The Purpose of a Parent




This Thanksgiving, I watched my son as he talked over some things with his son, my grandson. My son is 40 and his son is 17. Besides the joking, food and sharing recipes, there was the usual concern about high school grades, chores and car payments. But what struck me was the way my son explained the consequences of my grandson’s choices. “If you don’t get your grades up, then you’re letting me down. And I want you to think about that when you expect me to provide that trip you want to take when you graduate.”

When I was raising my two kids, I often found myself uncertain or in disagreement with my wife about what to do. Eventually, I realized my job as a parent was to prepare my child for life as an adult. There were a few times I knew my son hated me, but if I was certain it would make him better prepared to succeed at his own dreams as an adult, I knew I had made the right choice.

Preparing a son or daughter for their life as an adult can be done lovingly or harshly. A parent behaving both those ways could explain their behavior by saying they were preparing their child to live successfully as an adult. But I want to draw your attention to the words “succeed at his own dreams.” A parent who believes life is hard and joy non-existent may be teaching their child to survive in a hard world, but are they nurturing their child’s own dreams for their life. It’s dreams that make life worthwhile.

Children seldom realize the value of a parent’s advice or rules. Usually those have to be repeated over and over before they sink in. Brutally enforcing those rules might produce quick changes in behavior, but that leads to deep resentment and sets a horrible example for the child and you can be certain the child will then dramatize that on others.

Yes, sometimes a parent must enforce discipline on a child when the child doesn’t yet understand, but that’s when it’s most important to at least attempt to get the child to understand.

My son and I had a lot of good times together and a few very rough times when we truly didn’t like each other. But seeing my son handle his son with understanding and firm rules that he explained made me feel all those years and struggles had paid off and we enjoy each other now.

Hopefully you have the same pride in your children and if not, something can always be done about it.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Res November 28, 2016 at 12:18 am

Sometimes those things taught didn’t sink in and the parent has to watch the adult child fail over and over again because it’s the choice they make. I continue to strive to be an example and it’s just not helping my kids. I’ve realized I may never see the fruition of my love, efforts and encouragement, but I hope someday they choose Life.

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Eryn November 28, 2016 at 5:58 am

Telling a child to get his grades up so that he doesn’t let his dad down seems like a guilt trip though and seems wrong.

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Peter Glickman December 5, 2016 at 4:38 am

That’s true. In the instance I mentioned it wasn’t you’ll let me down, it was we depend on each other so turn in your homework.

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CLARE November 29, 2016 at 2:22 pm

You are wise and fortunate to realize, understand and discuss. Some parents never give up the dominance and think ugly words are actually a teaching mechanism, then go on to live to an unusually old age. I have experienced ongoing ignorance from elders and I guess the benefit is to know not to pay it forward. What goes around comes around; yet it can stop. To not be angry can be a difficult choice, yet walking away without returning the fire speaks volumes, when the timing is right.

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Peter Glickman December 5, 2016 at 4:39 am

Wisely said, Clare.

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Jessa Pederson-Bliss December 14, 2016 at 2:18 am

I have an almost 2 year old and we are struggling and learning about boundaries, I have found that beginning boundaries and light discipline at this young age actually benefits the child as he/she grows up. It’s important for the parent to say no just as much as it is important for the child to say no. Being a parent isn’t easy, but we each do the best we can do with the skills we’ve learned. You’ll never be perfect but none of us have to worry because there are many ways to raise a child, but we should also try to remember that inside of us is that child that we were, and it’s ok to get a little silly or be innocent along side our children, and let them know we will love them no matter what.

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