What is the precise role of a parent? Some quick thoughts...
Parenting is an incredible, awesome, and daunting task. We are responsible for the well-being and maturation of another human person. From a Christian worldview, here are a few reflections on the role of a healthy, Christian parent.
First, parenting is supposed to be a part-time job. That’s it. So many parents get this messed up. As your child matures, parents are supposed to diminish the degree to which they “parent” the child. It’s inversely related. As children grow up, they should take on more and more responsibility because their parents are giving away more and more responsibility. When parents do not give away more responsibility as the child matures, then parents could have “grown-up children” living with them for years.
Second, parenting is supposed to involve providing the necessary resources for your child’s flourishing, while limiting what hurts their growth. We provide food, shelter, love, etc. for those we parent. To be clear, the resources we provide are supposed to adapt to their growth. Babies need bottles; teens do not. Moreover, we limit what hurts them. And since children don’t know what hurts them, parents give the limits. We do this by stating the limits and then giving natural consequences when the limits are broken. It means we must say a word that most parents have rarely spoken to today’s kids…the word, “no.”
Third, parenting is supposed to be preparing your child for adulthood. Reality is coming whether you or your child accept that fact or not. Demands will be shoved upon your child as they mature, from teachers, employers, friends, lovers, and God. It’s like every single soldier at boot-camp in the 1940s: whether you were ready or not, you were about to face the reality of war. Well, the “war” of reality is coming for your child. And it’s completely your responsibility to get your child ready. Who else will do it?
Finally, to elaborate on my third point, the very best way to prepare children for adulthood is to develop their character. Character is a conglomeration of internal and external tools to handle reality in healthy ways. It involves having aspects such as
integrity = taking full responsibility for one’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors; not blaming others for their place in life;
proper coping skills = being able to process various feelings well (e.g., feeling disappointment without quitting; being able to fail without labeling yourself a loser; the ability to delay gratification for the greater good; being able to adapt to change well);
discipleship = taking full responsibility for growing in the knowledge of God/Christianity accompanied with the necessary spiritual disciplines to guarantee Christian formation.
I cannot overstate this point. The very best parenting goal you can have is to be overwhelmingly concerned with your child’s character. This is why the chief question I ask when making decisions for my children is, “Does this form their character,” or more specifically, “Christian character”?
Have you fully embraced your role as parent? Your child is waiting on you.