If your mom's your best friend, who's your mother?

SYDNEY Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:30am EDT

Shoppers in a file photo. There's perfectionist mothers, unpredictable mothers, ''me first'' mothers and ''complete'' mothers but family experts say the fastest growing group of mothers is the ''best-friend mother'' -- and it can only end badly. REUTERS/Toshiyuki Aizawa

Shoppers in a file photo. There's perfectionist mothers, unpredictable mothers, ''me first'' mothers and ''complete'' mothers but family experts say the fastest growing group of mothers is the ''best-friend mother'' -- and it can only end badly.

Credit: Reuters/Toshiyuki Aizawa

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - There's perfectionist mothers, unpredictable mothers, "me first" mothers and "complete" mothers but family experts say the fastest growing group of mothers is the "best-friend mother" -- and it can only end badly.

Clinical psychologist Stephan Poulter, who works with family relationships, has come up with five categories that he finds fit most mothers. He finds the group that is on the rise is mothers who want to be best friends with their children.

But he said going partying with your children, wearing the same clothes as them, trying to keep up with their youth with breast implants and surgery, erodes all boundaries -- and leaves the children without a mother who can guide them.

"You see this all over the media with a lot of the actresses in Hollywood -- their mothers are their friends," said Los Angeles-based Poulter in a telephone interview.

"One tragic one is Lindsay Lohan. Her mother is out drinking with her. Now she's been in and out of rehab and arrested twice. What kind of role model is she getting? Look at Paris Hilton too. Same story."

He said Anna Nicole Smith, the former Playboy model, was another prime example. She died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in Florida in February 2007 -- just five months after her 20-year-old son Daniel died of a drug overdose.

Poulter, who has just released a book called "The Mother Factor," said this style of mothering had been on the rise for about 15 years but now accounted for 30-40 percent of mothers.

"EPIDEMIC"

"This really is an epidemic. Because of unresolved issues with their parents, some parents today don't want to be so hard and just want their children to like them. At the end of a long working day they don't want conflict," he said.

"But kids need a parent, not another friend, and this leaves them motherless. This can create a lot of rage in boys, and daughters who are drug-orientated and out of control tend to be motherless daughters of this type."

Rose Rock, the mother of U.S. comedian Chris Rock, who has raised 10 children of her own and looked after 17 foster children, has also warned about this shift in parenting.

She has laid down the 10 commandments of parenting in a new book, "Mama Rock's Rules: Ten Lessons for Raising a Houseful of Successful Children," and No. 1 is to be a child's mama, not their friend -- and to have rules in your house.

"At no time should you let your children think they can disrespect you or treat you like a buddy," Rock told Reuters.

She attributed the rise in the number of mothers wanting to be their children's best friend to a lack of time and to parents finding it is easier to let children lay down their own rules.

"It is a new thing that everyone wants their children to like them but parenting is not a popularity contest," she said.

"I don't need to be a 12-year-old's friend but I do need to be their protector, guide and warden. This is just a cop out."

Poulter says he tries to make families realize that they need to take back the traditional roles.

"I need the parents to recognize that they are not their child's friend and get their kids' respect and then the kids can separate from their mother and move forward in their life and not feel they are responsible for their mother," he said.

"For the kids this can work. But I think it is very hard for the mother to shift and to become the parent."

(Editing by Sophie Hardach)