Every family has a parent, or parental unit and pair, like every pack has an alpha male or mating pair of alphas. Each group has a “head of household” or “head of the pack”, both working to provide what the other members of the family or pack need to thrive and survive. They establish structure, order, rules, boundaries and parameters, and justly, fairly reinforce them. Both empowering, teaching and guiding younger group members as they grow and mature; preparing them for “real world living”, how to become more self-directive, self-sufficient, and how to practice self-leadership.

Contrary to what some parents believe and practice, becoming the friend doesn’t garner trust or respect, nor will it create the kind of connection they’re often seeking and hoping for. When people do this, it’s usually an attempt to fulfill their own personal void. To gain acceptance, approval or some sort of validation. To feel loved, wanted and needed. People seek this out externally, because they don’t feel it internally. They simply haven’t arrived at that point on their personal journey just yet. They haven’t reached the understanding that reliance and dependence upon outer circumstances can break us when they shift and change (people and relationships, trends, jobs, money and financials, etc). And that nurturing and addressing our inner circumstances is the only way to to create positive shift in what lies outside of us.

When we domesticated dogs thousands of years ago, we assumed the role of becoming their leader, advocate, and provider. We took on this role, and with it, the responsibility of meeting then fulfilling their needs as members of the canine species.

I see it time and time again with dog “parents”. Dogs getting showered with affection, treats, luxurious beds and plush blankets. The freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. They coddle and cuddle, coddle and cuddle. No rules set. No boundaries laid. No parameters made. No limits. Nothing earned, everything gained. What does this create? Very bratty. Pushy. Impolite. Disrespectful. Entitled. Testy, unruly behavior, and emotionally and psychologically challenged dependents. Regardless of species.

“Love” is providing those who depend on us with everything they need to grow into balanced, healthy, secure individuals with a healthy self and world concept. To ensure they feel supported, loved, protected and accepted at every stage in their growth. It means providing a safe space to make mistakes and the freedom in which to do so; because these are teachable moments in their grandest, most impactful forms. In order to do this for our dependents, however, we have to be and do this for ourselves; which requires self-awareness, self-checking, self-forgiveness, and a lot of self-discovery.

Discipline. Structure and order. Rules, boundaries and parameters. Calm, confident, patient leadership, guidance, compassion and understanding. Biologically appropriate nutrition. Daily exercise. Mental stimulation. All these things are needed by our young ones. When we work to provide this, it’s the ultimate form of love. When we don’t, and we’re trying to get our own needs met and fulfilled through our dependents; and it’s the ultimate form of neglect and betrayal.

Be the parent, not the friend.