you want to take a step back and ask, 'Why am I wanting to be my child's friend? Why do I want this friendship? Do I need something from my child? Is it giving me more than it's giving them?' That's the first thing. We also want to know, 'Do my kids ask me for guidance?' Meaning, are they going to tell me -- am I offering them guidance in school like how to handle the situation or am I going in and solving it? That's important. The last thing, we want to know, what's your own relationship with your parent? If your dad was sit down and watching the baseball game and offering you a beer at 15, you may want to repeat that, but it may not be the best thing for your kids -- it teaches them the wrong thing."

As for access to your child, Hartstein says you may want to limit this to a certain degree because you may actually get more information than you want from your kids.

"It may be too much information because then you're not going to be sure what to do," she said. "...It's important to set the tone for open and honest communication, and do fun things together, but not necessarily ask for everything."

Instead, to help foster openness without crossing the line, Hartstein suggests these tips:

Create a safe space for you to talk to your kids.
Watch kids' TV shows with them and talk about the shows.
Know who your kids are hanging out with and their friends' parents.

Hill added, "If you can strike that balance, which is a daily struggle, it could really set you up for a great relationship down the road as you get older."

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