What is the “JOB” of a parent? What is it that we are supposed to be doing with our children? When I ask this question in my parenting classes, I get many answers that expose how little we consider the answers to this question. Sure, we have the responsibility to clothe, feed, and house our children for at least the first 18 years. After all, that is the law. But is that enough? What do our children need beyond that?
Some would say safety. This is true for a while, especially when our children are little. But how do we teach safety? Is it just by dictating boundaries and rules? Or do we spend time teaching about choices and consequences? Do we allow our children to be exposed to any form of risk? Risk? Let me explain. When we are helping our children learn to walk, we know they are going to fall down at least once, right? More like a thousand times. Should a parent try and prevent the fall? After a few falls, do we start to yell at our children because they are not getting it as fast as we feel they should? Or do we encourage and build hope in the effort?
Some would say the job of a parent is to prepare our children for productive adulthood. What does that look like? How do we define “a productive adult?” Do we ever sit down with our children and discuss what a productive life even looks like? I get that this varies dramatically. Some parents would argue that success is landing a great job, and others would simply say it’s staying out of jail. Do we push our children toward our unfulfilled dreams? Or do we learn what their dreams are and support them in pursuing those dreams?
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Some would say our job is to mentor our children and help them to make good decisions. How does a parent do this—not for just the first 18 years, but also for the life of that child? How do we mentor when we argue over the basic issues in the home? Do parents build a foundation of good and strong communication with their child? Can your child bring a crisis to your doorstep and find a safe shelter from life’s storms? If we cannot talk with our children, we are not going to be mentors!
I would say our job as a parent is all of the above. I would say that the KEY is to parent from a place of love rather than the place we know so well—that place of fear. We must become brokers of hope for our children as we guide them through risk. The truth is, we cannot always protect our children; there is just too much risk in life to even consider that possibility. But we can validate them, encourage them, and help them by asking questions rather than talking at them and rejecting them. My goal is to help my children to think. Ask questions and then find the answers together. I want to be hope, teach hope, and demonstrate through my own life that my hope is what allows me to get back up after I fall.