Have you heard the expression, “Begin with the end in mind?” It is easier to get someplace if you know where you are going. So where are we going as parents? What is the end we have in mind for our children–or for ourselves or others–in this elemental role of parenting?
Of course, as parents, we aren’t alone on the journey. Our child will be living their own life, and hopefully be doing a lot of good driving for themselves. But we are major figures and influences in their lives.
Knowing, according to our own standards, what our parenting priorities are, will help us be prepared when the inevitable moments arrive which challenge our temper, judgement or values.
In this post, I’m not going to propose a “right” answer to this question. But I will share what some other parents say, as well as my personal view as a father of three beloved and rapidly growing kids of my own.
Before going on, please take a moment to consider:
What Is Your Most Important Job As A Parent?
What Other People Think The Most Important Role Of A Parent Is
On Quora, the three most popular answers to the question, “What is the most important role of the parent?” are all over the map! There are obviously some very different points of view on this question!
- The most important role of the parent is to help the child “learn to be a responsible, self-sufficient adult who moves out of my house and functions independently in the real world.”
- The most important role of parents is to be the best version of themselves–then the child will naturally emulate the parent.
- The most important role of the parent is to give the child undivided attention.
There are more ideas from writers and thinkers around the blogosphere about what the core parenting responsibility is.
Jackie Bledsoe, author of “The 7 Rings Of Marriage”: “To teach and prepare our kids to leave.”
Ruth Freeman of Positive Parenting: “To protect and strengthen your child’s self-worth.”
Family Life Ministry: “To pass on a living faith.”
Rebekah Gienapp at The Barefoot Mommy: to “help kids discover how to make our world a compassionate and fair place for every child on this planet.”
Scientists have opinions, too, like Harvard cross-cultural parenting researchers Robert and Sarah LeVine who see the optimal parenting role as being “children’s sponsors in a social world with multiple influences, setting priorities for the training of young children and selecting the environments that will shape their children’s development rather than influencing that development themselves.”
Even governments weigh in. The Public Health Ministry of Guyana says the job of a parent is to provide “Positive Role Modeling, Positive Educational Support, Prioritize Child Safety and Provide Basic Needs.” (But that’s four things!)
What I love about all of these ideas, even though they differ dramatically, is that they all reflect deep concern about parenting. I bet all the parents involved really love their kids and want to be the best parents they can be–and that is something I can really relate to and connect with!
By the way, I quizzed my kids, too. My son said “the job of a parent should be to make sure their kids become better than them.” My youngest daughter said “to love us.” And my middle daughter said “fatten us up…did you remember to get ice cream?”
How I Answered This Question
A lot of my opinions about successful parenting come from my own experience growing up. From living in a car, to living with my gramma, to being sent into stores to buy gum with food stamps so we could use the change for gas money, to an authoritarian parenting style that sometimes involved wooden spoons, sticks and slaps, my six siblings and I did not have a sense that we were experiencing an optimum childhood.
I did not enjoy a close relationship with my mom, either, who expected me to weed the garden, do chores, work and contribute money as a teenager, and still get good grades and help with my siblings. She rarely seemed satisfied with my efforts; building self-esteem was not on her list of parenting priorities.
But in retrospect, I think that when my mom got upset at me for getting in trouble or for not finishing a chore, her deeper concern was a fear that I wouldn’t be strong enough to make a life for myself. That’s what she wanted, as a parent–for her kids to be smart and capable. And that’s what she got! I left home with a huge level of confidence in my ability to work, learn and succeed–and that, along with some scholarships and Pell Grants, took me to the city of dreams, New York City, where I now get to raise my own family. Thanks, mom–and the U.S. government!
So before I ever had a child, I felt my primary goal as a parent would be to prepare my kids to live without me.
My wife, Miriam, on the other hand, believes her most important role as a parent is to “build character.”
And your top priority? I don’t know–but I bet it is awesome!
But, did you know that involved parenting is linked with all sorts of positive outcomes for kids? So the mere fact that we are hanging in there, doing our best as parents, is making magic happen, even if we see our essential roles a little bit differently.
Now that I’m 18 years into fatherhood, I realize that I wear a lot of different parenting hats. I find myself sometimes focusing on survival training, sometimes on homework, and sometimes on hugs. Parenting is too deep and complex to be put into a single box.
But, in the “survive on your own” department, I am pleased to report that I trust that my 18-year-old can survive on his own with relatively good judgment…so now I’m looking forward to mostly cheering him on. My daughters, however, still have more training ahead of them. How is their swimming? Can they write their own notes to teachers and study independently? Can they drive a stick shift? Are they doing their own laundry? And will they be able to withstand intense levels of silly fatherly survival training while keeping a straight face?
If so, I’ll consider my job well done. But I’m not in a rush to finish–because I love being a father.
I wish you all the best in being the parent that you want to be. And I’ll be right there with you, hanging in there! And after all, as John Wooden says “Just do your best. You can’t do any better than that!”
On To Greatness, In Parenting, Music and Life,
Founder, NYC Guitar School
The Atlantic: Harvard cross-cultural parenting researchers Robert and Sarah LeVine, argue that parenting matters less than we think: (https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2016/09/do-parents-matter-world/499808/)
Science Daily (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160617082522.htm) children who receive positive attention and care from their parents end up with higher levels of morality, happiness and income.
Guyana Ministry of Health (https://education.gov.gy/web/index.php/parenting-tips/item/1642-the-role-of-good-parents)
Jackie Bledsoe (https://jackiebledsoe.com/your-most-important-job-as-a-parent/)
The Barefoot Mommy (http://www.thebarefootmommy.com/about-me/)
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