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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The True Role of Parents

The animal world understands parenting's purpose: Their children are to be able to function in the world successfully without their parents. They teach and even push their children out of the nests so that they can lead their own lives. Many humans fail to understand this.

Children are a delight to their parents. The problem comes when parents believe their children are to be delighted. Parents begin pushing their children into interests long before the child has any idea what he or she wants. They have them in soccer, ballet, piano lessons and special learning classes before these children are four years old. The child is rushed from one activity to another. He or she has no time for conversation or contemplation. Activity takes the place of any dead time. No one has any time to determine what he or she should do. There is always another activity.

The child, wanting to please his parents, goes along with most of it. He does his best at each sport, art or intellectual pursuit. He believes his value is determined by how well he does. It has made his teachers give everyone in his class an award year after year. Maybe it is because the teacher wants every child to succeed or maybe the teacher knows that the success of the program is determined by the number of children in it. Therefore, the teacher works to keep the children in the programs.

Some parents will concentrate on one activity for their children. They will train, buy equipment and spend endless practices with their children. They will justify this relentless obsession by saying they are doing this to get their child a college scholarship. What a crock! They are vicariously living their dreams through their children! This is why they push so hard. Their concern is not only for their children.

Some of these children are burned out on the sport by the time they should be excelling at it. This sport, art or intellectual pursuit becomes their god. A small percentage of them will see their god live beyond high school. A smaller percentage beyond that.

I remember an All-American football player telling me that he looked at a clock on a rainy Saturday afternoon. and watched the seconds tick away as his god died. Except for a couple of post-season activities, he would never put on the pads again. He knew he was not able to make the pros (Yes, even All-Americans don't always make the pros.). He was lost because this had been his purpose in life for so long.

The parents' true role is to help their children function in the world without them. They must be able to understand what they want to do with their lives. They must be able to think on their own. They must understand their relationship with God. They can neither exist on their parents' faith nor their parents' dreams. They must have their own.

Parents need to know that the things they teach their children need to be prioritized. The things which will mean the most to them all of their lives need to take a greater importance. Faith trumps education. Education trumps athleticism.

Parents should lead their children to be responsible by their own example. They should pay their bills and keep their promises. They should work hard, tell the truth and expect God to reward their faithfulness. They should face adversity, persevere and succeed through their tenacity. Children will have a hard time understanding this when they have no real time with their parents outside of their scheduled activities.

Parenting is sacrificial. It takes time and money. It takes prayers. It takes doing your best to see these gifts from God grow up to be responsible adults. Parenting isn't for wimps.

Some day your children will tell you goodbye. They will truly be on their own and there is nothing you can do about it. Today, you can do something. You should. Do your best to give them the faith, the skills and the character to function well without you. That is the true role of parenting.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NIV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

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